Reflections on Ellen Page’s “Gaycation”

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a United States citizen, I am well acquainted with the various acts of oppression and attacks we face as an overall community in this country. It is never easy for any person to deal with any kind of oppression, regardless of the circumstances, but it is very evident that there are some demographics of people who face much more severe forms of oppression than others. There are various different countries and cultures that heavily demonize and oppress queer people, and in that respect I am considerably lucky.

Ellen Page and her best friend Ian Daniel, set out to investigate queer culture across the globe, visiting countries like Japan, Brazil, and Jamaica. In this documentary series, they explore how queerness is treated in each country, analyzing both the celebration of LGBT pride and the unfortunate discrimination many queer people face.

In their most recent episode, the duo travelled to Jamaica, a country that actively condemns homosexuality. On a daily basis, queer people are kicked out of their homes, shunned by their communities, verbally and physically attacked, and even killed. Ellen and Ian interviewed a small group of LGBT individuals who blatantly reveal the harsh reality of what it means to be a queer person in Jamaica. The group goes on to discuss how they were all abandoned by their families because of who they are and currently remain homeless, poor, and constantly aware of the threat of danger they face every day. It was heartbreaking to hear about the conditions in which LGBT Jamaicans live and how members of their own community continually attack and demonize them. However, the reasoning or justification of this aggressive homophobia seems to stem partly from religion.The episode examines the influence the church has on homophobia, and how scripture guides mainstream principles throughout the country. Various interviewees claimed that homosexuality is both a mental disorder and a sin. It is not accepted, or tolerated at any level. Gay Jamaicans do not have the same freedoms that many other LGBT individuals have across the globe. This is not to say that there is no hope. The queer people interviewed were very positive about the future, although the main goal of many is to simply stay alive.

Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is important for anyone to become aware of the various adversities LGBT people face all over the world. We are all humans, after all, and we should be informed of the injustices that many of our fellow humans face. Even simply being informed is a step in the right direction, and I encourage everyone to at least watch one episode. I have thoroughly enjoyed the show thus far and look forward to hearing about how queer culture is treated and maintained in the various other countries Ellen and Ian visit.

Why Queer Representation is Actually Important

It comes as no surprise that the LGBTQ community is seldom portrayed in the media, and even when there is representation it is often negative or inaccurate. Heterosexuality is portrayed as the norm, the default. I can watch any show or movie and there are definitely heterosexual characters. In fact, they’re everywhere. But I have to look very hard to find a LGBT character, and such a character is often a flamboyant, white gay man who is treated as more of a source of amusement than as a prominent, meaningful character. If I want to watch a movie with any gay people in it, I often have to sift through the “Gay and Lesbian” category on Netflix, as if these movies can only be identified by the sexuality of the characters and not the more common genres of comedy, drama, and action.

I grew up immersed in this culture, just as many other LGBT youth have, which makes coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation very difficult. I grew up thinking that boys like girls, and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Every love song I listened to or romantic comedy I watched was exclusively heteronormative. It is the constant reenforcement of this male/female dynamic that is damaging for LGBT youth and the like. Growing up, I knew of gay people, but only of the stereotypes and celebrities who had come out. There was no form of media to inform me of any relationship other than a heterosexual one. So of course, I didn’t question my sexuality throughout my childhood, even though there were obvious signs. Culture heavily influences and impacts societal ideals and norms, behaviors, attitudes, and discrimination. And from what I had absorbed from my culture and the media, homosexuality was not a good thing. And while I was completely okay with other people being gay, I couldn’t accept it for myself.

I didn’t spend seventeen years of my life as a heterosexual kid, and then one day I decided to be gay. I thought I was supposed to like boys. I didn’t even know what being gay was until I entered middle school. There was no “agenda” preached at me like many fundamentalists love to believe. It was quite the opposite. I went to Catholic school for seven years, where I was taught that being a homo is a no-no. An abomination. An unnatural, devilish choice. Of course I never bought into it. I accepted anyone who wasn’t the living definition of a bigot. The priest who taught my religion class was as gay as the night is dark, yet he still condemned such a “lifestyle”. And whoever came up with the idea that being gay is a lifestyle? Being an avid skier is a lifestyle. Sexuality is not a lifestyle, it just is. And it is so sad that we have to somehow justify that in order to be respected and treated equally. Humans are born with their sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of what that may be. But, even if it was a choice, what gives someone else the right to tell you what to do with your life? Why? Because God says so? I have to prove my homosexuality is innate yet there is no empirical evidence that God even exists, let alone the ever evolving, rewritten bible that also claims we should stone adulterers. If you don’t have to justify or prove your religion, I certainly don’t have to justify my sexuality.

