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FX's 'Pride' docuseries chronicles 6 decades of LGBTQ activism

The series features new interviews and archival footage highlighting the struggles and achievements of LGBTQ activists from the 1950s to the 2000s.
ACT UP protesters close the FDA building in Rockville, Md., to demand the release of experimental medication for those living with HIV/AIDS.
ACT UP protesters close the FDA building in Rockville, Md., to demand the release of experimental medication for those living with HIV/AIDS.Mikki Ansin / Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

Ahead of Pride Month in June, FX Networks will air a documentary series chronicling the LGBTQ community’s fight for civil rights in the United States across six decades.

Directed by seven renowned queer filmmakers, “Pride” is a six-episode limited series debuting Friday that shines a spotlight on some of the most celebrated LGBTQ milestones and trailblazers, along with lesser-known pivotal moments and activists going back to the 1950s.

“LGBTQ history is American history,” Alex Smith, one of the film’s directors, told NBC News. “It’s important to know how we got our rights. It’s important to discuss members of our community who are still disenfranchised. It’s important for us to know the history we were never taught, and it’s important LGBTQ people see themselves in their own history.”

“Pride” explores some of the most tragic parts of LGBTQ history — such as the early years of the AIDS crisis, which ravaged the gay community — along with some of the legal high points, like Massachusetts becoming the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. It also introduces viewers to largely unknown activists such as Madeleine Tress, a Department of Commerce employee who lost her job for being a lesbian during the Lavender Scare of the 1950s.

“It’s important to know the people who sacrificed and lost so much for our privileges today and to remember that freedom is never won. Every year, every decade, every generation has to keep fighting and keep making ground to protect our privileges,” Smith said. “Many of us, such as trans women of color, are still facing obstacles, and their safety is at constant risk.”

In addition to chronicling the struggles the LGBTQ community has faced, the docuseries also showcases the joy and love found in queer spaces.

“I love that the first episode is entitled ‘People Had Parties,’” director Tom Kalin told NBC News. “Despite Sen. Joseph McCarthy making life miserable for the community in the 1950s, and government surveillance, people had parties and lived vibrant and full lives. And in the 1960s, while activism started to take center stage with trans women standing up to law enforcement, unsung heroes like Christine Jorgensen, probably the first person to become widely known for having reassignment surgery, had gatherings in her home to exchange beauty tips. These stories are just as important to the activist community.”

Smith hopes LGBTQ people will watch the documentary and feel proud and fired up to continue to make positive change.

“There’s strength in our culture,” he said. “We’re a strong, joyful, creative and resilient force. I hope every LGBTQ viewer sees how badass we are and goes out and fights for what they care about.”

The first three episodes of “Pride” will air on FX on Friday starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the following three will air May 21. All six episodes will be streaming on FX on Hulu the day after they premiere on FX.

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