Friday, March 03, 2017

"When We Rise: The People Behind the Story": documentary history of gay rights

When We Rise: The People Behind the Story” aired Thursday March 2, 2017 as a featurette before parts 4 and 5 of the series.

The one hour introduced the activists today, especially Cleve Jones and Ken Jones, who both survived AIDS by getting into antiretroviral drug programs in the late 80s that actually started to work.

The hour also gave a quick history of the LGBT community by decade, starting in the 60s, which ended with the Stonewall rebellion where people revolted in the streets against routine police raids of gay bars.  The early history talked of people being thrown out of their homes by religious parents, for no rational reason other than an authoritarian view of faith.  It seemed as though many fathers felt that gay sons could deny them grandchildren and a lineage to survive them, and that allowing homosexuality to be acceptable would undermine families and leave them with fewer children.

In the 1970s, gay pride marches started, leading to the first March on Washington in `1979, followed my future marches in 1993 and 2000.  The show covers the Briggs Proposition 6 in California in 1978, which would have banned gay teachers (or associating with gay causes by teachers), and the solidarity needed to defeat it (a lesson for me, perhaps), as well as Anita Bryant’s campaign in 1977.

It then goes to cover the AIDS epidemic quickly, as people went through generations of friend, and then moves into the 1990s with Bill Clinton’s don’t ask don’t tell policy for gays in the military, Obama’s repeal, and then DOMA and gay marriage, leading to the Supreme Court Obergefell decision in 2015.

Episodes 4 and 5 covered the aftermath of AIDS and moved into the 1990s, with Bill Clinton’s proposal to lift the ban, which sounded progressive at the time but led to 13000 discharges.  It also shows Cleve as a de facto foster parent, and the lesbian couple raising a daughter, who finally does well in school.  Trent Lott’s son comes out, and in one melodramatic scene, Trent threatens to shoot himself.

Friday night the last two episodes covered Proposition 8 in California and the DOMA trial before the Supreme Court.  There was a curious courtroom discussion over whether recognizing gay marriage would result in lower marriage rates among heterosexuals, because of loss of "meaning."  There was also some more coverage of the marches on Washington (Wiki).

Here's another discussion of the series.

Update: March 10, 2017

Brock Thompson asks in the Washington Blade, "Who was 'When We Rise'" for, anyway?"  Interesting way to ask this kind of question. 

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