Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World (2003): Gay Under Oppression

Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World (2003)
dir: John Scagliotti

Coming out is a political act.  At least that's been the ongoing story.  The more people who are out, the more people who will come to accept homosexuality.  Coming out, and the acceptance that comes along with it will make things easier for all the gays in your community.

One of the main criticisms of gay politics is that western gays are generally considered to be a bit more concerned with their own rights, but frequently dismiss or ignore the oppression of gays around the world.  Another criticism is that, even when we do recognize the oppression around the world, we seem to rally behind oppressed white gays while we ignore the oppression of gays of color.  People frequently point to the oppression that is ignored in the Muslim and Black countries, while we rampantly go up against White Christian countries like Russia.

In Dangerous Living, Scagliotti starts with the Cairo 52, a group of 52 Egyptian gay men who were partying on a boat on its then-usual gay night, and were arrested and sentenced to jail for 2-5 years.  He uses this trial as a starting point because it was a rare lightning rod of controversy that rocketed around the globe for its scale and severity.  Scagliotti then explores the oppression of homosexuality in other countries like Pakistan, Jamaica, Honduras, and The Philippines.  Most of his subjects are political exiles in either the US or Canada after they faced severe intimidation, oppression, and violence in their home countries.  One subject was a lesbian mother whose story included a group of militants who broke into her house while she was at work, tied up her children, beat the babysitter, and wanted to rape and/or kill the mother when she got home.

What Dangerous Living is doing is showing the American audiences just how much oppression occurs around the world, and moreso in 3rd world countries with people of color.  In 2003, American gays were primarily fighting the onslaught of DOMA constitutional amendments and DADT laws.  While these are important (and the film doesn't address these in the timeline), many were ignoring the global rights that also needed (and still need) our attention.

Dangerous Living sets the stage that tomorrow's movie Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride really hammers home.  Dangerous Living is a rote but solid documentary that is necessarily severe in tone, but doesn't achieve a resonance stronger than textbooks or new articles.  The outrage is mainly through the dour tones of Janeane Garafolo as the narrator, who is constantly in a "this is so terrible" tone that is like a flatter version of the narration in the Sally Struthers commercials. This is a problem, and probably a reason that this documentary never became "required viewing."  While the topic is an important that should be addressed, nobody likes being lectured at, as it is a sour pill to take.  However, the information and anecdotes in this film are necessary and should be seen.

However, I'd like to highlight the work that Amnesty International does, and the ILGA.  These are important issues on a global scale, and I don't want to get too lecture-y, but things are still going wrong, and not only in Russia.

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