In November, Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz appeared at an event with a pastor who said gay people should be killed. To Ellen Page, Ted Cruz's association with the "kill the gays" pastor is not just a political plot. It's a real threat.
Gaycation, a show on Vice magazine's TV channel, Viceland, offers viewers a glimpse of what LGBT life is like all over the world, from the perspective of Page, the actress who came out two years ago, and her best friend, Ian Daniel. Tonight's episode of Gaycation will feature a famous confrontation between Page and Cruz, while he was on an Iowa campaign stop in August, grilling burgers, when Page told the senator, "I have a question about LGBT people being fired for being gay or trans."
During their exchange, the duo argued about religious freedom, and Cruz defended the right of business owners to refuse service to LGBT people when it conflicts with their faith. "What we're seeing right now, we're seeing Bible-believing Christians being persecuted for living according to their faith," Cruz told Page in front of a phalanx of reporters.
In their exchange, Page defended the right to religious freedom but not when it's used to discriminate against LGBT people. "When you look at history, you see a similar argument to defend discriminatory activity, and I think this is what we need to move past in order to achieve true equality," Page tells The Advocate.
Gaycation has taken Page and Daniel to several countries, including Japan, where they saw a young man come out to his mother on camera; Brazil, where they came face-to-face with a man who admits to killing gay people; and Jamaica, where they engaged in an intense discussion with the rapper Beenie Man over the use of homophobic lyrics in dancehall music.
Daniels and Page are aware of criticism some viewers may have of the queer white North American duo traveling to other countries to explore LGBT life. "We try to do our best not to seem as like [we're] walking around the world and feeling judgment," Page says.
The actress acknowledges that she is in a rare position to be able to travel around the world and explore LGBT life on a global scale. “We’re conscious of it in regards to our own experience and obviously being mindful of that when we’re going around the world, because it’s a privilege alone to be able to travel, let alone to even get to have the opportunity to make a show like this,” she says.
The issues that affect LGBT people in each of the countries they visit vary, but both hosts agree that the "focus is ... [giving] the platform for these stories that you don't really see represented in mainstream media," Daniel says, though he's hesitant to call Gaycation "journalism."
"It has our personality in it," which to him signifies a bias in perspective. "We try to go in as objective as possible, and yes, sometimes [that gets] challenging. I think that might result because we can’t be fully objective because we are two gay individuals entering a space."
Page is able to see some parallels between the countries she visited and the U.S., describing an encounter with an antigay Brazilian politician who reminded her of Cruz, in that they both wanted to roll back rights recently granted to LGBT people.
"We’re having these antigay, anti-trans bills introduced that will so directly affect people’s lives in a really, really negative way," Page says. "The reality for so many people is that we still have a long way to go to true equality."
Despite the dark topics the show covers, Daniels says he's optimistic that life for LGBT people internationally is slowly improving. "Not to downplay any of the harsh realities, but we definitely leave these countries feeling hopeful, only because we meet so many people that are persevering in the face of violence and discrimination and you can see so many activists making real change," he says.
It seems odd to think of a time when Page was in the closet, and not the fierce equality advocate she is now. She says that if she saw Gaycation before she came out, it would have influenced her to embrace her truth earlier. Regardless, she's infinitely grateful to now be in a position to meet people less fortunate than she is, share their story, and possibly, help change their lives.
"We've had the honor of meeting a lot of those people, whether it's Angeline Jackson in Jamaica, Miss Major in the U.S., or Jean Wylls in Brazil," she says. "It's an extraordinary and humbling thing."
Watch a clip of Wednesday's Gaycation below. The full episode and others from the show are available at Viceland's website; a log-in from your cable provider is required.