LGBT Histories

When We Rise

LGBT Histories

The recent ABC mini-series docudrama When We Rise covers the lives in America of a handful of actual persons over a period of 40 years. Although the reviews were good, the 4-night, 8-hour series covered a wide expanse of LGBT history that sometimes was hard to follow. I recorded the series on a DVR to avoid the frequent commercials that further broke-up the continuity. The focus was on the liberation movement on both coasts, but primarily San Francisco. A mixture of archival film footage and re-enactments, the series crams a lot of stories into a relatively short span of time. A lot of series run 10 - 13 episodes, but apparently, it was assumed that the ratings for a prime-time show on such a controversial topic could not be sustained that long. Their stories range from the early 1970's to 2016 so they are relatively recent history that focuses on the break-out of the LGBT movement into public view in the U.S.

I lived through this period of LGBT history and was familiar with most of the primary characters even though for most of that period I lived in Texas, which isn't even mentioned in the series. I even met Harvey Milk in person. I saw the AIDS quilts on display in Washington in 1996. We had pride parades and huge gatherings in Texas, but I think they are largely forgotten to history. We even filled the Astro Arena in Houston.

The political struggles, AIDS, and portrayals of a relatively wide scope of personalities are compressed and sanitized for general viewing to pass the TV censors. Reviewers have commented that the series is largely accurate on a factual basis. Unfortunately, we appear to be re-starting the struggle all over again with the election of Donald Trump. We still lack any federal legislation providing protection in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Several states are passing discriminatory laws in the name of "religious freedom," which is a sad commentary of the Orwellian double-speak we have today.

The anthology by Adrian Brooks Right Side of History:100 Years of LGBTQ Activism in 30 brief chapters tells the stories of a much broader range of characters over a longer time. Although each chapter includes footnotes for further reading, they are so anecdotal as to lose any continuity or really portray in any meaningful way the experiences of these people. It is a broad treatment that doesn't provide any real insights into the personalities or their stories. It concludes in 2015 before the Supreme Court decision of same-sex marriage.

John Boswell's historical account Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century covers an even longer time and reveals that LGBT people have been around for centuries even before we had names for them. The original edition was published 36 years ago and has been updated twice.

Our history is still being written, and unfortunately it appears that many of the rights we fought for so hard and so long are being reversed, and we will again face widespread discrimination, violence and hatred, especially in the United States. The fundamentalist missionaries spread a hatred of LGBT people across the African continent, and that has changed very little in the past 100 years.