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.

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What Part of “Secular” Do You Not Understand?

Selling flowers or wedding cakes to a same-sex couple, or even issuing marriages licenses is not the same as being a part of a same-sex wedding ceremony. Usually no one invites their florist to their wedding anyway. However, you cannot simply disagree to do your job because of whatever religious beliefs you have. If a Muslim person worked at a grocery store but refused to handle any pork products because of their faith, they would be fired. So it is a wonder how some Christians can still have so much privilege and power and continue to ask for more.

There is no war on religion. Around 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. And regardless of whatever conspiracy theories are floating around, Obama is a Christian as well. Maintaining the right to freedom of religion and trying to enforce your beliefs on others without consequence from the law are two very different things.

And while Kim Davis may be in prison momentarily, there are an alarming amount of people who support her. But the fact of the matter is that your religion does not give you a free pass to do whatever you want. When it comes to the government, it should have no power whatsoever. Everyone has their own individual beliefs and that’s great, but this persistent urge to involve Christianity in a secular government is ridiculous, especially when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Why these alleged straight people of God have such a profound obsession with homosexuality, I know not. But I am tired of hearing the same rhetoric over and over again. We get it. You think everyone is a sinner and you still “love” gay people, you just hate the sin. How heartwarming. The thing is though, I don’t care. A lot of people don’t care. You don’t have to marry someone of the same sex, and no one has the right to force you to attend a same-sex wedding. And you also might believe same-sex marriage is illegitimate compared to “traditional” marriage, but a lot of people are gay, or LGBT, or they know someone who is. And the difference between your personal religious beliefs and the lives of these LGBT individuals is that their plight is evident and factual, and using your religion to strip people of their rights is anything but “Christian.”

To Unrelenting Opponents of the Same-sex Marriage Ruling

So here’s the thing:

The United States government is one that specifically separates church and state, or rather religion and law. As a U.S. citizen you have the right to practice any religion and visit whatever place of worship is available to you. However, there seems to be a very common misconception that this country is a “Christian nation.” A majority of the founding fathers were deists, not Christians. For those of you who may not know, deists believe that a divine being, most commonly referred to as god, exists but is not active in the affairs of humans and nature. Aside from this, there is no mention of a national religion or dependence on god in the constitution. This is because the U.S. has freedom of religion, and does not only allow Christianity to be practiced. In fact, the phrase “In God We Trust” was not added to American currency until the 1950’s, which is obviously nowhere near when the country was established.

Many evangelical christians, catholics, and the like have always been secure in their opposition to homosexuality in general, let alone same-sex marriage. A few months ago, there was a bit of an issue in Indiana concerning religious liberty and discrimination against gay people. That battle has not ended despite the recent legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. Many religious people feel that they need to fight for their religious right. But the thing is, they have not yet lost anything. They still have the freedom to believe whatever they want, say whatever they want, and worship at any available place of worship. There is an outcry over this ruling because they want to maintain the ”right” to be prejudiced against other people and to legally discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation. Of course, the main support of their argument is that the Bible denounces homosexuality in multiple passages, but they fail to remember that theirs is not the only faith that exists. There are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Confucians, etc, yet no one is standing up for their religious rights or liberty.
Regardless, the United States does not allow any law to be established on the sole basis of any religion or religious belief because obviously not everyone shares the same faith, and allowing any single religion to be at the basis of government and the establishment of laws is not what a democracy stands for. However, the notorious Taliban uses the Qu’ran and the Islamic religion to dictate their laws and how those laws affect citizens. Different religion, same concept. Most Americans don’t think of the Taliban as a governmental aspiration, but the same structure is what many anti-gay Christians are in favor of. Yes, it sounds extreme at first because the Taliban is big and scary and violent and our country tends to have an aversion to muslims in general, but the concept is very similar.

So when a Catholic priest publishes a video about how fellow Catholics need to defend their religious liberty in whatever way they can or that the law of god is greater than the law of man, I cannot help but wonder if they actually believe what they’re saying, because there a lot of other things in the Bible that God apparently approves of that aren’t so acceptable anymore. There’s the obvious opposition to wearing clothing with mixed fabrics or eating shellfish, but there’s also the approval of the stoning of adulterers, selling ones daughters as sex slaves, raping one’s father while he remains unconscious, and polygamy. Oh yes, remember polygamy? It was the most common form of marriage in the Bible, yet the most common argument against same-sex marriage is that marriage was meant to be between only one man and one woman. It may be a nice sentiment, but it’s not exactly how things actually happened in the Bible and in actual history, such as the civilizations of ancient Rome and Greece. Of course everyone loves to pick and choose what they believe is important in the Bible and just hope no one else has actually read it so they don’t have to come up with a defense or engage in an educated discussion.

