Ellen Page and Ian Daniel Talk About Their 'Gaycation: United We Stand' Special
What shooting their VICELAND special in the wake of the presidential election means to them.
With support from the Ariadne Getty Foundation, Gaycation will premiere 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 One of a conversation between Gaycation's Ellen Page and Ian Daniel about their experiences shooting the special episode.
Ian: I've been thinking a lot about the word "advocacy" and "activism." I've never labeled myself an activist necessarily, and I've been sort of rethinking that word and what it means to me. In our special, I think the thing we're asking people is: how have you been activated? What activates you now? Why? It was an opportunity to talk about community, and the communities that have already come together and built a solid foundation for resistance, real change, and for solidarity. How do we learn from the historic movements of change, the movements already in place and bond those to the movements being created now? What can we learn from the individual as well--the mom in Indiana who is struggling with her daughter's suicide and now she's activated daily to speak up?
Ellen: It comes back to visibility. When your heart is broken, expanded, collapsing, or you're moved by a story or your neighbor's story whose daughter tried to kill herself because she's trans -- you're moved to expand.
The word activist -- I mean, I feel like we are activists. But I think about having the privilege of meeting someone like Miss Major, someone who has worked that hard her entire life to fight for trans rights. That's an activist. We all learn so much from her work. And we should reflect on the activism at Standing Rock and we can learn from that fight. The radical people are indigenous people putting their bodies on the line to fight for our future and fight for their land in a place that is in utter denial about the genocide of indigenous people. I just think that's where the narrative needs to be flipped. The insane thing is setting dogs on people and shooting rubber bullets at them so you can continue to destroy the world -- that absolutely makes no sense. It's wrong. This narrative that we've been endlessly taught is collapsing because it's actually not true, the narrative that enforces oppression, control and injustice.
Ian: On a minor level I hope that some people are finding each other through our show, that some people are seeing themselves or people like them in a new way, or they're empathizing with someone who is different than they are and changing their views. Rethinking the words they might use about other people. You and I are always talking about language and how do we shift harmful language or its potency. Making this show, we see the effects negative language, harsh labels, and closed off wording have on people. Words that put people in containers, rank them, and are harmful, violent, and violating.
I hope they're either feeling some solidarity or shift in themselves, and I think that that sort of seed grows into something. I have hope that our show does build some alliances and maybe create bridges, builds community.
I think you and I are constantly gauging how we feel personally, but clearly we're just thinking about the people on the show and the community, like what's at stake for them in sharing their stories and how important it is for so many people.
Ellen: Well, I can even think of a moment in the special that highlights that. The young boy at the youth center in Indiana, when he was talking about how his dad called him a faggot. It reminded me of that line in Moonlight a scene that made me just weep for "Little" when he's looking up and he says, "What's a faggot?"
I think you hope someone realizes the negative effects of words and labels, especially someone who does feel fine about the mean words that they throw around or feel like it's absolutely fine to mislabel trans people and make jokes about the current situation that trans people are facing. I think about these young individuals who are brave enough to be on our show and not only that, who are also willing to be so vulnerable on our show -- there's no way I could have done that at 14 -- it really is extraordinary. They are really giving a gift to people.
Ian: I think everyone in the episode is just being extremely honest and truthful, and they know what's at stake in their lives in terms of politics and the language coming out of certain people's mouths and what that does to their well-being.
The energy of the special I think is that people just want to have a bigger, deeper conversation, right? They want to know what to do and they want to hear from other people about what they have done or are doing. They have their own ideas of what they have already lived through or what they might live through in the future and there felt like a real sense of depth in the sharing and the need for the solidarity and community building.
Ellen: Community and being able to form community really, to me, can be a life saving act.
Ian: Because the youth group that we visited in Indiana, to see all those young kids, they feel like such young radical warriors because they have lived through all of these difficult shifts and conversations, dialogue, and rhetoric from Mike Pence being the governor there. And they're still smiling and I felt like a lot of them had a persevering spirit. I felt very fortunate that they were able to be together. Having a space like that, especially in the political climate and being from Indiana and knowing how isolating it feels, and it probably feels worse at certain times like now, that sanctuary is life changing.
Ellen: Well I think this goes back to language again too because there's this dismissiveness about safe and supportive spaces. I really don't think people grasp the level of importance of those places and the individuals who work in those spaces and offer counseling, volunteer, and bring food. They save countless lives absolutely no doubt and offer a future and the chance to dream. A place like Casa Ruby, of course.
Ian: These spaces offer huge amounts of support, warmth, friendship, solidarity, community, and education. That's why the energy in those rooms is so huge, but also we have to reflect on the fact that they're under threat, in terms of government funding. They're under threat in terms of just violence enacted towards the space and the people in it. You see that happening with Casa Ruby.
I'm sure people are coming out and supporting them, but they feel like rare sanctuaries. We need more of them. I think those are the more inspiring things about the special and just the show in general: finding those spaces around the world and understanding their huge importance.
Gaycation: United We Stand premieres on VICELAND on April 30 at 10pm