Films and Shows about LGBTrights

Films and Shows about LGBTrights

Films and Shows about LGBT+ rights

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

To celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, here are a few films and shows that recognize the hardships and challenges that a community, including allies, struggles to achieve the rights and equality for LGBTQ+ folks. This category is all about rising, the fight for authenticity, resilience, power and human connection.  Click the image for trailers.

Thanks again for the support of Bushwick Film Festival to help make this article available to you.

Click the image for trailers.


The category is…jaw dropping, heart warming, get up out of your seat-and-start-snapping-at-the-TV goodness. You might start voguing down your halls after watching this pivotal show set in 1987, following the ball culture, like the iconic film PARIS IS BURNING (Livingston, 1990). The show juxtaposes the lively underground with upper class white executives, who work for Trump (that actually happens, it’s not a political jab) and collide these different worlds. Underneath it all, we just want to be authentic and accepted.  The show features 5 trans people of colour – setting this show a mark in TV history as the first show ever to feature these radiant performers. Showrunner, Ryan Murphy decided to donate his earnings to not-for-profit organizations in the LGBT community (intersex, trans and gender non-conforming) after hearing lived experiences while researching for the show. Season two premieres this June. This show is about connection, respect and love in your adopted community and ultimately being your true self.


MILK (Van Sant, 2008)

A biopic about LGBT rights politician Harvey Milk’s rise to office. This film gives us a look at his leadership of hope, courage and bravery as the first elected openly gay California politician in 1978. Sean Penn wins an Oscar for Best Actor in this role.

TANGERINE (Baker, 2005)

What do you do when you get out of jail and your bestie tells you that your cheating pimp boyfriend has a new cis-girlfriend? This comedy drama follows transgender sex worker, Sin-Dee’s search to find this woman in question and the many confrontations on her journey to redemption. Underneath that plot is a story truly about two best friends, Sin-Dee and Alexandra, both trans women who are strong, vivacious and have each other’s back. Alexandra even skipped her own phone bill to pay for Sin-Dee’s rent while she was in jail, that is a real friend! Seeing these trans characters as multi faceted, not just two dimensional stereotypes, was refreshing at its time. The film was shot with three iPhone 5S smartphones. This was before films and technology advanced as it has today. This was really a standout film at its time. In fact, one of the iPhones used has now been donated to the Academy of Motion Pictures. Locked in history.


DYKES IN THE STREET (Travassos, 2019)

The anticipated Inside Out Film Festival (May 23- June 2)l in Toronto celebrates the vibrant LGBT community. In this year’s festival, a documentary about the Dyke March, a staple during Pride Week, will have its World Premiere. Director, Almerinda Travassos, takes on a journey from the past marches from 1981, 1991, 1996 and 2016 and how these marches have made any progress is the political and cultural arena in Toronto. Thus asking the big question of what has been accomplished from these marches and what is next.

GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH (Rodrigues, 2019)

Rodrigues features 300 singers on tour in the deep south. Frankly, sounds like a logistic nightmare but I digress. The choir travels to states like North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee to a series of church performances where they encounter anti-LGBT laws and homophobia. A really powerful example of how sharing stories can change lives of others and the storytellers themselves. This film will have it’s Canadian Premiere at Toronto’s LGBT Film Festival, Inside Out.  

When We Rise

A mini-series drama of LGBT equality from the last 40 years. It also documents the growth of activists like Cleve Jones and Roma Guy throughout different times in their lives. Each character is played by two actors at different ages, highlighting just how powerful and long they fought for these rights. It was created by the writer of MILK (Van Sant, 2008), Dustin Lance Black. This moving show stars trans actor, Ivory Aquino, and other notable faces like Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Mary-Louise Parker, Guy Pearce and David Hyde Pierce. This timely show debuted in 2017, just as Trump announces roll-back of transgender bathroom protections.

BREAKING FREE (Rangayan, 2015)

The filmmaker introduces the documentary as a personal project and gives insight to the LGBT experience and laws against homosexuality in India. You quickly recognizes that social injustice, brutality from officials and victimization of individuals is a worldwide issue for all LGBT people. The film does include positive coming out stories, political fights and an empowered future for the next generation. This film was shot from 2007-2014.

Will & Grace

There was nothing like it at the time. Originally a side story for another show, the Will and Grace characters shined so brightly, the network wanted creators, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan to develop their storyline. Though this sitcom may not seem like an important pick for LGBT rights, look again at the wide access of representation on a national network, prime time slot that gives this show a place on this list. It not only has won awards but showcases the first gay kiss on network television. That episode, titled “Acting Out”, was only in their second season. There is no doubt its reboot was brought back to a time where our culture, again, needs to be reminded of the visibility of a gay lead.

FREEDOM TO MARRY (Rosenstein, 2016)

This documentary shares the historical look at the social political climb towards same-sex marriage in the US. This inspiring film follows activist, Evan Wolfson, in his fight for the equal rights of same-sex marriage. His passion for equal rights has empowered this whole movement leading the countdown to the Supreme Court favouring the ruling of same-sex marriage. This film has won 8 Best Documentary awards and have been screened at over 20 film festivals.

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