On Gender Roles and Gendered Products

Today I received a package from Sephora I had been expecting, containing some foundation I wanted to try. Sephora also does this cool thing where they give you three free samples with every purchase, so I selected some sample perfumes and added them to my cart. One of these three perfumes was “Versace pour homme,”which basically means that it’s Versace for men. So I sprayed some on my wrist and it smelled so good that I considered investing in a bottle of it in some point in the future. But then I starting thinking about how annoying it is that we gender perfumes. It’s not only for men. Anybody who likes the scent can purchase it. But this is just part of a bigger issue. Our society so strongly feels the urge to gender everything and make a clear distinction between what is “for girls” and what is “for boys.” Because god forbid a guy bought a razor “for women” he would instantly become emasculated. And oh how sad that would be, to be compared to or even be considered a girl.

The social conditioning of gender roles and gendered products is literally introduced into our lives since birth. Boys get wrapped up in blue blankets, and pink is exclusively for girls. Little girls are urged to play with dolls and wear tutus and become obsessed with Disney princesses. Boys should play with hot wheels and Leggos and try out for the little league team. And it’s not as if this behavior and way of thinking is innate. It is learned behavior and ideology. Five-year-old girls don’t have this innate sense to play house or want to be a ballerina when they grow up. We are taught this through observation and guidance. No one ever questions if their little boy prefers pink or blue. It’s just not an option. Fathers automatically assume that their daughter doesn’t want to play catch because she is female. Never giving her the opportunity to decide whether or not she likes sports is what continues this cycle.

And of course people will tell me to not care so much, that it doesn’t really matter. But it does. It shapes the way we view men and women, the way we stereotype, and assume these roles solely based on gender identity. I’m a woman and I like “men’s cologne”. I like dressing comfy and not giving a shit about appearing as a “proper lady”. I’m also gay. But I wear makeup and jewelry. I’ll even occasionally wear stilettos (although that is usually reserved for weddings). What it means to be a man or a woman is not determined through how the media dictates what we should wear, buy, do, or even look like. That is something entirely up to the individual. And I am certainly including transgender folks in this argument. They should not be required to “pass” as a certain gender in order to be respected. Surgery and hormones cost a lot of money, which many trans people don’t have. And someone’s biological make up should certainly not determine their worth, i.e. the overpowering and smothering patriarchy. And of course if you are someone who fits into these specific gender roles that is perfectly okay. There is only a problem if it is not your choice and is forced upon you throughout your entire childhood and adult life. So if you are looking for any rolls to choose in the future, I’d go with sushi.

The Fight Against Gays

       Religious liberty is attempting to make a most unflattering comeback in the United States. Mike Pence, Republican Governor of Indiana, recently signed a Religious Liberty Bill modeled on the former Religious Restoration Act. The bill will legally allow business owners and the like to refuse goods and services to LGBT individuals on the basis of religious freedom. While Pence later went on to “fix” the bill, the fix does not directly apply to religious groups and LGBT individuals are still unprotected by Indiana law. The fix was simply a way to make the bill more palatable to those opposed to it. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia are also in the process of enacting their own Religious Liberty bills, further enhancing the threat to LGBT Americans. The bill in question goes way beyond upholding religious liberty. It allows for discrimination on the grounds of faith. Many religious people argue that they should not be forced to participate in a same-sex wedding or serve same-sex couples and individuals because they believe it is sinful and unnatural. And of course these same people go on to implement the ever popular “it’s say so in the Bible” excuse. Anti-LGBT christians do not want to knowingly aid those of that “lifestyle”. But in what way is discrimination supposedly Christian? Of course no one who supports this bill is willing to admit to what it actually does, that it legally allows someone to discriminate against another person. Of course they deny it. Read the news articles and watch the videos. They cannot outwardly admit to it.

        Interestingly enough, no one is preventing Christians from practicing their faith, going to church, praying, wearing whatever religious garments and accessories they choose to. Yet many still claim that is in fact the Christians who are being discriminated against. However, the Christians are not the ones being denied service, and that is the very important difference of the matter. One cannot infringe upon someone else’s rights, call it religious liberty, and then act as if they are the real victim in question. It is completely unethical. It is also uneconomical. Businesses will only end up losing profit by turning away paying customers on the sole basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Big businesses like Apple will take a stance against states in which the bill is enacted, which will certainly not be a loss for the billion dollar corporation, but rather for the various local Christian-run eateries and flower shops. Hopefully, it is this argument that will turn some heads because apparently money is much more greatly valued than the rights of other people. Needless to say, there are many Christians who strongly disagree with using religion as an excuse for homophobia. However, it is the Anti-LGBT Christians whose voices overpower the non-discriminatory ones.