Ahead of tonight's GAYCATION season finale, we talked to host Ian Daniel about the global movement, setbacks and rise of inclusion in a time of fear and uncertainty for the LGBTQ community. Daniel shared with VICE his thoughts on the challenges facing the community right now, and the importance being motivated for change.
VICE: Hi Ian. We recently threw a VICELAND NZ screening party for GAYCATION, and watched the episode tracing the impact of Orlando's night-club massacre. How was it being on the ground there during the aftermath?
Ian Daniel: Well, it's been a while now, but you don't forget about it, that stays with you forever. The energy, what we're feeling in the episode, is the despair, heartache and anger, over the atrocity that happened to mainly LGBTQ people, gender non-conforming people, and many many people from the Latinx community.
Those were the stories we're hearing—what it means to lose your family, your friend, your mum. It's so devastating and heartbreaking for both the people you're talking to and for the community from Orlando in general. It's a lot of mixed feelings like, why is this happening? But then there's also this energy shift of people coming together, the power of community and the power of healing in a group environment. The Orlando community really came together to strengthen each other, support one another and help heal one another. So we were feeling both of those things.
How would you describe the current climate regarding LGBTQI issues in the US?
I think people are really scared, and all minorities are preparing for the worst. The climate is major uncertainty, there's fear happening and sadness. I'm talking about a lot of young, gender nonconforming, gender-questioning and trans-kids in rural America, they are scared. Because they made the bold move, which was to come out and be their real selves, and now they are feeling like it's a lot scarier with all the rhetoric and language being put in play.
We're seeing major setbacks, especially for trans and gender nonconforming people. With trans youth in schools you're seeing those rights stripped away really fast. I think a lot of people predicted that would be the case, I knew from talking to people it was going to have devastating effects on certain members of the LGBTQ community.
With gay, white men like myself, to be frank, I don't think there's as much fear and uncertainty as others have in the community. But it's more a fear, sadness and a fight for my brothers, sisters and all people in the community.
But of course you have the community coming together to form some sort of resistance to create attitudinal change and optimism. There's an optimism that's happening, you feel it like, how do I prepare for the worst here and how do we protect each other?
Personally, I'm watching the conservative movement's impact on the presidency. I'm from Indiana, we'd been looking at what Pence did to Indiana with his conservative influence. I think you can imagine that's what might happen on some level, and is happening, to the rest of the country. It doesn't feel very positive.
Your visit to Paris saw you run in with the right-wing populist National Front, who say they want to "protect France's interests" including through opposition to multi-culturalism and same-sex marriage. Despite this, 33 percent of same-sex couples voted for them. How is that possible?
I feel like it's a global movement, a battle between the conservative movement and the progressive movement. I think in France you're seeing the same conversation, although there it's about purity—what it means to be pure and traditional French people with little conversation around the minority experience.
I think it's a shame.
In France, I think some of what you are seeing is certain people being scapegoated, and that's what they're using to get LGBTQ people to vote for them. If you're a French, white, gay man and you're scared of terrorism, and you're fairly protected, and on some level that's the easy way for the conservative movement to get that vote. You put the fear on to Muslim people, get people scared and then they think you're going to protect them and they vote for you.
I think that's frightening, we're seeing that in our country. To compare the two, the conservative movement is building in our country, in Brazil and in lots of other countries where things were getting progressive.
In France, the liberals I spoke with were worried that Le Pen is going to come into control, it's very Donald Trump-esque. The conservatives would say they are including LGBTQ people, but you'll see in the episodes they are really not including all of them or people of colour or most of from a minority experience. For me it's super scary to see as a global shift, I don't know what that means in terms of our full consciousness, but something is going on right now where the conservative movement is getting a lot of traction.
We are on the brink of an election here, why do you think it is important for young New Zealanders to vote?
I don't know much about attitudes in New Zealand, in terms of the youth attitude towards LGBTQ people, the minorities experience or just equality. But I'm imagining that most young people globally, because of the internet and the global shift of consciousness, want diverse stories, they want differences and they want to celebrate that. From what I see here, young people are really in a fascinating way exploring gender and gender expression. I think that's the future, open mindedness and exploratory thinking.
But the attitude is not reflected in politics unless you get out and vote. We saw it here and with Brexit, if you don't go out and vote, especially here with middle America, the vote really matters. I don't think politics are actually reflecting the attitudes of young people, so it's up to young people to get moving.
That's what we saw here in America, young people didn't vote, there wasn't much motivation to do that—they weren't motivated by Hillary's campaign to get off their couch. So now we have this, and the politics are devastating for a lot of young people and it's going to take a lot of work to undo the damage.
This GAYCATION season sees you and Ellen travel to India, Ukraine, Paris. Was there a particular country that shocked you?
They all shock you in their own way, cause you think you know about them but then the stories and the struggles knock you down. Take India, for example, you know that women are pushed aside and oppressed, which is in the conversation more and more in the media. But to really witness the lack of women on the street, their absence in certain roles and then hear about what it is to be a woman and a queer woman at that in India, it can be quite difficult and painful.
But I'm also surprised about how people persevere. That's shocking because you're seeing people getting violated, but then getting back up and figuring out how to survive, how to come up with new ways of existing in a positive way and that's surprising.
The people you meet and the stories you tell in the show are so varied, after two seasons do you think there are still more stories to be told?
I think there are. There's so much room to really dig into the stories, in a sad way, there's always going to be people that have a story to tell, who need their suffering and pain to be alleviated especially in the LGBTQ community. I don't want to focus on the negative, but that is the crux of why we make the show. To understand what these people are going through and how to help, the person next to us, in the same town, in another country. I think the show can go much deeper into people's stories, it's important for us to keep acknowledging what people are going through, not just politically but culturally with friendship family and community. That kind of concept will always be relevant.
Recent legislation in NZ has seen the legalisation of same-sex marriage, abolishment of historical convictions for gay men—but there's still a way to go. What do you see as the biggest challenge in the near future for LGBTQI?
I think it's really people learning to accept that we don't live in a binary world. That its not black and white but rather there is a spectrum of experiences. It creates so much violence and hate when we try control everything, confine it in a box and make it look and behave a certain way.
I can't speak for everyone, but I think it's really the battle with gender nonconforming and that kind of identity, that is the hot issue right now as they are being stripped of their rights and dehumanised completely. We've made a lot of what some people call gains re the gay rights movement, like same-sex marriage, but I think a shift in language and rhetoric is the major issue. You'll see politics changing, but if the language in politics is really negative about a certain group of people, probably trans and gender-nonconforming, you'll see higher suicide rates, higher hate crime rates—and you're seeing them on the rise in America right now. One of the biggest challenges is inclusion, if we want change we can't be one-upping and excluding certain people, it's about coming together to support. So yes we are going through a transitional time but there's still a lot to be discovered and a lot to be changed in the ways people are still discriminated against.
Watch the finale of Gaycation on VICELAND Sky Channel 13, tonight, 8:30 PM.