Topic of the Month

Every month, SJAT focuses on a social justice topic and curates a list of recommended books, podcasts, movies, and resource websites. An SJAT member may write a blog post related to the topic as well. The Topic of the Month serves as our educational component of how to immerse ourselves in a wide range of social justice issues.

DISCLAIMER: The items on this list are for educational purposes only. BUMC and Living Waters UMC are not responsible for the statements made in these books, podcasts, films, shows, and etc.

LGBTQ+

June is Pride Month. Join us to celebrate the affirmation of LGBTQ+ individuals and commemorate the true meaning of Pride, to protest. Pride began at the Stonewall Riots in late June 1969 in New York City to protest against the police brutality, prejudice and discrimination towards the gay and trans community, which sparked the modern queer liberation movement.

Books

All The Young Men, a gripping and triumphant tale of human compassion, is the true story of Ruth Coker Burks, a young single mother in Hot Springs, Arkansas, who finds herself driven to the forefront of the AIDS crisis, and becoming a pivotal activist in America’s fight against AIDS. In 1986, 26-year old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. Before she can even process what she’s done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men affected by AIDS, and is called upon to nurse them. As she forges deep friendships with the men she helps, she works tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, even searching for funeral homes willing to take their bodies – often in the middle of the night. Emboldened by the weight of their collective pain, she fervently advocates for their safety and visibility, ultimately advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis. This deeply moving and elegiac memoir honors the extraordinary life of Ruth Coker Burks and the beloved men who fought valiantly for their lives with AIDS during a most hostile and misinformed time in America.

A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience. The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.

Brandi Carlile was born into a musically gifted, impoverished family on the outskirts of Seattle and grew up in a constant state of change, moving from house to house, trailer to trailer, 14 times in as many years. Though imperfect in every way, her dysfunctional childhood was as beautiful as it was strange, and as nurturing as it was difficult. As an openly gay teenager, Brandi grappled with the tension between her sexuality and her faith when her pastor publicly refused to baptize her on the day of the ceremony. Shockingly, her small town rallied around Brandi in support and set her on a path to salvation where the rest of the misfits and rejects find it: through twisted, joyful, weird, and wonderful music. In Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile takes listeners through the events of her life that shaped her very raw art – from her start at a local singing competition where she performed Elton John’s “Honky Cat” in a bedazzled white polyester suit, to her first break opening for Dave Matthews Band, to many sleepless tours over 15 years and six studio albums, all while raising two children with her wife, Catherine Shepherd. This hard-won success led her to collaborations with personal heroes like Elton John, Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam, and Joni Mitchell, as well as her peers in the supergroup The Highwomen, and ultimately to the Grammy stage, where she converted millions of viewers into instant fans. Broken Horses is an examination of faith through the eyes of a person rejected by the church’s basic tenets and a meditation on the moments and lyrics that have shaped the life of a creative mind and genuine empath on a mission to give back

A transgender reporter’s narrative tour through the surprisingly vibrant queer communities sprouting up in red states, offering a vision of a stronger, more humane America. Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn’t changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called “flyover country” rather than moving to the liberal coasts. In Real Queer America, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: “Something gay every day.” Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more. Capturing profound cultural shifts underway in unexpected places and revealing a national network of chosen family fighting for a better world, Real Queer America is a treasure trove of uplifting stories and a much-needed source of hope and inspiration in these divided times.

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Podcasts

Emotional glimpses into the lives of unsung, if not entirely sidelined, trailblazers who made their mark on the LGBTQ civil rights movement—people like Vito Russo, Jean O’Leary, Bayard Rustin, and Del Martin. Marcus, author of a 2002 book also titled Making Gay History, pulls from his own recorded archives and conducts original interviews to collage together episodes on heroes who deserve robust chapters in the history books.

The cheery co-hosts and BFFs make like Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and hilariously, movingly interview everyone from Alexandra Billings to Masha Gessen. The show possesses This American Life vibes and shares surprising personal stories from allies and everyday queers—a United Methodist pastor whose coming out is at odds with her church; an older man who adopted his partner before same-sex marriage was legal—who aren’t always passed the mainstream mic.

Roberts, who holds master’s degrees in both counseling and theology, stokes conversation with philosophers, poets, priests, and psychologists to better understand the intersection of faith and sexuality—and how “bad theology” has peddled theories about the necessary separation of those two realms for too long. Like Krista Tippett, a.k.a. radio’s chief goddess of all things being-and-belief-related, Roberts poses and embraces big questions—like, “Is Christianity inherently queer?” and “What does it mean to live authentically?”

