‘Pride’ FX series to feature 60 years of fighting for LGBTQ equality

“Pride” is a six-part documentary series chronicling the 60-year struggle for LGBTQ civil rights in America.

The series spans from the 1950s to the 2000s with heroic and heartbreaking stories.

The episodes explore a range of topics that are an essential part of U.S. history, including the FBI surveillance of gay men and lesbians during the Lavender Scare of the 1950s and the “culture wars” of the 1990s and 2000s.

“Pride” also features a constellation of figures who played vital roles in the battle for equality:

The evolution of identities and transgender rights is examined through interviews and archival footage of numerous trailblazers including Christine Jorgensen, Flawless Sabrina, Ceyenne Doroshow, Susan Stryker, Kate Bornstein, Dean Spade, and Raquel Willis.

“Pride” will premiere on FX with the initial three episodes airing back-to-back May 14 starting at 8 p.m. The remaining three episodes will air May 21 beginning at 8 p.m. All episodes will be available the day after premiere on FX on Hulu.

Six LGBTQ directors went behind-the-camera to help bring these stories to life.

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Here’s a breakdown of the six episodes

Episode 1

 “1950s: People Had Parties” directed by Tom Kalin

During the 1950s, and despite the government’s escalation of targeting LGBTQ people for persecution, some queer people lived vibrant and full lives. That war against the community was led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Kalin’s first feature, “Swoon,” was part of the “New Queer Cinema” of the early 1990s and awarded prizes at the Berlin, Stockholm, and Sundance film festivals. Kalin was a founding member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury, known for its provocative public projects. Some of those works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and The Smithsonian. In 2016, a retrospective of Kalin’s films was held in Istanbul. Two years later, his films were installed in the museum show “Music for the Eyes” in Siena, Italy at Santa Maria Della Scala.

Pride FX Series

Frank Kameny leads a picket line in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1965, four years before the Stonewall uprising in New York City. Photo: New York Public Library.

Episode 2

“1960s: Riots & Revolutions” directed by Andrew Ahn

Before Stonewall, Pride’s roots took shape in the 1960s when lesser-known figures from marginalized communities, including queer girls of color and transgender women, played an integral role in advancing the movement. They used activism and protest, small and large, as the LGBTQ community struggled for rights, acceptance, and equality.

Ahn is a queer Korean-American filmmaker born and raised in Los Angeles. His feature “Driveways,” starring Hong Chau and Brian Dennehy, premiered at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival. Ahn’s debut film, “Spa Night,” premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award in 2017.

Episode 3

“1970s: The Vanguard of Struggle” directed by Cheryl Dunye

In this personal journey, Dunye interweaves archival footage, personal testimonies, and interviews to show how the 1970s helped forge a national movement — from the first Gay Pride march to the rise of artists like filmmaker Barbara Hammer and poet Audre Lorde, from the confrontation of intersectional feminism to the backlash and opposition from the religious right.

Dunye is a world renowned African American director, writer, and actress. She first emerged as part of the “Queer New Wave” of young filmmakers in the early 1990s. Her first feature film, “The Watermelon Woman,” was restored and re-released widely in 2016 for its 20th anniversary and resides in the permanent cinema collection at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. In recent years, Dunye has become a director for episodic television. Her credits include numerous popular shows: “Queen Sugar,” “Claws,” “The Chi,” “Dear White People,” “David Makes Man,” and “Lovecraft Country.” In 2019, Dunye launched her Oakland-based production company Jingletown Films, which is developing two episodic series — “The Gilda Stories,” an adaptation of the beloved 1991 queer vampire novel by Jewelle Gomez and “Adventures in the 419” based on Nigerian scammers.

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Episode 4

 “1980s: Underground” directed by Anthony Caronna and Alex Smith

New York City in the 1980s, reinvigorated by the 1970s sexual revolution and the ascendance of the Gay Liberation Front, saw an influx of queer people to Manhattan and the rise of the underground ball scene, which the TV series “Pose” has elevated to the masses. This excitement of the emerging “house scene” played against the backdrop of the devastation the AIDS epidemic had on the gay community as Ronald Reagan and his Moral Majority refused to intervene.

Caronna is an award-winning director who, during the past decade, has transitioned from experimental live theater to filmmaking. In 2017, he debuted his feature documentary “Susanne Bartsch: On Top,” which won the John Schlesinger Award at the Provincetown International Film Festival. Smith co-produced the film “Wrinkles the Clown” in 2019.

Episode 5

 “1990s: The Culture Wars” directed by Yance Ford

The 1990s were supposed to be the dawn of a new era for the LGBTQ community. With the election of Bill Clinton, the community thought they had an ally in The White House. The “Culture Wars” were in full swing and fought from Capitol Hill to movie theaters and churches. These battles galvanized LGBTQ people to establish policies and organizations, many of them still fighting for equality.

Ford’s debut film, “Strong Island,” was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Academy Awards. At the ceremony, Ford made history as the first director who identifies as transgender to be nominated for an Oscar. “Strong Island” won an Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.

Episode 6

 “2000s: Y2Gay” directed by Ro Haber

The 2000s ushered in a new age of queer visibility where some gays and lesbians began to see improved acceptance, representation, and visibility in mainstream media. But even as some cisgender white members of the LGBTQ community found a place in society — particularly those who were well-to-do and rich — the struggle for transgender rights continued. That fight has come front and center in the past few years. 

Haber, who uses the pronouns they-them, is a writer-director whose work spans narrative, documentary, and new media. Haber was a 2018 Sundance Momentum Fellow and a 2017 Sundance New Frontier Lab Fellow. IndieWire listed them as one of the Eight Best Trans Directors Working Today. They were nominated for a GLAAD Award for their docuseries “New Deep South,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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