We speak to the LGBTQ ac­tivist about Trump’s Amer­ica, trans rights, and his Emmy-nom­i­nated do­cuseries Gay­ca­tion.

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy Char­lie Hawks Fash­ion Leon Her­nan­dez Words Daniel Me­garry

We sit down with LGBTQ ac­tivist and film­maker Ian Daniel to dis­cuss life in Trump’s Amer­ica and the eye-open­ing do­cuseries Gay­ca­tion, which he co­hosts with best friend and ac­tress Ellen Page.

“We are liv­ing in a cul­ture of fear right now, and that’s no dif­fer­ent for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity,” says Ian Daniel when asked about re­cent chal­lenges to equal­ity in Amer­ica. With a pres­i­dent at­tempt­ing to ban trans in­di­vid­u­als from the mil­i­tary, and a vice pres­i­dent who’s ex­pressed sup­port for bar­baric gay con­ver­sion ‘ther­apy’, it’s no sur­prise that mi­nori­ties are in­creas­ingly con­cerned for their rights.

But there’s a whole world of in­equal­ity out there that needs to be high­lighted too, as Ian dis­cov­ered dur­ing his time on Vice­land do­cuseries Gay­ca­tion with co-host and best friend Ellen Page. The show took the pair to some of the most dan­ger­ous places to be gay, an ex­pe­ri­ence that had a pro­found im­pact on Ian’s view of him­self and the world around him.

Here, we sit down with the LGBTQ ac­tivist and film­maker about grow­ing up gay in Amer­ica, the need for mi­nor­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the me­dia, and our re­spon­si­bil­ity to help those less priv­i­leged than us… DM: How im­por­tant is it for a per­son like your­self to be openly gay in front of the whole world? ID: That is a whop­per of a first ques­tion! I think all pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tions are very im­por­tant be­cause with rep­re­sen­ta­tion comes aware­ness, comes ac­cep­tance, comes more free­dom of ex­pres­sion. I think of the young peo­ple all around the world who watch my show, or who reach out to me, and I think about the fact that I’m on a show called Gay­ca­tion, and I’m a dude who says ‘I’m gay’, and I be­lieve those things have an im­pact. Ob­vi­ously it can be very dan­ger­ous for LGBTQ peo­ple in cer­tain coun­tries, and they risk their lives by com­ing out - it’s not even an op­tion for those peo­ple, right? I also think about kids in In­di­ana, where I’m from, who watch my show or fol­low my so­cial me­dia, and I’m aware that this might give them some sense of hope for the fu­ture.

DM: What’s the cli­mate like for LGBTQ peo­ple back home in In­di­ana?

ID: Well, it’s not great. In­di­ana is a Repub­li­can, con­ser­va­tive state that’s heav­ily in­flu­enced by ‘re­li­gious lib­erty’ val­ues, which makes it dif­fi­cult to be LGBTQ there and easy to dis­crim­i­nate against us. Ac­cep­tance has changed of course since I grew up there, where I was shamed into si­lence, but that sham­ing still ex­ists. From kids I speak with there, I un­der­stand it’s still a real stru“le to be out and open in small-town Amer­ica, but that is chang­ing as young peo­ple open up, speak out, ed­u­cate oth­ers in their fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and schools. Young peo­ple want a more open-minded, in­clu­sive, lov­ing so­ci­ety, I be­lieve. They truly want to be healthy and happy, not de­pressed and hid­den.

DM: LGBTQ peo­ple have most of their le­gal rights in Amer­ica now, but do you ever worry that this will re­verse?

ID: I’m not go­ing to live in a state of worry, but I do think you al­ways have to be aware and awake to the idea that things can shift re­ally rapidly. We are liv­ing in a cul­ture of fear right now, and that’s no dif­fer­ent for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. If you look at other coun­tries, like In­dia for ex­am­ple, when new gov­ern­ments come into place and the con­ser­va­tive move­ment gets more pow­er­ful,

laws can change very quickly. It’s great that we have same-sex mar­riage in Amer­ica, but that kind of thing can be snatched away at any minute. So it’s about not tak­ing things for granted, and it’s about look­ing at the bi“er pic­ture around the world, and re­mem­ber­ing that any­thing is pos­si­ble.

