Stories of Struggle and Survival from ‘GAYCATION’ Viewers

Read powerful personal stories shared with 'GAYCATION' co-host Ian Daniel.

by VICE Staff
Sep 30 2016, 7:54pm

This week, the finale of GAYCATION's second season, "Deep South," aired on VICELAND. Throughout the season, viewers have reached out to co-host Ian Daniel to share their own stories of the struggles and personal triumphs. We've collected some of those powerful stories so highlight the variety of experience in the LGBTQ community worldwide.

Hello Ian, I'm Angel Santiago's mother. You and Ellen interviewed him for your special program about the Orlando shooting, and I was moved to tears as I watched. Listening to my son tell his story was so hard, because I didn't understand him when he was growing up. I guess I felt so much guilt for causing him emotional pain while he was dealing with his identity when he was younger. I'm grateful he's alive, to be with him, and to give him my love and support. I love my son so much. I want him to be happy. God bless. — Gloria Santiago

I know the chances of you seeing this are slim, but I felt an overwhelming need to send you a message to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. The fact that you and Ms. Page are bringing to light how hard it is for anyone who is gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. is amazing. I'm the mom to an amazing, beautiful, talented, giving, generous and kind transgender son. He came out to my husband and I a year ago as initially being a lesbian. I grew up with a gay uncle, so was fine with that—but my husband grew up in a Christian household in St. Thomas, USVI, and didn't understand. When our son told us about being transgender, again it didn't bother me—but my husband still has difficulty understanding his choice.

Our son changed his name to Xavier and started living as a male; I can say I honestly knew when he was in 7th or 8th grade that he was transgender. He struggles daily with body dysphoria, body dysmorphia, severe depression, and bipolar disorder, and he struggles everyday with people misgendering him. When making doctor's appointments we have to use his legal name, and even when I ask doctor's offices to refer to him as Xavier, the majority of them don't. We live in Alaska, and while there is a large LGBTQ community, no one really "sees" what all this does to him. I hurt for him, and I worry for his future and the way people will treat him. We're trying to build him [up] and make him stronger, but I just wanted to thank you for bringing to light the lives of the LGBTQ community and the struggles they face daily. — Kelly

I just wanted to thank you so much for the amazing work you've done with GAYCATION. I'm a 27-year-old woman who's finally accepted myself as gay after 8 years of identifying as bisexual. Dating men was admittedly "easier," but what I never admitted to myself was that it was neither fulfilling nor truly made me happy. I'm currently married to a man, had a stint in the public eye from being on reality TV (which leaves me feeling terrified and overwhelmed about coming out), and have had some of those I've trusted most reply, "Maybe it's just a phase."

When I'm awake late at night like I am right now—sitting alone in my living room with only the company of my own thoughts, trying to figure out how to escape the eye of this storm—it's moments like these, sitting and watching your show, that help me know that's it's going to be ok. They allow me to smile, cry, and keep having the strength to follow my heart, be true to myself, and to fathom the idea that I, too, can find that happiness. I thank you for this, truly from the bottom of my heart. — "Arielle" (name has been changed to protect identity)

I am so touched by your kindness and your great professionalism. I came out when I was 50 after being married for many years; I'm now almost 58 and married to the real love of my life, a man, and your stories resonated very strongly. When the Supreme Court finally gave us the right to marry, I cried all day—like a child who could not believe that we were experiencing the beginning of our freedom to be. There's a lot of progress yet to be made, but people like you and Ellen are making a huge difference. Thank you. — Jean-Pierre Delabre

Ian, I truly appreciate the work you and Ellen are doing to bring light to LGBT issues. I am 67, retired, and pretty much still in the closet. I live in a intolerant suburb of Little Rock, AR and think often about what I could do the help my identity, but run into the reality of feeling too insecure and insignificant to step up. Keep up the good work. — Richard Tankersley

I just wanted to say thank you for being a part of GAYCATION. I'm a 20-year-old queer girl living in Southern Illinois—my dad is a pastor of a southern baptist church here and I am not out. It's painful each day to wake up and be so alone. We moved here when I was 12, and I have only since then come out to my younger sister who has been supportive but can't really talk to me about things. I stopped going to church months ago because I was getting panic attacks and hiding in the bathroom till the service was over. My "friends" stopped talking to me because I quit coming to church, but I can't sit through my dad preaching on the damnation of queers. I feel like he is speaking to me when he preaches and I feel shame and hurt.

After the first episode of GAYCATION, I Googled you and read that you grew up in Indiana—it comforted me to know someone from a smaller area has grown to be a light in the LGBTQ community, as well as a successful writer/artist. I just want to say thank you for giving me hope through this show. I I hope to date a girl one day and to be proud and not ashamed. Sending love to you both, a tiny queer girl in southern Illinois. — Scout

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