Sophie Lodge reviews Stephen Fry’s documentary on the status of LGBT+ people around the world, while also reflecting on their lives here in the UK
Stephen Fry has always been a prominent speaker in the LGBT+ community; but this year, he explored more than just British homosexuality by creating a two part documentary on the persecution of the gay community around the world, speaking to both the victims of homophobic crimes and the politicians seeking to enforce homophobic laws again them.
The overarching theme within the series is the ridiculousness of homophobia. From a grandmother in India who didn’t care if her grandson had a relationship with a man or a woman as long as they came from a good background, to the haunting story of a fourteen year old Ugandan girl who was raped to show her “how to be with men” – and consequently became pregnant and contracted HIV. It emphasises the unprovoked and terrifying attacks many members of the gay community have had to suffer, and the ignorance of those in power, who are in some cases helping this persecution. The laws in Russia, for example, which make it impossible for young gay teenagers to seek any help or guidance in regards to their sexuality.
What resonated with me was Fry’s comment that many nations present the gay community as “sub-human”; I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between this and the persecution of the Jews in the 1930s and 40s. Many homophobes that Fry interviews (most of whom are in powerful positions within their community) see the gay community as a threat that will take over society; that the gay community are trying to “recruit”, but Out There demonstrates how harmless and human these communities are. They have families, children, and lives that have been destroyed by homophobic crimes. This is important not only for those watching overseas who may ignore their own country’s homophobia, but also for us in the UK to see that victims of homophobic crimes are not faceless anomalies. As Fry states, here in the UK we may have accepted the LGBT+ community in terms of legal rights, but it is society’s opinion that now needs to change. Research by Galop in August 2013 found that 98 homophobic and transphobic crimes are reported each week in the UK, and this figure is doubled if you count crimes that haven’t been reported. If this is the case in a developed, liberal, modern society like ours where homosexuality is legal, it is terrifying to think of the conditions LGBT+ members across the world have to live in. There were even countries the BBC were advised against filming in. It is shocking to think that the cases Fry examines are not the most extreme examples.
In an interview with the BBC after filming Out There, Fry asks, “Why do we take time off from what is already a difficult business, that of survival, to group together to pick on, bully and marginalise people who can do us no harm?” This is in essence how many people feel about homophobia, and hopefully Out There may encourage people to support gay rights more openly.