DM: It does feel that there’s been a rise in this hate­ful rhetoric, do you think this is a di­rect re­sult of Trump? ID: Any time in the pub­lic sphere you have lan­guage that is deroga­tory or de­hu­man­is­ing or de­mon­is­ing, it’s go­ing to af­fect the way you think about those peo­ple. I think young peo­ple in gen­eral are very ac­cept­ing, and want to live in a world that is free-flow­ing and fluid and open-minded and car­ing. I be­lieve that at my core, and that’s where things are shift­ing. But when you see these out­dated ide­olo­gies, out­dated con­cepts, and out­dated lan­guage, it pen­e­trates our so­ci­ety. It gives peo­ple a li­cense to dis­crim­i­nate. So if you’re not quite sure about LGBTQ peo­ple, and then you see neg­a­tive things on tele­vi­sion, you think, ‘Oh, well our pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent be­lieve this, so I’m kind of go­ing back in that di­rec­tion’. It does shift things.

DM: Look­ing back on Gay­ca­tion, do you be­lieve that ex­pe­ri­ence changed you as a gay man?

ID: Oh, yeah! When Ellen [Page] asked me if I wanted to do the show, I was out within my group of friends, but my dis­tant fam­ily and peo­ple I went to high school or col­lege with didn’t nec­es­sar­ily know about my sex­u­al­ity. I’m sure they were won­der­ing, but it wasn’t part of my pub­lic iden­tity. But the show sounded so pow­er­ful that it didn’t re­ally con­cern me. I just thought, ‘What an amaz­ing way to lib­er­ate that part of my­self while learn­ing from so many peo­ple around the world’. That whole ex­pe­ri­ence made me re­flect on all the things I’m grate­ful for, and the way I can walk down the street with a cer­tain free­dom in this body that I have, which isn’t avail­able to peo­ple in many coun­tries. I’m also awak­en­ing to the ways in which we as LGBTQ peo­ple have been shamed and shunned and how that af­fects us all.

DM: The sit­u­a­tion has been dire for LGBTQ peo­ple in Chech­nya, where gay men have been kid­napped, tor­tured and even mur­dered for their sex­u­al­ity. How much of a re­spon­si­bil­ity do gov­ern­ments in more pro­gres­sive coun­tries like Amer­ica have to in­ter­vene with these abuses?

ID: Our gov­ern­ment has the power to shape cul­ture glob­ally by ex­press­ing zero tol­er­ance for LGBTQ op­pres­sion and by pro­vid­ing sup­port and more op­por­tu­ni­ties for achiev­ing asy­lum here. Sadly, it seems the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion isn’t show­ing real sup­port for LGBTQ peo­ple in our own coun­try. The rise of this per­se­cu­tion in many coun­tries abroad and the fact that there are few places to turn for refuge in the world makes for a harsh sit­u­a­tion for many. Cou­ple that with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s travel ban and im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, and it would seem like an in­creas­ingly hope­less mes­sage for refugees, im­mi­grants and asy­lum seek­ers. Even when asy­lum is achieved, it’s still dif­fi­cult to sur­vive. But of course there’s hope. We have to create it. It’s our duty to do what we can to thrive our­selves, open our arms, speak up, push back, and give back.

DM: You’ve said your­self that you speak from a place of priv­i­lege in cer­tain ways, but how can we help peo­ple who don’t have this priv­i­lege? ID: Well you help them first by lis­ten­ing to them. I think if you talk to cis gay white men, a lot of them don’t ac­tu­ally know many trans peo­ple on a per­sonal level. Part of the gift of Gay­ca­tion was that I got to meet so many trans peo­ple and gen­der non-con­form­ing peo­ple and they were able to tell me what they were go­ing through, and what they needed. So I think on some level we need to wake up to each other’s ex­pe­ri­ences. I re­ally think it’s about lis­ten­ing and al­low­ing them to tell you how to best sup­port them - and if you have the re­sources to sup­port them, then find ways to give their ex­pe­ri­ence pri­or­ity.

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