In addition, the Catholic and Christian religions are in no way endangered or negatively effected by same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples now have the legal right to marry civilly. No one is suddenly demanding to have their big gay wedding in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. No one is insisting that the Catholic church welcome gay couples with open arms. It is quite the opposite. Christian business owners want to legally reserve the right to turn away customers of minority sexualities because it is their personal religious belief. Anti-gay clerks want to challenge the recent supreme court ruling by refusing to give same-sex couples marriage certificates. It is very clear who is the oppressor versus the oppressed, yet religious zealots love to paint themselves as the victims in order to continue to get away with their obvious prejudices and efforts to legalize discrimination.

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.

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.

“Loose” Women

Being sexually active has nothing to do with a woman’s morals or the looseness of a woman’s vagina. Men are given a pat on the back for either having multiple one night stands in a short period of time or for just having a lot of sex in general. However, if women have the same sexual pattern or history as a man who “scores” a lot, then she is labeled as a slut or a whore. She is then classified as promiscuous and dirty. It is here that we are presented with a great, unjust double standard. If a straight man is having all of this wild sex, then tell me, who is he having it with? Men? No. He’s having sex with women. So, here where we find ourselves stuck in a hole of confusion and hypocrisy. It really does take two to tango. I’m sure he wouldn’t be bragging about having sex with himself. My question to you is: Why is she the whore, but he the champion? Slut shaming is when a person is called out on their sexual behavior and made of mockery of for it. Being a slut is considered to be one of the highest insults, if not the highest. Slut shaming is a horrible thing to do either to a man or a woman, but it really mostly happens to women. I don’t want to say that it only happens to women, because who knows? I do not want to be the one to make that assumption. Either way, slut shaming has to stop. Actually, our entire societal view needs to change to a more sex positive one. Middle schools and high schools in every state should have actual sex education classes. No one needs to be taught about abstinence. There’s really not that much to it. We need to inform kids/teenagers about contraceptives, and STDs, and how to properly put on and take off a condom. Those are all truly important things that a properly functioning person should be informed about. I was lucky enough to have the most thorough sex education class ever in my sophomore year of high school. This might sound odd to say, but I truly enjoyed my sex education class. I learned so much and grew even more curious about sexuality and how things work, much like I am curious about many other things in life. We should not be afraid to talk about sex because it is not disgusting, or wrong, or filthy like we are told to believe. Sex is sex. It can be used to reproduce or for personal pleasure. And yes, things can go wrong, but things can go wrong in all aspects of life. Hiding the truth about sex from our children is not going to protect them, it’s only going to hurt them in the end. Once they are informed, they can be free to make their own choices and use their own minds, but the point is to inform them and not to shove our own misguided opinions down their throats.

Another issue I want to address is “loose women” and their loose vaginas. Having sex cannot and does not loosen the vagina. Vaginas come in all different sizes, but they do not change size because of the amount of sex they have had. So, all those dirty thoughts you had about virgins? Yeah, it’s all in your mind, bud. The only act that can loosen the vagina is childbirth, but this loosening is only temporary as it goes back to its original size in about six months or so after giving birth.

A woman’s morals have nothing to do with her sexual activity. Religion and societal standards do not need to treat women like a different, lesser part of the world, furthering the dehumanization of the female kind. I just don’t see how these two things can directly relate. We’re not talking about adultery, we’re just talking about plain, old sex. Humans are not like other animals. We cannot  have sex for the sole purpose of procreation. Our desire for sexual pleasure is one of the many aspects that makes us human. Gays and lesbians are human, and they cannot procreate among their own sex. Here, we are presented with yet another issue. There are just so many issues, and the issues only lead to my perpetual frustration, but I can’t stop caring and reading about the issues. I am a flaming masochist.

Anyway, thank you for making it this far. I know this was kind of ranty, but hey, what else is the internet for?