You don’t realize how lucky you are to be an LGBTQ person living in the United States until you watch “Gaycation,” a new travel show on the Viceland Channel.
Every Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern newly out actress Ellen Page and her friend, art curator Ian Daniel, check out LGBTQ life in different nations. So far, they have visited Japan, Jamaica and Brazil.
At first I thought this was a breezy travel show visiting gay hot spots around the world. But this program has a serious side and packs and enormous emotional punch. Watching it is truly sobering.
For instance in Japan there is no religious culture that overtly condemns people who are LGBTQ. However, despite having bustling gay districts in places such as Tokyo, being gay is still considered abnormal. And Japan’s conformist, conservative culture discourages open conversation about sexuality.
Ellen and Ian interviewed a gay man who had entered into a marriage of convenience with a lesbian so he could save face with his family. Sadly, he said even if gay marriage becomes legal in Japan he will never come out of the closet.
In another scene in Japan a man hired a person to pretend to be his friend so he could muster the courage to admit to his mother, who had raised him alone, that he was gay. When his mother burst in tears and ran from the room it was heartbreaking to watch.
In Brazil gay marriage is legal and Brazilians celebrate gay culture during carnival. But Brazil is still deeply machismo and homophobic and the South American nation has one of the highest murder rates of people who are LGBTQ.
One of the most affecting scenes in Brazil was when Ellen and Ian talked to the mother and lover of a man murdered simply because he was gay. Despite acting as an objective journalist Ellen burst out crying as she embraced the grieving mother and lover.
And the most chilling scene was when Ian and Ellen interviewed a masked, former policeman who murdered people simply because they are gay. This man was angry because he came home and discovered his son in bed with another man.
He accused his son of deceiving him and decided to take out his rage on other gay people. Fortunately his son ran way from home to escape his father’s wrath.
In Jamaica being gay is a class-based thing. If you are middle or upper class you can get away with it. But in poorer neighborhoods gay men and lesbians, especially those who are too feminine or butch to hide their sexuality, risk beatings, “corrective” rapes, torture and death.
Yet in Jamaica, despite its reputation as one of the most homophobic countries on the planet, there was a glimmer of hope.
At the end of the episode a small group of brave lesbians and gay men held the country’s first Pride gathering. They went through with the event, dancing in a public square, even though they risked beatings or even death.
Despite lingering hate in the United States we take for granted the rights we have here as people who are LGBTQ. After watching Gaycation I will never take these rights for granted again.