I'm not one to watch much television. I watch maybe four shows on the regular networks, and then I have about 6 shows from BBC on my public tv network. But when I was flipping channels the other night I came across a network called Viceland, that seems to have many cutting edge docu-series. Pretty interesting shows. But the stand out was a show titled Gaycation.
Imagine that you live in a country where every day, someone like you is murdered, and the average life expectancy in your community is only 30 years old. This is what it's like to be gay or trans in Brazil, which has the highest number of murdered transgender people in the world. And this is why actress Ellen Page decided to create a docu-series with Viceland called Gaycation, so she could travel to these very places and show us what we urgently need to see. Actress Ellen Page, who first made a name for herself when she earned an Oscar nomination for her role in 2007's Juno, has thrown herself into LGBTQ activism since she came out as a lesbian during an inspiring speech at the Human Rights Campaign's Time to Thrive conference. Page has promoted LGBT rights in her feature film work, too, co-producing and co-starring alongside Julianne Moore in last year's Freeheld, which told the story of a lesbian couple battling for equality. She didn’t necessarily imagine herself using a television series to educate and enlighten—not until she had a conversation with Spike Jonze, the co-president of Vice's new cable network Viceland. So Page suggested she host the series with her best friend Ian Daniel, a documentarian. The rest is history... Page and Daniel packed their bags and began production on the series that takes them from Japan to Jamaica.
Page and Daniel find themselves in some pretty intense situations, and one of the most startling encounters is seen in an episode devoted to Brazil that aired in March—Page and Daniel conduct an interview with a former cop turned hitman, who, in disguise, casually talks about killing gay people, even running them down with his car because he hates them so much. Watching the interview is disturbing, but it drives home the point about how dangerous life is in Brazil for members of the LGBTQ community in a way that simply telling the audience that the country has the highest LGBT murder rate in the world doesn't.
In the episode of Gaycation devoted to Japan, we see that although the LGBT community there doesn't face the same level of violence present in Brazil, societal pressures do keep people in the closet. Page and Daniel meet one young man who decides to come out to his mother. Sadly, he doesn't have a real friend to be there with him, so he makes the declaration to his mother with a rented "friend"—yes, you can rent friends in Japan—sitting by his side to offer moral support. Page and Daniel are also there observing the emotional moment.
In another episodes of Gaycation , they focused on parts of Canada, Jamaica and the United States. Page, a native of Canada who lives in Los Angeles, says it was important to shoot an episode in the U.S. so that it didn't appear as though they were traveling the world passing judgment on everyone else. Beyond that, there is plenty of material right here at home. She said in one show "There is so much to celebrate in the United States—the recent Supreme Court decision, is one of those amazing things, but trans community of color have a life expectancy of 35, which is absolutely horrific; and 40% of homeless youth are LGBT; and in 31 states, we can be fired or denied housing just for being a member of the community," Page points out.
While Gaycation isn't at all preachy, Page does hope that the series will make anyone who is complacent realize that a lot of work still needs to be done so that LGBTQ people everywhere can live in peace and equality. "We want to help people understand what the situation is, and if that means you take action, amazing. If that makes you treat people in a more kind way, or look at situations differently, or you look at the rhetoric coming from certain politicians and understand that it is really destructive, great," says Page, who famously had an exchange with Republican senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz about gay rights at the Iowa State Fair last year that was seen on the U.S.-themed episode of Gaycation.
Did she ever go head to head with Cruz. I absolutely loved what she said about politicians too. " Were surrounded by so much homophobia, I don't have time for some conservative dude who's running for President, spewing his shit, which is responsible for this, which it is. You can't tell me that it's not. You have so much influence...and you are perpetuating a society that is homophobic and transphobic....Don't discriminate against people, just don't. Don't say now gay people are the bigots cause we want equal rights. It's now acceptable. Can we just move pass this? And if the politician's don't makes these issues disappear, then their going to disappear."
Another thing I thought was great is Gaycation's more subtle triumphs: highlighting a type of relationship that has been intrinsic to queer history but that is never truly depicted in media. A love between a lesbian and a gay man that is exactly that: love. It's great and rare to see a gay man and lesbian being such close great friends. We are, after all, one community. If you have a chance to see this series it is so well done, all why educating.