New web series focuses on LGBT suicide
According to the organization SPEAK, “Suicide is the leading cause of death among gay and lesbian youth, nationally.” Around 30% of LGBT youth attempt suicide by age 15, and as many as 1,500 die each year.
Zechariah McBryde—a 37-year-old, self-taught filmmaker living in Nashville—has chosen to take action, combating the phenomenon of suicide in the LGBT community by creating a new web series called The Slums of Paradise. He was inspired to do so after learning the sobering statistics in the media. When cases of LGBT suicide came to light, “There were just a lot of horrible reactions from adults, such as school administrators, that I felt were very inappropriate. And the way that the news handled the situation was kind of horrible, so I wanted to create something that sort of let [LGBT youth] know that they can get better now and they really do have a purpose. I wanted to play my part to help them realize that,” McBryde explained when asked about his motivation for this series.
The Slums of Paradise is set in Paradigm, a futuristic, religious dystopia experiencing an increasing number of youth suicides. Crooked mayor Giovanni Pius is doing nothing about the situation. Slums revolves around a young transgender girl, Shekinah. Thrown out of her home, she starts looking for a place of acceptance and finds Satellite, a club where the forgotten and cast-off can be themselves without fear. The pilot introduces a number of the series’ central characters, such as Abby Zoe, Giovanni’s spoiled daughter, and Paprika Simone, who rules the underground scene in the city.
The series is highly inspired by the well-known documentary Paris Is Burning, which focuses on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities in New York City in the mid-to-late 1980s. McBryde says that a few of the characters are based on—and pay homage to—people we meet in Paris. For instance, McBryde’s Paprika Simone is based on one of the film’s many personalities, Pepper Labeija.
McBryde is currently working on the second episode, while promoting the series and raising funds to keep it going. “I have a lot of ideas that I wanna go really far with and have this be more than just a web series,” he said. “I really want to do something that’s different, that no one’s ever done before and have a positive impact on people.” McBryde hopes his series brings more attention the LGBT youth suicide and emboldens viewers to act. Slums also highlights the inadequate response of the media and public officials to this alarming trend and its underlying causes among LGBT youth.
For McBryde, the series is also a way to show that those experiencing hardship because of their sexual orientation are not alone and there are people who are rooting for them. In his description of the video, he explains, “My wish is to inspire, enlighten, and encourage all those who have felt ostracized by ignorance and hate; especially towards LGBT youth. You are not alone. You are loved. You are important. When someone tells you that you have no purpose in life; their purpose in life becomes motivation for you to prove them wrong.”
To view the pilot episode, visit McBryde’s YouTube channel at http://tinyurl.com/lfcg9yg. More information about the series is available at http://www.theslumsofparadise.tumblr.com/.