The stand-up comedian and actor conducts hour-long, heartfelt conversations with diverse members of the LGBTQ community: Abby Wambach, SOAK, Our Lady J, and Bob the Drag Queen, just to name a few. Esposito doesn’t shy away from wading into a guest’s darker times—but she also uses warmth and wit to shine a light on queer folx’ successes as well as their struggles.

Movies & TV Shows

Pose (stylized as POSE) is an American drama television series about New York City’s Black and Latinx queer, transgender, and gender-nonconforming drag ball culture scene in the 1980s and 1990s. Featured characters are dancers and models who compete for trophies and recognition in this underground culture. In the ball culture, there are chosen families known as Houses who dance and model to compete for trophies and recognition, an who support each other during a time of the AIDS crisis and other life hardships. Making television history, Pose features the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, including Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore and Hailie Sahar, who co-star alongside Tony Award® winner and Golden Globe® nominee Billy Porter.

Seven renowned LGBTQ+ directors explore heroic and heartbreaking stories that define us as a nation. The limited series spans the FBI surveillance of homosexuals during the 1950s Lavender Scare to the “Culture Wars” of the 1990s and beyond, exploring the queer legacy of the Civil Rights movement and the battle over marriage equality. Featuring little-known characters such as Madeleine Tress or 1980s videographer Nelson Sullivan who chronicled a vanishing downtown New York City during the AIDS epidemic, the series also features international figures such as Civil Rights pioneer Bayard Rustin, writer Audre Lorde and Senators Tammy Baldwin and Lester Hunt. The evolution of trans rights and identities through the decades is charted through interviews and archival footage of pioneers including Christine Jorgensen, Flawless Sabrina, Ceyenne Doroshow, Susan Stryker, Kate Bornstein, Dean Spade and Raquel Willis.

Disclosure is an unprecedented, eye-opening look at transgender depictions in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender. Leading trans thinkers and creatives, including Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, Mj Rodriguez, Jamie Clayton, and Chaz Bono, share their reactions and resistance to some of Hollywood’s most beloved moments. Grappling with films like A Florida Enchantment (1914), Dog Day Afternoon, The Crying Game, and Boys Don’t Cry, and with shows like The Jeffersons, The L-Word, and Pose, they trace a history that is at once dehumanizing, yet also evolving, complex, and sometimes humorous. What emerges is a fascinating story of dynamic interplay between trans representation on screen, society’s beliefs, and the reality of trans lives. Reframing familiar scenes and iconic characters in a new light, director Sam Feder invites viewers to confront unexamined assumptions, and shows how what once captured the American imagination now elicit new feelings. Disclosure provokes a startling revolution in how we see and understand trans people.

Three time periods – young adolescence, mid-teen and young adult – in the life of black-American Chiron is presented. When a child, Chiron lives with his single, crack addict mother Paula in a crime ridden neighborhood in Miami. Chiron is a shy, withdrawn child largely due to his small size and being neglected by his mother, who is more concerned about getting her fixes and satisfying her carnal needs than taking care of him. Because of these issues, Chiron is bullied, the slurs hurled at him which he doesn’t understand beyond knowing that they are meant to be hurtful. Besides his same aged Cuban-American friend Kevin, Chiron is given what little guidance he has in life from a neighborhood drug dealer named Juan, who can see that he is neglected, and Juan’s caring girlfriend Teresa, whose home acts as a sanctuary away from the bullies and away from Paula’s abuse. With this childhood as a foundation, Chiron may have a predetermined path in life, one that will only be magnified in terms of its problems when he reaches his difficult teen years when peer pressure affects what he and many of his peers do, unless he follows Juan’s advice of truly making his own decisions for himself.

Leonardo is a blind teenager dealing with an overprotective mother while trying to live a more independent life. To the disappointment of his best friend, Giovana, he plans to go on an exchange program abroad. When Gabriel, a new student in town, arrives at their classroom, new feelings blossom in Leonardo making him question his plans.

Resources

By inspiring and engaging individuals and communities, the Human Rights Campaign strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Equality Montana is a joint program of two separate non-profit organizations, the Montana Human Rights Action Network and the Montana Human Rights Network that share a vision of using civic engagement, public education, and community building to expand an active and engaged statewide LGBTQ+ base. 

The Trevor Project focuses on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth. They have online workshops, as well as models for public schools to implement to support these youth. They do a lot of outreach and host a handful of yearly events to raise awareness.

AIDS Outreach is dedicated to empowering people and communities affected by HIV through testing, prevention, support and education in Gallatin, Park and Madison Counties, Montana.

TransVisible is a coalition of transgender, non binary and two spirit Montanans from social justice organizations and local communities. We promote awareness and education within Montana on issues affecting trans and non binary Montanans.

Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) equips and mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

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