Eric Cervini would love audiences to return away from his new documentary sequence, “The Book of Queer,” with a extra important eye towards the historical past of the LGBTQ group and the world at giant.
“I hope people question what they know or what they think they know, what they’ve been taught or what they haven’t been taught,” the creator and historian instructed HuffPost. “I want folks ― whether they’re queer or trans, straight or cisgender ― to really ask themselves: ‘What preconceived notions do I have about myself, about history, about the country, about persecuted groups?’”
“The Book of Queer,” which premiered June 2 on Discovery+, isn’t a typical documentary. The five-episode sequence is a considerate, if cheeky, take a look at LGBTQ individuals who modified the world, as recapped by present-day queer stars like Dominique Jackson, Lesley Jordan and Alex Newell.
There are segments devoted to Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag, and Marsha P. Johnson, the transgender activist often known as one of many first to withstand police brutality throughout the 1969 Stonewall rebellion. Others dive into the legacies of World War II code breaker Alan Turing, and Harvey Milk, who in 1977 turned the primary brazenly homosexual individual to be elected to public workplace in California.
Catch a clip from the primary episode of “The Book of Queer” under.
Each of those historic figures is portrayed in colourful vignettes that includes musical numbers, campy humor and fashionable lingo. (Joan of Arc, celebrated for her willingness to subvert the gender norms of Fifteenth-century France, is referred to right here as a “head bitch in charge.”) And although Cervini insists he’s not an actor, he proves himself to be an affable display screen presence, showing in interval garb to supply “footnotes” in every episode.
Still, essentially the most compelling moments in “The Book of Queer” will elevate a number of eyebrows. The present’s premiere episode, as an example, makes the case that Abraham Lincoln had quite a few romantic relationships with males.
Though “The Book of Queer” isn’t the primary outlet to current proof of this principle, Lincoln’s perceived sexuality has been hotly disputed by historians for years. Cervini stresses that whether or not the previous president would have self-identified as homosexual or bisexual throughout his lifetime is basically irrelevant, on condition that such labels didn’t exist as social constructs till a long time later. As to the legitimacy of Lincoln’s rumored relationships, nevertheless, he believes the historic documentation speaks for itself.
“We wanted to surprise folks,” he stated. “If you’ve venerated Abraham Lincoln all your life and then you realize he slept with men more often than he slept with women, that may tell you about the diversity of human sexuality, intimacy and experience.”
Cervini, 30, has made LGBTQ storytelling a cornerstone of his profession so far. The Texas native’s ardour for queer historical past started after watching 2008’s “Milk,” the Oscar-winning biopic about Harvey Milk, throughout his first yr at Harvard University. It was then he began to appreciate “just how infinite the queer community’s past is, and yet the general public has never learned about it.”
Not lengthy afterward, Cervini began researching Frank Kameny, one other pioneering determine within the LGBTQ rights motion. A former Department of Defense astronomer, Kameny sued the federal authorities after being fired in 1957 as a result of he was homosexual. Though his case was unsuccessful, it was the primary civil rights declare primarily based on a plaintiff’s sexuality or gender id to be pursued in a U.S. courtroom.
In 2020, Cervini revealed “The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. The United States of America,” an acclaimed ebook on Kameny comprising eight years of analysis that started along with his senior thesis at Harvard. The ebook went on to develop into a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a New York Times bestseller.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I heard: ‘There’s no market for this.’ So proving that wrong was fun,” Cervini stated. “It’s a very fun thing to do, to prove folks wrong, especially if there’s no basis in them saying that other than homophobia.”
“Folks want to know what has been kept from them, not just within the LGBTQ community but all of America,” he added. “If you tell people in any part of the world, ‘This is the history they don’t want you to learn,’ they’ll want to consume it.”
The success of “The Deviant’s War” was important in getting Discovery+ to develop “The Book of Queer,” primarily based on “The Magic Closet,” an Instagram video series Cervini produced from the closet of his Los Angeles dwelling. The new title, he stated, was meant to stop the present from being confused for a house design program: “For us, the metaphorical closet comes to mind first. But for 80% of America, they think, ‘Oh, what a great closet in that home.’”
The season finale of “The Book of Queer” will air Thursday on Discovery+. Though a second season of the present has but to be introduced, Cervini has a follow-up Hollywood challenge within the works. Last month, Amazon Studios and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment firmed up plans to adapt “The Deviant’s War” as a restricted sequence. Matthew López, who gained a Tony Award for Broadway’s “The Inheritance” and is directing the movie model of one other queer favourite, “Red, White & Royal Blue,” will write the screenplay.
And although Cervini couldn’t have predicted the present wave of anti-LGBTQ laws that’s been sweeping throughout the U.S. in current months, he hopes viewers will use the teachings of “The Book of Queer” and “The Deviant’s War” as an impetus to mobilize towards it.
“I didn’t realize just how broad this systematic attack on our history, our education, our existence in Florida, Arizona, Alabama ― everywhere ― would be, and unfortunately, I wish that weren’t the case,” he stated. “But we’ve also been through similar attacks before. So I think if we use our history as a guidebook and learn not just how we were successful but also where we excluded folks [like] trans people of color … we’ll create the alliances we forgot about and be able to beat it back and make even more progress.”