It's been a big year for LGBTQI+ representation on-screen. Alongside the countless upcoming productions that tell queer stories, there has been a monumental influx of documentaries that focus on the LGBTQI+ rights movement and queer history at large, a fundamental part of understanding the history behind the rights we have today, and a vital step in recognising and celebrating those who have paved the way for such rights.
This is why 'Equal', a four-part miniseries that re-tells the stories of pivotal moments and people throughout the LGBTQI+ movement is so important. Merging fact-based narration (by none other than Billy Porter) with historical footage and reenactments featuring some of our favourite LGBTQI+ stars, such as Jamie Clayton and Samira Wiley, 'Equal' places focus on the stories that are often untold by media and left behind. The result of which is a powerful account of the identities who have come before us, and made it possible to exist in a world determined to see us assimilate.
The four-part show highlights the very real stories of the communities unsung heroes in dedicated episodes. Episode two is titled "Transgender Pioneers", which focuses on the stories of Christine Jorgensen - the first person to publicly have gender confirmation surgery and perhaps one of the most formidable Transgender women in history - alongside that of Lucy Hicks Anderson, a trans woman who lived in stealth for decades until she was outed by a doctor, and ultimately tried for perjury. These stories are among many of the untold accounts of history, which are so important when understanding anti-trans oppression throughout history. So often we recognise folks like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera as the trailblazers of the Gay Liberation movement, and for good reason, these women deserve to be recognised and celebrated as prominent figures in the fight for trans-rights, but they aren't the only ones to exist, and 'Equal' serves as an important reminder of this.
In episode three, titled “Black Is Beautiful, Gay is Good!”, the show takes a look at the role Black and Brown queer and trans people played in the Civil Rights Movement, a monumental time in history that we are witnessing repeat itself today. This episode shifts focus onto the intersections of the LGBTQI+ Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, and shows that Black and Brown LGBTQI+ folks were are the forefront of both. In a powerful account of those like Bayard Rustin, an unsung gay activist behind some of the most monumental LGBTQI+ Civil Rights events like the March on Washington and the Freedom Rides. In the last episode or part four, titled “Stonewall: From Rebellion to Liberation,”, the docuseries casts a lens on the decades of struggle that ultimately sparked the Stonewall uprising – the beginning of the Pride movement and perhaps the most historically known Gay Liberation riots of all time.
It's important to note that 'Equal' only covers the period of time between the late 1940s to 1970, which of course, is a supplementary account of moments in the LGBTQI+ rights movement throughout history, and should not be through of as especially comprehensive viewing. Of course, this would take hundreds of episodes to retell, and 'Equal' serves as an important stop in the road to understanding the experience of so many of our LGBTQI+ foremothers and forefathers during this monumental time.
'Equal' is available to stream via HBO Max, now.