LGBTQIA+ Pop Culture Guide for Pride 2020

Aug 14, 2020

Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres

We may not have been able to celebrate Pride month this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself about the LGBTQIA+ community from home. There’s now more content than ever available to you, and not all of it is dry essays or super intensive 10-part documentaries. We now thankfully have plenty of platforms available to bring to life stories aimed at everyone, helping to normalise LGBTQIA+ members in pop culture, and educating the masses at the same time. Here’s some of my favourites!


Milk (2008): Based on the life of Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn), a gay activist and politician, the Gus Van Sant movie follows Harvey as he decides to move from New York to San Francisco and becomes more and more involved in politics, eventually becoming the first openly gay man elected to office. The film is based on a 1984 documentary that won an Oscar, and on a biography by Randy Shilts.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999): Another biography, this time based on the life of Brandon Teena (played by Hilary Swank), a trans man who tries to build a new life for himself in Nebraska where he feels able to date freely. After getting involved with the wrong crowd, Brandon unfortunately finds himself the target of several hate crimes. Directed by Kimberly Peirce, the screenplay took five years to write and is based on a 1998 documentary about Brandon Teena.

Pride (2014): Based on a true story, the Matthew Warchus movie follows a group of gay and lesbian activists desperately trying to collect funds for the Welsh families affected by the British Miner’s Strike of 1984. With a stellar cast (Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, George MacKay and Paddy Considine to name a few), the movie manages to mix drama and comedy to tell a story that’ll melt your heart.

Love, Simon (2018): Based on the successful novel by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon follows the story of Simon (Nick Robinson) as he tries to juggle high school, friends, family and figuring out his love life while not being out. Throw in some blackmail and you’ll be rotting for Simon all the way. Directed by Greg Berlanti, the movie has been hailed for its “normalcy” and has since spawned a follow-up TV show called, Love, Victor.

Brokeback Mountain (2005): Directed by Ang Lee and starring the late Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain followed the complex love story between Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), two men caught between their attraction for one another and the lives they are supposed to lead. The movie won 71 awards.

The Normal Heart (2014): Based on a play by Larry Kramer, the movie directed by Ryan Murphy follows the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 80s. The star-studded movie (Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Groff, Jim Parsons) sheds light on the early days of the crisis, when people didn’t know what HIV-AIDS was and health officials were scrambling to figure out a cause and treatment for the “gay cancer”.

For more movies, check out this recent list.

TV Shows:

Queer Eye (2018-now): A reboot of the 90s series of the same name, QE has introduced us to the Fab Five (Antoni, Karamo, Jonathan, Bobby, and Tan) and continues to delight audiences with every new season. Always filmed in a different city, and with specials in Australia and Japan, QE manages to tackle issues such as homelessness, loneliness, coming out, divorce, parenthood, starting your own business or just starting over while the Fab Five use their skills to makeover the nominated candidates.

Sense8 (2015-2018): Created by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski, the science fiction drama focused on eight strangers from all around the world who discover that they are Sensates and are emotionally and mentally linked. With an international cast and filming locations around the globe, Sense8 also managed to effectively portray complex relationships both straight and LGBTQ and received a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series. The 2 seasons culminated in a movie to tie up loose ends after being cancelled.

Looking (2014-2016): Created by Michael Lannan, Looking follows the lives of three gay best friends (Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett) in San Francisco. As Patrick, Agustin and Dom, this dramedy sees them navigate the complexities of life and love. The show broached subjects such as cheating, HIV-AIDS, coming out, substance-abuse and building a career. The show had 2 seasons before being cancelled due to low ratings, but HBO thankfully commissioned a movie to finish things off.

Pose (2018-now): Another Ryan Murphy baby, Pose focuses on the different societies present in late 1980s and early 90s New York, with an emphasis on the Afro-American and Latino ballroom community. We follow Blanca Evangelista (MJ Rodriguez) as she leaves one “house” (of trans women performers) and sets up a rival one. The series will seem familiar to those that have seen the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.

Hollywood (2020): A Ryan Murphy miniseries, Hollywood takes a look at what Tinseltown could’ve been like if only they had done away with prejudice back in the 50s. With stars such as Darren Criss, Dylan McDermott, Jim Parsons and Patti LuPone, the story focuses on a group of young dreamers who want to make it big in Hollywood. Sick of being told what they can and cannot do, they will find allies and change the world they live in for the better.

Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019): Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, OITNB, created by Jenji Kohan, thrust us straight into the day-to-day of a women’s prison. We were introduced to the most colourful characters, such as the gorgeous Sophia (Laverne Cox), the amazing Poussey (Samira Wiley) or the layered Nicky (Natasha Lyonne). The show tackled difficult issues with a number of flashbacks, great dialogues and relationships that had everything you wanted (chemistry, issues, routine, or grand gestures).

For more TV, check out this list here.


Red, White & Royal Blue (2019): This is the romantic comedy you never knew you needed, written by Case McQuiston. The Prince of England (Henry) and the son of the US President (Alex) have had this strange rivalry since the Rio Games of 2016. When a heated discussion lands them in trouble, their respective PR teams decide to fake a bromance like no other, unaware that this could have consequences beyond their control.

Birthday (2019): Written by Meredith Russo, this YA novel follows a pattern familiar to readers of One Day. Told on one day every year over six years, the story follows Eric and Morgan, two childhood friends who struggle with their identities as they grow up. Eric doesn’t want to be the star quarterback anymore, and Morgan is struggling to reveal that she feels different on the inside.

If I was Your Girl (2016): Meredith Russo’s first novel, the story focuses on Amanda, who’s just started at a new school. But Amanda has a secret she’s afraid of revealing: that she used to be called Andrew. Partially based on the author’s own experiences as a Trans woman, this novel ticked all the right boxes.

Like a Love Story (2020): Written by Abdi Nazemian, this YA book takes us back to 1989 in New York. Reza, and Iranian boy, has just arrived in the big city and is afraid to come out as gay because all he knows about gay men is that they’re drying from HIV-AIDS. Judy idolises her gay uncle, an ACT UP activist with AIDS, and is surprised when she falls in love with Reza. Art is the only out and proud teenager at their school. A photographer, he rebels against his parents by documenting the AIDS crisis. But as Art and Reza grow closer, they’re afraid of hurting Judy…

Bundling these together because, DUH, some of the Fab Five have released memoirs where they talk about their own coming of age, coming out and acceptance of themselves. Karamo Brown’s Karamo (2019), Tan France’s Naturally Tan (2019) and Jonathan Van Ness’ Over The Top (2019) are all fan-favourites that allow us to dig deeper into the real lives of our favourite lifestyle gurus.

The Little Book of Pride: The History, the People, the Parades (2020): Since the first march in 1970, Pride has become a global event, gaining traction and popularity each year. Instead of attending your local Pride this year, read about the history of the movement with stories from famous Queers, find out about the best Prides in the world and get a handy guide so you’re ready for next year!

For more book ideas, check out this handy slideshow.

I’ll leave a little aside here for the excellent documentaries available on Netflix, including Disclosure (2020), about trans representation in the media; A Secret Love (2020), about a lesbian couple who kept their relationship a secret for years and Jewel’s Catch One (2016), the story of an L.A. nightclub owner who provided a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Now grab your rainbow flags, shoes, underwear, face masks, T-shirts, hats, scarves, or harnesses; crank up the Tunes and have your own little Pride at home. Just because we can’t celebrate outside doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate. And remember, #LoveisLove!