When I first came out and started learning about gay life in the 1990s, I had a couple of eye-opening experiences. One concerned how little cooperation and socializing there were between gay men and lesbians (something I only recently found historic roots for in After Stonewall). The second came from my naive assumption that most African Americans were strongly behind us. After all they had gone through to secure legal protections, and with the 50s and 60s still in living memory, how could they help but stand behind the successors of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement and the Gay Rights Movement?
I only had to meet a few black gay men (when you could find them — most were buried way back in the closet) to find out how wrong I’d been. They’d faced as much fear of rejection as any of us. Those who had come from religious families felt an even more complete break from their past and need to form what Maupin dubbed a “logical” family.
So I was interested to hear that a new documentary was coming to PBS for Pride Month which delves into this issue, especially since it was set in my former home State of Maryland. (I moved away in 2011, so I missed the 2012 marriage equality fight, and was glad to get to see some of it here.) Question 6 (the Maryland analog of California’s famous Proposition 8) provides a dramatic framework through which the director follows a few activists (mostly, but not entirely, on the pro-rights side) and their discussions with friends and family. A few forays into the cultural and religious background and how we got here flesh out a well-paced hour which left me wanting more. This is a great, thoughtful start, and there’s a definite gap to be filled by a longer film which could do for this material what For the Bible Tells Me So did for Fundamentalism, with more time to spend on the history and personal stories.
I have to admit that it got more than a little musty in the room when I heard the first black president of our country mention Stonewall alongside Selma.
It’s streaming for free on PBS’s website until July 6th, and is available through their iOS and Apple TV apps (I watched it on my iPad).
If you need some more Pride viewing, Brother Outsider (streaming on Netflix) is also worth a watch. It’s a sad history of the time when someone of breathtaking talent could be used to help the cause… until his identity became a liability and backs had to turn to him. How good to be in a time when so many stories have happier endings.