On next week's season finale of VICELAND's GAYCATION, host Ian Daniel heads to the deep southern regions of the US to engage with LGBTQ communities in the region and learn about the struggles they face and fight against in their daily life. Daniel spoke with VICE about last night's episode set in France, next week's finale, and what he took away from filming this season; an edited and condensed version of his thoughts are below.
In GAYCATION: France, I reflected on my experience studying abroad when I was 20. I lived in France for about 5 months, and at that time, I wasn't open about my sexuality—I was in an exploratory phase, and I thought living in a big city would help me learn new things about myself. There were gay areas and gay bars, but I never went into those spaces because I was shy and scared.
There are a lot of young people in the episode who are around the age I was when I studied there. They were inspiring to me because they're so politically active, even though they feel like they don't have a voice in politics—or within their own LGBTQ community. They're asserting themselves politically in a way that I found to be empowering and exciting. People of color, refugees, immigrants, and trans people are focusing on how they don't fit into the mainstream LGBTQ movement, and what they can be do to be heard. At the end of the episode, we go to a different type of pride celebration called Pride de Nuit, where these marginalized communities gets together to make pride political again—more of a radical political statement and less of a party.
We did an episode about the US last season, but we weren't able to focus on the issues in the South, which is a really interesting part of the country. The South has its own unique culture, and it's really politically charged, especially with all of the transgender bathroom and religious liberty bills being proposed and put into place. With the election, the country's ultra-conservative voice is coming out more, and that voice is really loud in the South. How does the LGBTQ experience fit into all of that? Also, when you're in the South, you're thinking about race and the queer experience intersect—so the focus of the finale is on intersectionality and how it comes into play in the South. Everyone we spoke to was so inviting, welcoming, and full of life and vibrancy.
We address the spaces that people create to feel safe—to have a harmonious place to exist with their fellow LGBTQ community members. If you're living in a small town and you're gay, bi, trans, how do you start bridging the gap between you and other members of the community? We also focus on rising HIV rates in the South—which are affecting people of color and those in poor communities—as well as the transgender experience in the prison system. We focus on systemic racism, transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, and the systems in place that prevent people from succeeding in their lives.
We go to a lesbian-only community where women are living in cabins at a hidden, undisclosed location; we explore the sissy bounce scene in New Orleans and how it helps certain members of the community stay away from violence and channel their energy into dance instead. We visit a gay-friendly scene in Natchez, Mississippi—a small town that initially opposed the Confederacy—where a theater director is trying to change the way people see plays. We talk to people who have been victims of hate crimes and violence, which is a real threat. It's difficult for LGBTQ people to exist in these areas—LGBTQ people of color are facing an even more severe degree of hardship. But even in the face of violence, they're able to find positivity and become inspiring voices for change.
The second season wasn't just about what countries we went to—it was about what was movement was happening specifically in those places, and there was such a diversity of experiences. I'm open to hearing more stories from politically active people, and I'm really listening to progressive stories within the LGBTQ community. I'm also trying to understand how the LGBTQ community could be more inclusive—how it could work together more to fight the bigger picture challenges instead of segregating itself through infighting and prejudice. How does that stop? How do we make change together?
When we made the first season, we didn't know what the show was going to be, or how it would unfold, necessarily. We were amazed at the stories that people shared and how much feeling, heart, and honesty people were willing to share with us. Some are risking their lives to share these stories and felt a real need to share them with the world. With each story I hear, I continue to find ways to get to know people better and more deeply. I feel like a more expanded person—more capable of listening, understanding, and sharing that with the world.
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