Conduit for Culture: Pride 2020

Words: Florence Robson

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused planned Pride parades across the globe to be postponed, there are still plenty of ways to stay engaged, get educated and show your support for LGBTQ+ rights. From forgotten classics to new releases, here’s what’s been inspiring us this month.

The Books

Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen

Growing up in a strict Iraqi Muslim household, Amrou Al-Kadhi may not be your ‘typical’ drag queen – but then, perhaps the point of this book is to illustrate that such a thing does not exist. Equal parts funny and devastating, Unicorn charts Amrou’s transformation into the acerbic drag persona Glamrou, via Eton College, an obsession with marine biology and a troubled parental relationship. A definitive study of what it means to discover, redefine and celebrate your identity. Learn more here. Amrou has also directed a short film about Britain’s obsession with whitewashed period dramas, currently free to view via the BFI.

Untamed

Already a household name in the US, activist and author Glennon Doyle had published two best-selling previous memoirs before Untamed, detailing her life as a Christian parent. Then she fell in love with a woman (champion football player, Abby Wambach), divorced her husband and decided to reclaim a version of herself that had long been buried. The resulting book is a call-to-arms, daring us to shake off societal conditioning and expectations and imagine who we could be if we honoured our true instincts. Learn more here.

Girl, Woman, Other

Joint winner of the Booker Prize 2019, best-selling novel Girl, Woman, Other is a collection of interconnected stories of a group of (mostly) Black British women, from lesbian socialist playwright Amma to teacher Shirley to 93-year-old Hattie. Written in a style falling between prose and poetry, Evaristo’s sensitivity and wit make this an unmissable read. Learn more here.

Giovanni’s Room

As activists across the country call for an update to the national curriculum to include a more consistent focus on Black British history, why not take this opportunity to delve into some classic novels you were probably not taught in school? One such book is Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, one of the world’s most powerful writers on race, white violence and activism. Written in 1956 and set in Paris, Giovanni’s Room is the story of an ill-fated love affair between an intense Italian bartman and a young American waiting for his fiancée to return from vacation. Learn more here.

The Films

Shirley

Based on the life of renowned horror writer Shirley Jackson, Shirley will break your expectations of what a biopic should be. Elisabeth Moss plays the titular character, whose writing process is interrupted when a newlywed couple arrives at her door. Shirley and her husband begin to toy with the younger pair, leading to an intriguing psychodrama that blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction. Learn more here.

A Secret Love

Released in April, this Netflix documentary has already made waves for its tender portrayal of a decades-long relationship between two women. Professional baseball player Terry Donahue falls in love with Pat Henschel in 1947 and the couple keep their relationship under wraps from everyone – including their families – for 65 years. Learn more here.

Paris is Burning

If you’ve never seen this iconic 1990 documentary, there’s no time like the present. Chronicling the ‘Golden Age’ of New York City ball culture and the various communities at its heart, the film has been preserved in the United States National Film Registry for its cultural significance. Already seen it? Why not check out 2016’s Kiki, which has been named as its spiritual sequel, or TV series Pose, a fictional depiction of the world captured by Paris is Burning. Learn more here.

The Podcasts

Anthems

Described as “as collection of original manifestos, speeches, stories, poems and rallying cries written and voiced by exceptional people”, Anthems podcast’s new Pride series features diverse voices from across LGBTQ+ communities, from columnist Raven Smith to singer-songwriter Grace Savage, to writer and filmmaker Amrou Al-Kadhi (whose work is spotlighted above). Listen here.

Making Gay History

Launched in 2016, Making Gay History is a podcast that brings LGBTQ+ history to life through conversations with the people who lived it. Founder and host Eric Marcus draws on archived interviews he conducted with trailblazers from the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the 1980s, as well as contemporary recordings, to make this a rich and fascinating oral history. Listen here.

Homo Sapiens

When original co-host Will Young was replaced by prolific performer Alan Cumming, this much-loved podcast got a new lease of life. Each week, Cumming and co-host Chris Sweeney chat to LGBTQ+ people from across the world about a range of issues, both heavy and light. The result is a warm, intimate podcast that’s fun, inclusive and informative. Listen here.

Want more? ‘Attend’ Pride Inside Festival

Amnesty International, UK Black Pride, Stonewall and ParaPride have joined to bring this year’s Pride celebrations online. From 28th June – 5th July, a range of LGBTQ+ artists, musicians, DJs, comedians and activists will host a series of talks, gigs, workshops and more. Full line-up to be announced soon. Learn more here.