On Thursday, October 22nd, HBO’s new four-part docuseries Equal will premiere on HBO Max. The show focuses on the lives of the queer community’s unsung heroes who paved the way for equality long before the Stonewall riots of 1969.
It brings history to life by combining never-seen-before archival footage, audio recordings, and historical artifacts with a live-action narrative starring some of the queer community’s biggest stars. Actors who appear in the show include Sara Gilbert, Anthony Rapp, Jamie Clayton, Samira Wiley, and Shannon Purser, among many others, all portraying queer trailblazers from our past. The series is also narrated by none other than Billy Porter himself.
The show was created after a visit to the ONE Archives in Los Angeles (the largest collection of LGBTQ artifacts in America). The production company behind Equal, Scout Productions, also makes Queer Eye. Joel Chiodi, the head of Scout’s documentary division, said that he had to visit the archives to get some material for an episode of Queer Eye, and once there, he saw the immense history of the queer community that he didn’t even know existed.
“I realized that most people probably know about Stonewall and Harvey Milk, and yes, those are key events that happened and led to the level of acceptance we all have now, but there were so many more steps that came before,” Chiodi said. ” And those first, very dangerous steps out of the closet were so incredibly important, and yet hardly anyone knows who these people are. So we really wanted to showcase the beginning of the movement and give a voice to people that many in society don’t know about. We had also heard that Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) was working on a similar project so we decided to combine our works to form Equal.”
Some of the stories told throughout the show include the lives of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the couple who formed the Daughters of Bilitis and the lesbian publican The Ladder; socialite and Madame, Lucy Hicks Anderson; Christine Jorgensen, the “world’s first trans celebrity”; and drag legend José Sarria, among numerous others…