Ellen Page and Ian Daniel on the Future of 'Gaycation'
"People who are already so marginalized and so vulnerable are even more vulnerable now."
With support from the Ariadne Getty Foundation, Gaycation premiered a special entitled United We Stand, about the status of America's intersecting minority communities in the wake of the election. Gaycation and Impact are partnering to raise funds for Casa Ruby, a non-profit featured in the episode.
The following is Part Two of a conversation between Gaycation's Ellen Page and Ian Daniel about their experiences shooting the special episode (which you can watch above) and what the show means to them.
Ian: Can you talk more about why you really felt that this kind of show or this kind of dialogue or conversation was missing in the media? Did you feel that viscerally?
Ellen: Well yes, even as a kid I felt it — the lack of queer content or lack of characters that I felt I could identify with in terms of understanding my gender and sexuality. And then I think about particular members of the community who are far more marginalized than me in terms of their experience. I mean there's just complete, blatant erasure. You think of all of these important issues, and the lack of visibility doesn't even allow the insight into these things.
For me, it was about making a show where you really figure out how to connect the dots. You could really find a way to take a lot of the queer experience, which is isolated, lonely, and not visible to people, and really figure out how to connect the issues. Where is the discrimination coming from? How does it directly affect individuals in the community?
Ian: For me too, the show becomes more and more about shifting human consciousness into being more understanding, compassionate and about the power of community. The focus for me has been to really deeply and intimately understand why people face discrimination. Where does that seed of — I guess the word is — hate, but also a sort of discomfort or dislike come from, and how does that impact people's daily lives? I think that the show is obviously about queer and LGBT issues, but it's become really universal for how we all treat each other.
Ellen: It's told through the lens of travel, so it's cultural. It's as if the queerness is almost the key, and it's highlighting the history of oppression. It's like, when did that start happening? Why does that start happening? And how do we explore all those aspects? I'd say you and I have noticed everywhere we've gone that you can typically always lead it back to something. I think the travel show allows for connecting in a way that is deeper and helps us explore the similarities and differences of individuals' experiences.
Ian: I think it did start kind of simply, with just your overall interest in travel shows and wanting to learn more about the LGBTQ experience around the world. And then I came on equally as interested in that, but also curious to explore the world and the human condition on a deeper level.
Ellen: How did you feel when I first brought it up?
Ian: To be honest, I really thought it was a great idea. I thought that these conversations were missing, and did feel this gap in my own brain regarding deeper knowledge about other cultures, politics, and what other people go through internationally. I had not expanded my mind far enough in that way I felt. I knew the importance of creating a platform for that visibility in terms of really seeing people and sharing images that potentially don't exist or are not shared from these people and places.
I was so happy for you at the time too because you had come out and you were really embracing the queer part of yourself, and it's amazing that you were going to make a show relating to that. If I were to compare my experience, I don't know if I was ready for that, so it kind of felt distant. But then when you presented it to me, I just knew I had to do it.
Ellen: Well, you've also never been in front of the camera before. I know that's more of a technical conversation we had.
Ian: Yeah, that did come into play. I think with that, I had to think harder on how I felt about my sexuality. What do I want to share with the world? Where do I stand within the community? We had conversations about what it might mean to be a more public figure. That will change part of your life, and you walked me through that in a really wonderful, supportive way.
The other thing was, what does it mean to tell the world that you're gay, queer, and to start labeling yourself in that way publicly? You start thinking about your responsibility to the community. Am I ready? Am I educated enough? Aware enough? I entered it with the idea that I was going to have to learn a lot and learn publicly. But I also did feel equipped, that I could trust myself with other people's' energies and stories. I was confident I could be present, open and giving. I just feel like I constantly need to be learning about what other people go through in the LGBTQ community — all communities really — and just make sure that I am aware of how it can all be more inclusive and how more and more voices can and need to be shared.
When you have this platform, people are relying on you to speak up and to not only share your own personal story but be aware of their story and to tell it as truthfully as possible.
How have you evolved in terms of how you feel about your responsibility?
Ellen: It's a new kind of responsibility because I felt the responsibility to come out, quite frankly. Selfishly, I wanted to for a long list of reasons. But I also felt guilty because I was reflecting on those in the community that don't have the privileges that I have and I was investing more and learning about the community. I've gotten to witness and have conversations with unbelievable people that I'm so honored to be in the presence of.
I guess now it's just about always making sure one educates one's self, and really being mindful of staying open and to learn more and more and then channel that into the show.
Ian: I think now, also with what's going on politically, every day there is something sort of tragic, dramatic, or damaging happening to all communities, marginalized communities especially, around the world so I'm always reflecting how to remain open, to listen, to share.
Ellen: You and I spent two years seeing these decisions, these politicians, these atmospheres, this lack of visibility, this queer-erasure, trans-erasure, murder, etc. We see how it's life or death for people. Every day is a struggle for survival. And then someone like Trump gets elected. People who are already so marginalized and so vulnerable are even more vulnerable now. So I feel a responsibility and a sense of urgency because we have this platform. So there's a responsibility in there for us to keep expanding the show and to be more inclusive, needless to say, because it's the most marginalized who are most brutally affected right now with this administration.
Ian: If the show carries on I think we'd want this to keep growing outside of us even, outside of our own limitations. It has room to do a lot and include so many other voices and so many other people in the margins.
Ellen: The simple reality is that most people don't know about what others face sometimes because there is no exposure. I feel like I have much more people coming up to me about how Gaycation has impacted them than I have about significant movies I've been in. It feels so special and it's everywhere with different ages. That makes me feel inspired that something is really being shared and cared about. I constantly have to remind myself to keep on it, keep learning and being open. We actually have the time to do it and the resources in which to do it and the resources to see a therapist if we need to. We do have the time to educate ourselves. I can never be comfortable, there's so much going on.
Ian: I think that comes with the responsibility of the show. It's organic. Once the seed is planted and you've opened a little door in your head to learn about this experience in this other country, or your own country, you can empathize, you feel enlightened, you feel connected, you shift. We hope the people watching do on some level as well.
Ellen: I think it has a lot do with creating new realities and new stories because these other ones are old and destructive, and all from this white, heterosexual, patriarchal, racist, repressed perspective. I would imagine that there are people who are pretty scared to see how much people are coming together right now.
Ian: Yeah. And we've been reflecting on the importance of storytelling now, in times of political turmoil, or when hate crimes are on the rise or suicide rates are on the rise, so many trans women of color are being murdered. How is storytelling most effective? So many people need to and want to tell their stories and in so many different countries can't. I think it's important to be able to dream and imagine new futures, collectively.