‘The Book of Queer’ on Discovery+ spotlights LGBTQ+ historical figures

Pride month is here, a time to not only look towards our future and celebrate the present, but also reflect on the past. It’s an opportunity to celebrate our queer heroes as well; after all, it’s they who’ve made marching in the streets while filled with joy possible. And those heroes go way back — all the way to the very beginning. That’s why “The Book of Queer,” a five-episode Discovery+ docuseries which highlights some of our most important histories (with plenty of laughs and some musical numbers, because of course) is not to be missed.

It’s the importance of celebrating and knowing our history that initially drew in Dominique Jackson, who narrates the final episode of the project, in the first place. “This is not only for the young, it’s for everyone, it educates on a universal scale. It gives us the idea — not the idea — but the fact that we have been here for a very long time. And we have not just been taking up space, we have been contributing to society, to culture, to progress ever since day one,” she tells The Advocate.

Model, actor, author, and activist, Jackson shot to fame with her portrayal of Elektra Abundance on FX’s legendary and groundbreaking series “Pose.” Although she’s a part of queer history now, there was a time that she would have done anything for a show like “The Book of Queer.” 

“Growing up, I looked for validation,” says Jackson. “I even read through the Bible and stuff like that, because I had to find some reason to prove that we were here.” Finding the story of Joan of Arc was a revelation, and in her episode, Jackson gets the opportunity to pass that story on to the audience. “I came across the story of Joan of Arc, and it was like… she had to be really, really, really dynamic, to make it into the history books, and know who she was, but they still tried to cover it up,” she says.

In her episode, Jackson also recounts the stories of the Stonewall Riot and Josephine Baker, the out, proud cabaret star turned World War II hero. It was Baker’s history that resonated deeply with Jackson, who left Trinidad and Tobago at age 15 in search of acceptance. “I connect with her because she left her hometown, where she knew she realized that there was not enough there for her, she realized that she was more than the space that she was told she had to stay in. And she took that journey. Not knowing anything about her future, not knowing where she could end up,” says Jackson. “In those times without cell phones and anything like that, that was brave. You know, like for a young woman to say, I’m gonna get on this train… She went to Europe and she owned it… and became legendary.”

One of the greatest strengths of “The Book of Queer” is in its delivery. The show is light and full of humor (and music), so it’s just as entertaining as it is educational. This approach appealed to Jackson, who explained that humor has a much deeper meaning to her than just getting laughs. “I thought [the use of humor] was brilliant. Especially in a time when people think that they can make fun of us. And it’s funny,” she shares. Instead, the show reclaims humor and uses it as a tool for education. “We have taken that spin and we’re not making fun of ourselves. We’re being comical while educating you. Saying, ‘yes, silly person. Yeah, let me take this down a few notches so you can get this. And here it is, you know, there’s queer history. And there are queer heroes. So you not relating to that, you’re not understanding the queer community. You thinking that you have the power to accept or tolerate the queer community are all you problems. Find a therapist for it.’”

When asked about what she wants audiences to take away from watching “The Book of Queer,” Jackson says she hopes it resonates with both a queer audience and the mainstream. “We are all valid, we all deserve to be here. We have all been here. And listen, we can be funny too. So, therefore, let’s work together,” she implores. “A trans person is going to be a trans person. We are going to be ourselves. Gay people are going to be gay. Lesbians are going to be lesbians. There’s no need to fight that.”

This article originally appeared on Advocate.com, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Pride Media.

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Rachel Shatto

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