5 Netflix Documentary Movies About LGBTQ Experiences

Documentaries to watch before the end of Pride month.
Laverne Cox in "Disclosure"
Laverne Cox in "Disclosure"

Netflix just debuted a new documentary called “Disclosure” about the experiences of the transgender community. The film joins the service as Pride Month 2020 comes to a close.

“Disclosure” is only one of a few standout LGBTQ-focused documentaries that Netflix has debuted in the last few years. As such, I put together this round-up of five movies to watch during the remaining days of Pride.

One of the selections, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” is particularly timely with the recent news that the Stonewall Inn in New York City faces money struggles due to COVID-19. This documentary focuses on a gender non-conforming activist who played a prominent role in what became known as the Stonewall uprising in 1969. After watching the movie, you might be inclined to consider financially supporting the Stonewall Inn.

Read on for all of the recommendations. And if you want to stay informed about everything joining Netflix every week, subscribe to the Streamline newsletter.

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Premise: The filmmaker Hao Wu is a gay, Chinese immigrant to the U.S. who adopted a baby with his husband. His family in China disapproves of gay parents adopting children. As such, his parents wish to hide the baby’s existence from their friends.

Wu’s story is both one of dealing with disapproving parents as well as still finding familial love.

The documentary runs less than an hour, so it’s a good place to start for those looking for a brief but well-told story.

Setting: Both China and the U.S.

Debut date: May 3, 2019

Runtime: 39 minutes

Premise: This documentary features interviews with transgender celebrities paired with archival footage. The combined narratives tell the story of how media and politics have shaped the public perception of the transgender community and how individuals have tried to hold onto their own identity.

A few of the notable interviewees include Sandra Caldwell, Jamie Clayton and Laverne Cox.

Debut date: Jan. 27, 2020/June 19, 2020 on Netflix

Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Premise: Director Chris Bolan made this movie about his two great aunts, who hid their relationship for nearly seven decades. Neither woman told their families about their love until 2009, despite meeting in 1947.

The couple cohabitated in Chicago when one of them earned a job playing baseball in the city. They told their parents that they were just roommates saving on rent.

Ryan Murphy produced the movie, along with Blumhouse Productions.

Setting: Canada and Chicago, spanning decades

Debut date: April 29

Runtime: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Premise: This documentary acknowledges the trauma and violence often experienced by the LGBTQ community over the years. The story focuses on Marsha P. Johnson, a gender-nonconforming gay liberation activist who had a prominent role in the Stonewall uprising of 1969, a seminal moment in the fight for LGBTQ rights.

Johnson died in 1992 in suspicious circumstances, but authorities ruled it a suicide. Beyond telling Johnson’s story, the documentary also explores a cold case investigation into the death.

Setting: New York City during various decades

Debut date: Oct. 6, 2017

Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Premise: Although “Circus of Books” focuses on a straight couple, the movie uses these central figures to tell a story of 1980s Los Angeles and the AIDS epidemic.

“Circus of Books” focuses on a pornographic bookstore and cruising spot of the same name, run by the religious, family-oriented straight couple whom tried to keep their ownership of the store a secret from their friends and family. But when the AIDS epidemic developed, the couple offered support to the gay community and took on a more activist role.

Rachel Mason, the daughter of the owners, wrote and directed the documentary.

Setting: Los Angeles, focusing on the 1980s

Debut date: April 22

Runtime: 1 hour, 32 minutes