Part 1 of the documentary may be viewed on BBC
It was with the line that we should “always be on our guard that someone out there hates us” that Stephen Fry sent a stark shiver down my spine in his new documentary, Out There. It was this frank admission, this pressing “fear of someone out there hating us” that reasserted Fry’s place in my mind as a central thinker and trailblazing figure of LGBT visibility in the UK. It is true after all, and it is this fear of the unknown “out there” that often justifies and enforces the LGBT bubble that many metropolitan gays live their lives by. As Stephen Fry launched his new series last night, tackling the subject of homosexuality and its acceptance around the world, he struck a chord with this viewer that the “out there” could just as well be down the road outside Yates’ as on the streets of Kampala. Whilst we should never forget how far we have come, the “out there” cannot be overlooked.
As Fry’s journey began amidst the open excess and unabashed frivolity of World Pride on the streets of London, the true scope of our country’s transformation in terms of LGBT rights, in such a relatively short period of time, struck home. Despite the latent homophobia that could flare up “out there”, outside the bubble, today the UK is a proud beacon of LGBT progress, passing same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption and promoting a continual thirst for equality on all fronts. However, it was within the crowd of liberated thongs at World Pride, beneath the leather daddy on stilts, that the wider picture was unpicked. An LGBT man from Sri Lankan approached Fry and highlighted the disjuncture between the joy of Pride and the harsh reality lived by those abroad, whose sexuality meant they received the scorn of the state. A harrowing coffee break with an asylum-seeker from Iran, forced to prove his sexuality to the UK Border Agency or be deported and face potential execution, resoundingly burst the bubble. Stating that he preferred suicide, death on his own terms, than the authoritarian dictates and execution promised by his home country, the man broke Fry’s heart and provided the arc to explore the wider issue of homosexuality abroad.
First on Fry’s list was Uganda, infamous for its proposed death penalty for homosexuals. As Fry visited this country and debated with various prominent anti-homosexual figures, Out There greatly improved my respect for Fry as a man. In my previous life as an academic, I would often get lost in the theoretical and rhetorical anger of the abuses and excesses carried out by systems of power abroad. My Postcolonial MA course meant that I became an expert in the inner workings of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda in regards to homosexuality, yet I never visited, never put a face to the speculative defiance we had concocted in the seminar room. Out There allowed Fry to take this step and at least lessen the helplessness many of us feel, concerned about foreign policy and actions yet so far removed from the shock headlines and provocative images. As Fry took on the bigotry and fetishism of Pastor Solomon in a radio debate, I was heartened by the visible face of defiance that is so often absent, allowing such hate rhetoric to proliferate.
Written By: Stuart Forward
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