How Culture Crosses Over in International LGBT+ Films

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I facilitate a LGBT+ Support Group for teens, parents, & teachers integrating the use of film & media to focus on current & relevant topics that youth are facing in today’s society. Society variables change across cultures in how they affect LGBT people, but there are a few major things that don’t get lost in translation. So when the teen group asked that we watch & discuss these international shows, I agreed.

In the United States, the suicide rate for boys & girls remains the same until 10 years old, but after that, the suicide rate doubled for 10–14 year old boys. At 15–19, they’re 4 times more likely to die by suicide & 5 times more likely by age 20–25. (Although, the highest rate for men is middle-age.) Also in the United States, at least 1 in 6 boys under 18 years old are victims of sexual assault or rape.

I don’t know Thailand’s stats, & I’m not going to attempt to speak on behalf of their culture when it comes to such sensitive subjects, but this is a prime example of when LGBT films around the world, & across many different cultures, provides accurate & relatable representation for a large variety of different audiences. With stats like these, if you haven’t experienced something like this yourself, chances are you know someone that has.

These are the significantly complex, yet very necessary conversations we need to be having. Especially on behalf of those who are unable to have them because they’re too afraid or ashamed to. From what I know, the themes of these shows are unlike a lot of other plots that these drama series normally have- which is why so many people (that haven’t read the novels) have been surprised by them. There are, however, many people & reviews showing support for highlighting such issues. The thing is, people know all too well that these issues exist. That’s why some people watch shows like this to begin with, because it provides an escape from the everyday world. But, no matter how true that may be, it’s also important to make room for the other side of LGBT experiences & allow them to be brought to attention as well.

The Effect was a prime example of:

Kind behavior getting misinterpreted as flirting.

“Flirting” getting misinterpreted as consent for sex.

Sex being rejected but still getting disregarded.

Rape, followed by victim-blaming & shaming because “they were the one that started it.”

Followed by fear, shame, guilt, obligation, confusion, regret, a decline in mental health in some cases & at worst, the inability to feel safe within one’s own mind/body, that the only option believed to be available for escape from the inevitable pain, is death.

It’s important to note that we weren’t told the sexual orientation of the main character in The Effect. & I think this highlights the prominent question of, “Does it matter?” Because what we absolutely do know is that he said no.

There is a quote from a scene in CMBYN where Mrs. Pearlman is reading an excerpt from a book with the quote, “Is it better to speak or to die?” & although it sounds fictitious in nature, the truth behind that is people believe some things are best left unsaid when it comes to their own irreconcilable feelings. In some cases, that can be helpful. But, in other cases, it can be harmful. Men are taught to be strong, to not appear weak, to toughen up, to put yourself last, to let bygones be bygones, to not show emotion (aside from anger), & to not talk about uncomfortable things to help prevent others from feeling uncomfortable as well. As a result, what’s also taught is to quickly move past those feelings, but what happens to those that can’t?

How are people supposed to move past pain that they’re not allowed to have, but are forced to keep? That’s not strength, that’s suppression.

Depending on culture & other circumstances, mental health therapy might not even be (considered) an option. Depending on the individual, there might not be any reporting of the crime, as we saw on The Effect. Many cases don’t ever get reported, & some that do, an arrest is never made. This is something every country can relate to, but not everyone country is talking about. & with the stigma attached to it with the way that trauma affects the mind & the body, who could blame anyone for not wanting to draw even more attention to their experience by bringing it in the spotlight?

If you’re also watching the show TharnType, you know that we get direct insight into a person’s trauma response, as well as what can sometimes happen as a result of when it does get reported. Not that anyone’s trying to condone Type’s homophobia & his personal struggle with his own sexuality, but if we are to condemn it, at least we understand it. We know a few things: Type being attracted to Tharn is not a result of the childhood assault that occurred. Just because Type is attracted to Tharn doesn’t have to necessarily mean he’s exclusively gay (although he very well could be). & if he were gay, it doesn’t make him an offender. (Even though a lot of society tends to think this way.) There is a common misconception that all gay/bi men are pedophiles & rapists, often stemming from men who have been the victims of abuse/rape as children, to older predatory men. Sex offenders exist within all categories of: age, race, class, nationality, religion, sexuality, profession, income, political party etc.. nothing is exempt.

We need to be able to communicate clearly that sexual abuse/rape is not a sexual orientation. & that suicide does not only affect people with mental illness.

These are both emotionally involved/intense shows with such deeper meaning, that are definitely worth the watch. If you are sensitive to these topics than proceed with caution for The Effect because it is very graphic. However, with such prevalent topics, they are necessary conversations to have that we can no longer afford to avoid.

*To watch The Effect with English subs:

*To watch TharnType with English subs:

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Or The Trevor Lifeline at 1–866–488–7386 or via text by texting START to 678678

If you were the victim of sexual abuse/assault & are seeking support:

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