On Thursday, my friends and I sat around the TV in our residence’s second floor common room and watched Gaycation, the new much-anticipated documentary series from Viceland.

The series follows Juno actress Ellen Page and her best friend Ian Daniel on their travels around the globe, exploring what it means to be gay in four countries: Japan, Brazil, Jamaica and America.

The first episode is shot in Japan. Ellen and Ian decide to explore Tokyo’s gaybourhood, where there are more than 300 gay and lesbian bars within a few blocks. They stop in at one of the oldest gay bars in this area. The owner confides in Ellen and Ian (and the rest of the world) that Japan has a secret talent for “blowjobs”. This man had actually had gotten a mold done of his throat and was now selling his throat replicas as sex toys and making a fair profit.


While Ian enjoys his time at the gay bar, Ellen goes off to explore a lesbian one. Ian isn’t even allowed into the lesbian bar due to the “no men” policy, so it is just ladies. As many lesbian bars in North America often turn into gay bars over the years because so many gay men attend them, this got me wondering whether the Japanese are on to something… would it be a good idea to implement this policy in lesbian bars here, and vice versa for gay bars?


The next stop is a special kind of bar.


A popular trend that has been growing over the last few years in Japan is for men to cross-dress.



There are bars, like the one featured on Gaycation, that are specifically set up to offer men a place to dress up, apply makeup, and celebrate with a photo shoot. Ian tries it out, choosing a fluffy white nightgown and long brunette wig. A transgender woman helps him with his selections, and to finish the evening they take some memorable photos in the booth. From this woman’s perspective, although most men do it as a fashion statement, she appreciates that these bars are contributing to the normalcy of cross-dressing and helping make transgender people like herself feel more accepted and safe.



While there are a lot of light-hearted moments in this episode, things do take a serious turn. Ellen and Ian meet with a man running a friend business. Essentially, he rents people out to be his customers’ dates or friends for the day – nothing sexual, just someone to accompany them to an event or family gathering. Lately, the owner has received a lot of gay and lesbian clients who are trying to hide their sexuality from their families.


Ellen and Ian, as well as the film crew, are invited to join one client who had requested a friend to be with him while he came out to his mother. It is a heart-stopping, anxiety-ridden moment as this young Japanese man tells his mother, “I find myself attracted to men.”


At first he is not well received, but after a brief exit from the room, his mom accepts his confession and tells him that he is her only son and that it’ll be okay.



Although there are many new things to which this episode exposes us Canadians, like throat molds, cross-dressing bars, and ladies-only hot spots, the coming out process seems to be a universally difficult moment. It got me wondering when, if anytime soon, we will get to the point where LGBT people no longer have to come out – when they can just be.



What are your thoughts on the first episode? Leave your comments below.