All around the country rallies, activities, gatherings of all sorts are cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19. It is definitely a time to keep a distance and be safe. Here is a list of things you can do indoors and outdoors during the summer, while staying safe.
1. Do some reading:
Check out your local library (Erie’s Blasco is amazing for this!) for LGBTQ/Queer fiction and nonfiction
2. Understand the beginning of a movement: Watch Stonewall Uprising
When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
3. Change your perspective.
Each week we will be listing movies that showcase the LGBTQ experience. This first week will be an exploration in what was happening before Stonewall. This week’s list is provided by Board Vice President Kyle Hannon.
June 15 through 21st:
The films and documentaries recommended here are not meant to be an all-inclusive list. It is impossible in just a week or a month to view all the important and recommended LGBTQ+ themed films. Rather, what I hope to do here is provide some suggestions that help anyone who is not all that familiar with LGBTQ+ history and culture to learn something new, whether they are part of the community or any number of interested allies. To the extent possible, the films here are available for free online.
If there is a theme this week, it’s that LGBTQ+ life before the turning point of Stonewall was much different for LGBTQ+ people. It’s not easy now, in many cases, but it was much more difficult then. Because this history may not be remembered as time goes by, or not understood by generations who did not experience those times, the films here try to show what life was like before Stonewall for many LGBTQ+ people.
Let’s start with some documentaries and short films to explain how Pride began and what it means. Start with Stonewall Forever, https://youtu.be/GjRv7dJTync, a short 21 minute documentary to introduce one to the subject of what happened in 1969, followed by Stonewall Uprising, https://youtu.be/MIbAVS-cDBs, which is 40-some minutes long. They will give anyone an introduction to what it meant to be LGBTQ+ before 1969 and why Stonewall was a turning point for LGBTQ+ rights.
Madchen in Uniform (1931)
Let’s go back to the 1930s. This is an important film because it was made in Germany before Hitler came to power and targeted LGBTQ+ people for elimination. This is one of the earliest narrative films to explicitly portray homosexuality, before further film codes and censorship stifled such subjects. In this film a girl is sent to an all-girls boarding school and develops a romantic attachment to one of her teachers. Note the ending to film is a sad one, which is a theme that occurs in many LGBTQ+ films.
The Children’s Hour (1961)
Based on Lillian Hellman’s play of the same name, this film is indicative of the time it was produced. Homosexuality is not mentioned in the film at all, even though it was clear that that is what both the play and this film are about. It also takes place in a boarding school and stars Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn, who battle rumors and society as they deal with an unruly child bent on revenge.
This is the first English language film to use the word homosexual. It is a British film in which the death of a young man leads to the discovery of a blackmail plot against several gay men in 1960s London. The movie directly confronts the anti-gay laws in effect at that time and the choices they forced LGBTQ+ people to make. It has a direct impact on public opinion and led to the repeal of those laws later in the 1960s.
This is Merchant and Ivory film (they who produced many of the stylish British films based on the novels of E.M. Forster in the 1980s and 1990s) in which as IMDB states, ”after his lover rejects him, a young man trapped by the oppressiveness of Edwardian society tries to come to terms with and accept his sexuality.” The film stars Hugh Grant. E.M. Forster wrote the book on which the film is based in the 1930s when he saw his friends being discriminated against. Because of the subject matter, it was not published until 1971. Note the ending to the film. As opposed to most other films up to this point, the ending is not a tragic one, and this is one of the first films to predict same sex relationships in a happy light.
Based on Max Sherman’s play and starring Clive Own and Mike Jagger. IMDB: “Max is gay and as such is sent to Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. He tries to deny he is gay, and gets a yellow label (the one for Jews) instead of pink (the one for gays). In camp, he falls in love with fellow prisoner Horst, who wears his pink label with pride.”
https://www.amazon.com/Bent-Clive-Owen/dp/B07MWSFJDH (This is the only film this week that isn’t free, but you can rent it for only $1.99)
If you are not able to do that and have a Netflix subscription, and still want something to watch either in substitution or in addition:
The Death and Life of Marcia P. Johnson (2017)
From IMDB: “Victoria Cruz investigates the mysterious 1992 death of black gay rights activist and Stonewall veteran, Marsha P. Johnson. Using archival interviews with Johnson, and new interviews with Johnson’s family, friends and fellow activists.”
This film documentary is an important reminder of the prominent role that People of Color, transgender persons, and drag queens played in securing LGBTQ+ rights.
Christopher and His Kind (2011)
From YouTube: Christopher and His Kind is a 2011 BBC television film. It tells the story of Christopher Isherwood’s life in Berlin in the early 1930s. The film, adapted by Kevin Elyot loosely from Isherwood’s autobiography of the same title, was produced by Mammoth Screen and directed by Geoffrey Sax. Isherwood is played by Matt Smith, whilst the cast also includes Toby Jones, Douglas Booth, Imogen Poots and Iddo Goldberg.
If you have seen Cabaret (1972), you will want to compare that movie to this biopic. Cabaret, socially the Liza Minelli tour-de-force singing of the Kander and Ebb songs, is highly stylized. For a rougher depiction of 1930s Berlin and LGBTQ+ life, check out this film. Alas, I could currently find Cabaret outside of a pay per view site.
4. Walk it off
Summer in Erie is the best time to go hiking. You can enjoy the outdoors and and stay relatively safe from the pandemic hot spots, and there are so many places to hike! Panama Rocks (call ahead for availability), Wintergreen Gorge, Scott Park, Asbury Woods, the many trails at Presque Isle, and over the NY border there is Skinny Dip Falls Trail. Just don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray!