♪ Hi, hi, Holly, Holly, hi, hi ♪
♪ But everyone is minus you can call me multiply ♪
Page: Ian and I have been traveling around the world, exploring q*eer culture.
Woo! I'm kind of dizzy.
We've witnessed some incredible things...
Thank you so much. But have also seen that many countries still have a long way to go in the fight for LGBTQ rights.
Don't let down your hopes.
And nearly everything we've experienced has made us think of home.
So now, we're going cross country and bringing "Gaycation" back to America.
♪ This is me on the regular so you know ♪
♪ Did you see them? ♪
♪ Did you see them? ♪
♪ They're just walking around, yeah ♪
Both: "Gaycation: America" in Saskatchewan!
So, full disclosure: We're actually in Canada.
But this all used to be one land before the white man divided it up.
We are starting our trip at a First Nations two-spirit gathering with tribes from all across North America.
Could you just explain what two-spirit means?
We didn't have a word for our, as you guys call, gay/lesbian people.
And... and so we coined that word as an umbrella for all our tribes.
We never said, "Well, you're transgender.
You're bisexual. You're lesbian."
We never knew those terms. Those are all from Western culture, you know, LGBTQ and all that.
So, on some level, it's about getting rid of labels?
Those terms were forced upon us.
You know, like, a lot of people think I'm trans.
And I said, "No, I'm not transgender."
I said, "I'm just me. I'm just Steven."
And I've seen a lot of people that were non-natives say, "Oh, I'm two-spirit."
Right. You know, and I...
Excuse me. No, you're not.
But I says, "We've had our lands taken from you people."
"We've had our culture taken, our language taken."
"And that was all stolen from us.
Now, you wanna steal our terms we picked for our own people?"
I said, "You really need to go back and look into your... your own history, your own culture and find out your own word for that"...
"And don't use ours because it's ours."
Woman: I can remember, when I was younger, it was never talked about.
You just lived the way you wanted to live.
And you are who you are...
Without anybody trying to tell you, like, "Don't live as a woman. You're a man."
That wasn't talked about.
For me, it doesn't really matter.
You can call me what you want.
Just don't call me down.
Daniel: What does two-spirit mean, specifically from you, what does it mean?
It's having the male spirit, having the female spirit...
And having both characteristics and just, um, combined in one and being one person.
I'm actually Miss Montana Two Spirit.
My crown and stuff are just sitting right over there.
You guys can look at them.
It's so beautiful.
Page: The term "two-spirit" was reappropriated in to represent people who are q*eer and indigenous within the Nations without displacing each tribe's unique term.
According to the organizers of the event, it is believed that every tribe and nation recognized two-spirit people prior to colonization.
Tonight, we're attending a powwow.
It's a safe space, where two-spirit can express themselves through dance and celebration.
Page: These individuals were called the gifted ones and considered healers that could restore balance in the universe with both their male and female energy, a far cry from modern labels and judgments.
Page: To me, the two-spirit thing is just such a clear example of how being gay or being trans is just a natural part of human existence.
And to have an example of people who lived in North America before, shall I say, we showed up, existed in a way that was free.
It's, to me, a clear example and negates all the people that say things like, "This is a Western construct. This is a modern, uh, privilege to even be thinking about, you know, your sexual identity or whatever," which I've heard before.
And it's like the only Western construct is actually h*m*.
That's what... that's what we brought.
But recently, it seems like we might be breaking down the boundaries we once imposed on ourselves.
A historic day here at the Supreme Court, ruling that same-sex marriage is a nationwide Constitutional right.
Page: On June 26, 2015, history was made in America.
Obama: This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.
Page: In a five-four decision, the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal under the Constitution.
And 2 days later in New York, we really have something to celebrate at Pride.
[Cheering and applause]
It's a pretty unbelievable time for LGBT people in America... and everybody, for that matter.
And we're celebrating the joy of being friends.
Yeah. And q*eer.
Hi. Can we get your...
Woman: That's Juno!
Daniel: Like, how do you feel about the Supreme Court decision?
You know, it's every gay kid's dream, I guess.
I totally want to get married.
So I'm... I'm, like, the little romantic.
I love it due to the fact that I can do the same thing my heterosexual partners can do.
It's a sigh of relief that we can finally say, "Okay, this is my husband."
I think being gay is just validated in, like, a whole new way that's pretty major.
While Ian and I can enjoy living open lives in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, there are still many places where the atmosphere for LGBT people is not the same.
We're visiting a former Google data scientist and a New York Times contributing writer, who is researching just how different life is for q*eer people in other parts of the country.
Do you do all of your research here?
And you just hang out at home?
And I'm, like, a 99th-percentile introvert.
Uh, this is, like, the extent of my human interaction for the last week, so...
So maybe tell us more about your studies on sexuality.
One of the studies was, how many men in the United States are gay?
As the surveys tell us, only about 1 percent or... of... of men are h*m*.
And it's clear from the data that it's more in the range of about 5 percent.
So what does this suggest?
This suggests a lot of men in the least tolerant parts of the country are in the closet.
So let's look at p*rn search data.
So is it true that only about 1 percent or... of... of men are gay in Mississippi?
But about 4 percent of p*rn searches are for gay male p*rn.
We can also look at what men search right after gay p*rn.
And one of the most common searches, particularly in intolerant states, is "gay test."
You can think through the mind set of a guy who searches for gay p*rn and then ra... and then right afterwards a test probably trying to convince himself he's not gay.
Another thing you see in the data: What's the most common completion for the phrase, "Is my husband," on Google?
By far, it's, "Is my husband gay?"
My data would suggest about 80 percent of gay men are in the closet, uh, to some degree and... and often a large degree, uh, to the degree they're... they're marrying women.
I totally Googled things like, "Am I lesbian?" and stuff when I was younger, like trying to...
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
You know, "Am I gay?" or, "Why don't I like men?" or, "How do you go down on a girl?" you know, stuff like that.
Daniel: New York is one of the most open-minded places for LGBT people in the country.
Even though there's acceptance and we have the U.S. Supreme Court decision, and it seems like, you know, America is at the center of a progressive situation, you have a backlash.
And you do have people that are more aggressively in the opposite direction.
Page: The backlash to the Supreme Court decision is most apparent in the so-called religious liberty laws.
Man: We will never accept h*m* marriage.
I don't care what Supreme Court justice says what.
Page: Among other things, these laws allow people and businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples on the grounds that it's against their faith.
Woman: There are at least three states where judges and clerks have turned away couples seeking marriage licenses.
Page: Our country was founded on religious freedom.
But now, that principle is being bent to suit an antiequality agenda.
Man: County clerk Kim Davis went to jail for refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Page: It's a major issue for many Americans.
So we're off to hear what the mood is like in the Heartland.
How's it going down there?
We're in Iowa.
Page: In the ramp-up to the 2016 presidential election, Iowa is a battleground for votes and the first place to hear the candidates on the soapbox.
We're here to talk with one of the country's most prominent conservative critics of gay rights, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
So we're gonna try and have some form of interaction with him, but we'll see.
So how this is...
High school kids...
Daniel: Are you Ted Cruz fans?
Uh, no. Not yet. No.
Page: What is appealing about Ted Cruz for you guys?
In what sense do you feel you are?
Both: Right, right.
[Cheering and applause]
Woman: Okay. Watch out, watch out.
Thank you very much.
God bless the great state of Iowa.
Page: Here's a quick primer on Senator Cruz's position on q*eer rights: He opposes marriage equality...
I have been proud to defend traditional marriage as the union of one man and one woman my entire life.
Page: He has urged states and individuals to ignore the court's ruling.
He voted against workplace protections for q*eer Americans.
He supports those who deny services to the LGBTQ community on the basis of religious liberty.
And most recently, he campaigned alongside Kevin Swanson, a pastor who preaches on the execution of h*m*.
Romans chapter one verse 32, the Apostle Paul does say that h*m* are worthy of death.
Page: And among Republicans, he's a top choice for our next president.
Thank you! And God bless you!
[Cheers and applause]
Page: I thought he was gonna answer questions.
Probably shouldn't talk.
Page: While we're waiting for the senator's next appearance, Ian and I have been invited aboard the tour bus of the Bontrager Family Singers.
Man: Hi there. Come on in.
Page: They're an Evangelical Christian musical group performing at today's rally for religious freedom.
They tour the country as an expression of their faith.
So it'll be interesting to hear their perspective.
Daniel: You have many more family members, but they're all sleeping?
Sleeping or resting or s... something of the sort, yes. We have 10 children.
We're farm folks. We have a farm...
And spend about 6 months of the year on the farm and the other 6 months on the road, touring with our music.
Are you homeschooled? Is that how that works?
Road schooled. Well-said. Bus schooled.
But, I mean, uh, clearly, we're here because I think it just seems like people are really passionate about religious liberty.
And there are people that are really passionate about LGBT issues.
I mean, I'm just kind of wondering your opinion about how those two things exist in our country and, like, what...
I... is there a battle between the two?
There is a bit of a battle. But I think the media plays a lot of that up.
Okay? A hundred years ago in our U.S., this issue wasn't a big issue.
And as a country, my feeling is, is farther we drift away from God, the more this has crept in.
Sure. I... I think a lot of people would say about why it seems like there's gay people more now is because, you know, back 50, 100 years ago, it... you know, they were so persecuted, so it was hard to live openly.
Yeah. I think... I think, overall, you know, you look at the Bible. And it talks about, like, the issue that you're talking about, um, in that way as being unnatural.
God didn't create us like that.
I think that's what a lot of people misunderstand.
God created everything perfect.
We're the ones that messed it up.
Here's the thing I think, you know, I believe people are born gay, right?
And I want you guys to be able to believe whatever you want.
But it makes me sad when I sit here as a gay person and I know that you think I'm unnatural.
And what that does is it creates a climate that is, I think, really hard for young gay kids to grow up in because they're being told, "You're just not the same. And, in fact, you're not... you're not equal."
There's so much despair, I... I know that... in that whole community, in your h*m* community that you're talking about.
I don't see peace or happiness or joy.
And I don't believe it's because they can't get married in this certain church.
I think it's because they're not living according to God's plan.
I'm just trying to... to understand the religious perspective on, if you ever had a transgender person or a gay person in your family, have you thought about what... what would happen or what... what you would do in that situation?
Well, no, I haven't thought about it a lot. I'll be honest with ya.
I guess I would take him back to the scripture.
If they follow the Bible and believe what the Bible says, I don't think it'll be an issue.
You know, I believe, in America, you should be able to believe whatever you want.
But in our culture today, we've gone and said, you know, "We don't need the Bible anymore."
Well, then, let's say there's a 20-year-old guy who falls in love with a 10-year-old girl and...
Or a dog.
Or... or a dog or a cat.
And... and the thing about the 10-year-old girl...
Well, that would be r*pe. That's...
But who said... That's what our law defines.
Yeah, to compare a dog to...
The same thing.
Gay people getting married...
Well, I'm not saying it's the same thing.
What I'm saying is... It...
You are... you are, in one...
But it does kinda...
Comparing the two.
I'm just saying...
It does kinda go down that path.
Page: As hard as that was to hear, they're ultimately entitled to their beliefs, but turning those beliefs into laws is a different matter.
That's exactly what's motivating us to talk to Senator Cruz today.
We're on the search for Ted Cruz right now.
Is there a line?
Where are we going, Ellen?
Uh, we're going...
Ted Cruz is, like, getting some pork or something.
So we're gonna go try and talk to him.
Where are you going, ma'am?
This is a food line.
I'm going with these guys to talk to Ted Cruz.
He's gonna be right here. Excuse me.
Man: Pork burgers.
Sena... How's the pork, Senator?
Is it good?
Oh, it's fabulous.
I highly recommend it.
This is the place to be?
Uh, can we a... can we ask you questions right now?
It's... it's incredible.
Thank you for having me here.
Page: Religious liberty laws have been key in the backlash to the Supreme Court's marriage-equality decision.
And now, I'm gonna ask Senator Cruz about his position on them. Uh, hey.
I was wondering if I could ask you a question about the religious liberty rally.
Um, I think, uh, a lot of people, particularly, like, in the LGBT community, are worried just 'cause, in the past, during Segregation Era or when women were trying to, you know, get the right to vote, religious liberty was often used to defend and justify that discrimination.
So a lot of people in the LGBT community just have this fear due to the past examples that that's what's gonna happen.
So I was wondering if you could speak to that.
Well, you know, it's interesting you bring up that example.
If you actually look at the history in this country of defeating sl*very...
You look at the history of defeating Jim Crow...
It was leaders in the church that played a critical role.
Yeah. But a lot of religious people also used the Bible to defend segregation, to defend sl*very. So all I'm... So I'm just saying, like, I think religious freedom's so important.
It's so crucial for all religions.
LGBT people are worried that they will directly be discriminated against.
And, you know...
But... but we don't have a right to force anyone to abandon their faith.
It is one of the foundational commitments of who we are as Americans to respect diversity.
But for example, still, in a lot of states, LGBT people can be fired for just being gay or for just being trans.
Um, that's totally legal. I mean, how do you feel about that?
That just doesn't sound very American to me.
Well, we're saying Bible-believing Christians are being persecuted.
So for example, one of the couples...
Yeah, for discriminating against LGBT people.
No, for living according to their faith.
So for example...
Yeah, but you...
People would've used that argument in Segregation Era.
I... I... I'm happy to answer your questions Okay. but not to have a back-and-forth debate.
Go... go for it. Go for it. Yeah.
So we are a country that respects pluralism and diversity.
And there is this liberal intolerance that says that anyone that dares follow a Biblical teaching of marriage, that is the union of one man and one wom... woman, must be persecuted, must be fined...
I... I disagree.
And must be driven out of business.
I think there's just more tolerance for LGBT people, who have constantly been persecuted in this country.
It used to be illegal.
They were thrown in jail.
Who's been thrown in jail?
Gay people used to be thrown in jail when it was illegal in this country.
Well, you know, it... it... it ... it is interesting right now.
Do you know where gay people are being persecuted right now?
All over the world.
Is... But !sis...
All over the world.
Is executing gay people.
Iran is executing h*m*.
And on the left, you hear complete silence.
That's not true.
Christians in Russia, Christians in Uganda, Christians in Jamaica all persecuting, uh, gays to a really, really violent extent.
And why does the Obama administration not stand against it?
I don't know.
I would... would love to talk to Obama about it.
That'd be great.
Then, we're agreed on that. Thank you, ma'am.
Whoa. Whoa. We're... we're not. Don't do that.
We're... we're agreed on it.
Ma... ma'am, we've had a... a long discussion.
Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah.
Wow. That worked out real well.
I kinda k*lled it, right?
Well, you had... I was like, "She has got to keep this together."
And you did.
I did, right?
You really did.
It's gonna be all over the Internet. Oh, shit.
It's gonna be all over the f*cking Inter...
I didn't even think about that when it was happening.
Ellen Page went head-to-head with Ted Cruz at the Iowa State Fair.
Page says the Republican presidential candidate discriminates against the LGBT community.
Page: Turns out we did create a bit of a ruckus.
By the way, Ellen, you won that debate at the Iowa State Fair.
[Cheering and applause]
We need a hug.
We've had a long day.
Well, you caused quite a stir.
You just caused a stir today.
Page: We're stopping by Blazing Saddle, Des Moines' oldest gay bar, to meet lifelong activists Sumitra, Donna, and Mongo.
Well, thank you for talking about LGBT equality with Mr. Pork chop-eating Ted Cruz.
Oh, man. We'd like to hear about your thoughts on what's going on with religious liberty.
We've been part of the movement for about 30 years.
When, uh, the radical religious right first began to fuel the Culture w*r, they tried to amend the Constitution to create a second-class citizenship for lesbian and gay people that would have declared us wrong, abnormal and perverse.
Now, this is in the early '90s...
In the early '90s.
Which is not, you know, long ago.
It changes your life.
It really changes your life.
I never wanna live through anything like that again.
The thing that makes me so mad: I was born and raised a very devout Christian.
I have been to most every Christian church known to man.
God made all of us.
He loves all of us.
And I'm tired of everybody trying to run a Bible down my throat by misquoting.
The reality is... this Culture w*r continues.
And it's people like Ted Cruz, who's throwing...
He's throwing gasoline on the f*re.
And one of the things I feel like we keep saying is, why do you care?
You know, what it is about me potentially marrying someone I'm in love with someday that is hurting you so much?
I like to say to people nobody went to hell in a handbasket because I married my wife.
You know? The world went on.
So what... what did that mean for you when you were then allowed to be married?
I mean, we could talk about all the rights and responsibilities. You know, we had friends, they'd been together for 15 years.
Francine heard something and ran into the bathroom, and Shelley was slumped in the... in the ... in the tub.
They got to the hospital.
And they wouldn't let Francine in 'cause she had no legal rights.
And so while they were working on Shelley, Francine, in the middle of the night, is calling her lawyer.
And while she was on the phone, her life partner d*ed alone.
That's why being married is important.
And we've worked so hard for our rights.
And for us also.
So thank you.
Do you know what I mean? Like...
Well, thank you for your work too, both of you.
Welcome to America!
That looks kinda fun.
That's right, girl, that's righ.
Page: At the end of the day, the biggest issue isn't religious freedom or even the institution of marriage.
It's about everyone being treated as equals under the law, accessing benefits and rights that are guaranteed no matter who we are or who we love.
It's not a competition. But I feel like I won.
So opposite arm.
She won it! She did it!
And you get a raccoon.
What are you gonna name your raccoon, Ian?
I feel like he looks like a Henry.
I'm naming this Peanut.
I love fairs.
Fairs are amazing.
What's more American than a state fair?
Page: You can't talk about gay rights in America without going to San Francisco.
This sexually and socially liberated city is a stark contrast to the conservative atmosphere we've just experienced.
We're meeting a woman who was raised in the religious right and sought out the inclusivity of San Francisco.
Syd Blakovich is an artist and fetish wrestler.
What we specialize in is combining really high-skilled, safe, professional grappling for people that have kind of a... a little bit of a kink for it.
So there's not a place where they can safely experience it or express it.
And so that's why they come in here and we kind of provide that experience for them.
Specifically, people like to kind of be trapped by their necks with thighs.
And to my left thigh, I'm gonna slide it under the head like a pillow.
And then bring the other one over.
And extend your legs and pinch your knees together.
A lot of people just want to be trapped and pinned.
Oh, this is interesting. I've gotta say, honestly...
I think that's the closest you've ever been to my crotch.
Pretty much, yeah. This... right, yep.
I... I'm wondering, um, uh, what you personally get out of doing this kind of work.
I love wrestling.
I wrestle commercially. I wrestle for fetish.
And I'm also, you know, grew up in this whole sex-positive, like, very, like, q*eer feminist movement.
And it's about, like, empowering ourselves and our bodies. And so that's what I'm gonna do.
I'm just kind of curious about how your family feels about your path.
I actually was raised a born-again Christian.
And so when I went off to come to college, it blew my mind, blew my mind 'cause I was, like, a registered Republican. I had a promise ring.
I was, like, so repressed growing up.
And I'm like, "Oh, my God. What else is out there?" just, like, went, "Let's find out."
When I got to the Bay area, like, I started to do p*rn.
I was polyamorous.
I wouldn't say that it was destructive. But it wasn't healthy.
And when you grow up in an environment of such either self-hatred or anger, that's gonna feel normal.
And so when you...
Move away from it, you're still gonna be looking for something that makes you feel that.
And that became a constant state that I might have been replicating.
Even when I switched from being really religious to doing lots of p*rn, like, it's...
The foundation wasn't set for me to be healthy.
It was set for me to be not allowed to explore who I am, not allowed to find a healthy way of growing up.
Really well-said. Yeah.
Page: For nearly half a century, San Francisco has been the capital of q*eer activism in the United States.
It was once a refuge for World w*r II soldiers who were dishonorably discharged for their sexuality.
Then, as the gay populations in the Castro and the Haight grew, so did their political power.
And in 1977, Harvey Milk became the nation's first openly gay elected official and passed strict gay rights protections citywide.
Milk: There is no law that says two human beings cannot love one another.
Page: His m*rder the next year left the city in agony but inspired tens of thousands to take to the streets in mourning and continue his fight.
However, today, v*olence directed at the q*eer community is still a nationwide problem.
And transgender women of color face the most brutality, with an average life expectancy of only 35 years.
This is one of the biggest civil rights issues of our generation.
Woman: I am disappointed in my community, as a q*eer black woman, with the nonresponse to our black trans sisters being m*rder out here.
[Cheering and applause]
Page: We are lucky enough to meet with Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a trans activist for the last 40 years.
Gracy: We're here. And we're not going nowhere.
I am not going down without a g*dd*mn fight.
[Cheers and applause]
Page: She was one of the leaders of the Stonewall riots and has been key in advancing the struggle of trans Americans within the broader gay rights movement.
Daniel: Thanks for having us.
Sure. No problem.
We really appreciate meeting you and being here.
What do you feel are sort of the next steps or the next moves that should be taken?
Reading about it and hearing it in the media is really nice.
But they're not taking it to heart.
Yes, we've gotten more visibility now.
Well, that's nice. But that doesn't make it safer.
So I worry every time I go out that someone is gonna run up behind me, h*t me in my head...
And I'm not gonna make it home.
And to have to live your life like that every day, 24 hours a day, every time you step out your house, it's hard.
And how would you compare the climate now to the climate in... in the '60s, when your, you know, activism began?
You know, at that time, you couldn't go out till it was after dark.
Uh, the bars that you were able to go to, you would use the back door so that no one would see you go in the front door to know that you were in there.
It's better today than it used to be.
But it's not where it should be, you know?
That a majority of us are still struggling, still going in and out of prison.
We're a small community.
And all we've got is each other.
And if we don't care about each other, no one else is gonna give a damn about us one way or the other.
You have to create a nice, safe social network, you know?
Like, for me, some of the girls call me Mom.
Some call me Grandma.
So we've created our own sense of family.
And so the fight continues.
That's all I know to do, is to keep fighting.
Well, Miss Major has helped and supported and saved, you know, countless lives.
And I'm humbled by the individual, face-to-face activism she does by supporting other trans women.
And what an amazing thing.
Page: Since 1999, the St. James Infirmary has offered free health and social services for the trans community and is the only clinic in the country run by and for sex workers.
We are meeting with Star Amerasu, who is helping to protect the community with a bad-date list.
Hi. What's up?
So the bad-date list, these people are perpetrators of v*olence.
They're doing sexual as*ault, robbery, all these different things to sex workers.
And we wanna be able to collect that information and spread them around the community so that we can sort of, like, protect each other.
Are you from here originally, Star?
So, I moved here from Austin, Texas.
Like, you know, San Francisco's, like, the trans Mecca...
Of America. Um, I, like, moved here specifically to transition.
And so do you feel really supported in San Francisco?
You know, there's a lot of access to health care here for trans people.
And so I was able to have, um, hormone therapy. I was able to have surgery.
And all of these things were paid for by the city.
We have all this access to this care.
But at the same time, like, transgender people can't get jobs.
Transgender people are having a hard time finding housing.
And so then, what kind of work are you gonna do? You're gonna do sex work.
And then, sex work is criminalized, right?
And they're going after these specifically black and Latina trans women who are working the streets, right?
And then, when they get arrested, they don't go to women's prison.
They get sent to men's prisons.
This shouldn't be happening to our people.
We need to protect the most vulnerable group of people in America right now, which is black trans women need to be protected.
I think it would help to put in perspective some of the discrimination that you face and especially when we're looking at stats like the life expectancy is 35 years for trans women of color.
What are some of the things that lead to that?
I think it has to do with an internalized transphobia.
If you look at those m*rder, they were all done by men who may or may not have been in a relationship with the woman that they k*lled.
There's a defense that people use, trans-panic defense, or, like, gay-panic defense... Where it's like, Mm-hmm.
"Oh, I didn't know she was trans. And when I found out she was trans, I blacked out. And I f*cking k*lled her," which is really f*cked up, like...
That people can use that defense to get away with m*rder.
I'm at the most vulnerable point right now in my life as a trans woman because I am young and attractive. And that is the people that are dying.
Like, all these girls, if you look through the pictures of all these women that were m*rder, none... You could never say that any of these women weren't beautiful.
And there's something about this beauty that these people want to get rid of.
And that has to end, because the world is gonna lose some if its vibrancy with us gone.
Page: In 2015, the United States saw more m*rder of transgender people than ever in recorded history.
And recently, another young woman was tragically lost.
Taja DeJesus, a prominent member of the community, was m*rder.
We're meeting with Taja's mother and sister to hear more about the woman they loved and lost too soon.
Daniel: If you could tell us about her childhood and just kind of start at the beginning...
Who she was like as a person?
Kind of, yeah.
When she was about 3 years old, she asked me, "When am I gonna grow up to be a girl?"
I never even heard of the word transgender.
My family, we didn't talk about that.
You know, and everything that was different was a sin.
We were all very protective of her.
But we couldn't keep her in our little bubble.
Sad to say, my worst fear came true.
I woke up. And I had, like, a... a weird feeling.
And then, I called her up.
And I can't get ahold of Taja. You know?
And this is Sunday, then Monday.
And then, Tuesday, my phone rang.
And it was the medical examiner.
And he said, "Your daughter Taja passed away."
And I said, "You know, my daughter suffered through her life.
And I just want to know that she didn't suffer."
And he said, "I'm sorry. I can't tell you that.
Your daughter was a victim of a fatal homicide."
And it was like, every place we called, they didn't have any information. They couldn't tell us anything.
No law enforcement reached out to you whatsoever?
We went to the police station.
We went to the closest police station.
And we picked up a police... blotter: And there was a blurb.
Male found stabbed to death in the stairwell.
And it was her address.
Taja was in a relationship with someone who didn't want anyone to know...
That he was in a relationship with a transgendered woman.
And he committed su1c1de.
Had she not been transgender, and had she not lived in a, you know, a... a neighborhood that's known to be, you know, social-economically challenged, you know...
That maybe there would've been more attention 'cause I think, oftentimes, people think that somebody who's transgender, nobody cares. They're... You know?
Well, they probably think that they don't have a family...
Uh, yeah, you know?
Or a family that cares.
And, you know, Taja, we were talking.
And she would tell me, "You know, Mom, you don't know how lucky you are to wake up and everybody sees you as a woman."
And we can't get so caught up in what's, you know, society expects or dictates to us or what our church says because your children are your children.
And your kids need to know that, no matter what, you love them and you accept them unconditionally.
Page: I feel like I've felt angry all day.
And I feel like I feel angry all day 'cause we were just in Iowa, and we were surrounded by, like, so much h*m*.
I don't have time for some conservative dude who's running for president spewing his shit, which is responsible for this. It just is.
You can't tell me that it's not.
You know, you have so much fu... you have so much influence.
And... you are perpetuating a society that is h*m*, that is transphobic.
At that point, you don't wanna hear about religious liberty.
You don't give a shit. I don't give a shit, that you got your business shut down because you will not let gay people have a wedding at your venue.
You just don't... Like, who gives a f*ck, really?
Don't discriminate towards people. Don't.
It's like, just don't do it. And don't... do not say that gay people are now the bigots 'cause we want equal rights.
That's not acceptable.
It's not acceptable.
Can we please move past this? It's just...
You... you... I really just find myself going, like, "What is wrong with people?"
Page: We've seen firsthand how even with the progress being made, it can be incredibly difficult, even dangerous, to be young and trans in America.
That's why we're in Chicago, at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital.
It's one of only a few groundbreaking facilities in this country that provides developmental support and early treatment for trans youth.
Dr. Robert Garofalo is a pediatrician and director of the gender program.
Who would've predicted, you know, 3 or 4 years ago that there would be this expl*si*n around sort of transgender-related issues?
So we predicted it right.
And we're ahead of the... sort of the curve in terms of the planning for this type of program.
Maybe we could just get a general idea of what your project does specifically.
So we see children and adolescents, really starting at the age of about 3 or 4 up through about 20, 21, um, who are s... struggling or dealing with issues related to what we call gender nonconformities.
You know, so everyone that walks into our clinic, you know, meets a team of people: a medical provider, a mental-health provider and then our program support staff.
I think that's not like a lot of other programs in the country.
But we've been, like, training pediatric institutions and hospitals across the country to sort of help, um, better understand how to build a program like this and better care for these children.
It's really about educating society at large that there is this fluidity of gender expression and that there is no gender binary, that there are a range of expressions and that, certainly for young kids and adolescents, that, you know, their identity, uh, can remain somewhat fluid.
Have you met some of the kids? 'Cause they're, like, amazing.
Oh, we're going to.
I mean, they're amazing.
Yeah. We can't wait, honestly.
I mean, you won't even put me on.
Once you meet these kids, it's like, why put the doctor on?
Page: Heather, who is 16, has been a patient at Lurie for the past 3 years and is transitioning with the full support of her family.
Um, it, I think it'd be nice to maybe understand your childhood a little bit.
What was your childhood like?
Or what were some questions you were having?
I guess I just remember being pretty much just, like, a really awkward little child.
I guess, really... I didn't really ever thought of myself as, like, a boy.
I just didn't really feel comfortable with who I am, especially with the people I was around.
I was going through depression.
When I was 13, I went to my, uh, mom.
And I was like, I would really rather just more look like an everyday girl.
I just felt more comfortable.
It just felt right.
My mind just felt at peace, where it's thinking of, "Yeah. I identify as a girl."
When we first took her shopping a couple times, I was all excited to buy stuff.
But she never likes anything that I like.
She actually doesn't like that girly stuff.
She gets stuff that's really shiny and, like, glossy.
It's not your style.
For me, it's just not for me.
Like, I'm just... I'm just not that...
I'm just not that type of girl.
Yeah, me neither.
Many different types of girls, yeah.
We have that in common, yeah.
And so when... when you started talking to your parents about it, what was... what was your reaction?
We... we were very supportive.
I read a few books.
As soon as I read the books, it seemed pretty clear.
It's like, "Okay. Well, let's...
How do we make you happy again?"
Being people of science, I... I don't believe in re... a religion. I don't have that...
I don't have that luxury of having a faith.
So this is what makes you feel better.
It's clearly working.
It's clearly w... what... who she is on the inside.
And I guess I'm curious about what you would say to someone that doesn't have supportive family or friends and kinda feel alone.
It's just pretty much just, you know...
It's just, uh, hold on.
Page: I feel like, if I was and going through something like that or even just being attracted to women, A, I think I'd be a serious emotional mess; B, hell no would I be letting strangers with cameras in.
Come in. The last time, we were talking a lot about your boyfriend coming up from Texas.
Oh, we didn't hear about this.
I actually met a guy.
At first, I was kinda scared of telling him that I was actually trans.
But having the experience of telling him that and him being completely fine with it, I was like, "Wow.
Someone I actually have full feelings for." But it's not, like, a family member, right?
It's a complete, like, different person has these, like, strong feelings for me as well.
And then, that was, like, the start.
I was feeling... I was like, "You know what?
It really isn't a big deal."
It's like I shouldn't be hiding myself for being who I am.
It's just radical to see young people speak so openly and not be afraid.
And it's just...
I wish I was open that young. Yeah.
I would never be able to talk about it.
I would be appalled that they were even asking me that question, you know, because I would be so closeted and afraid and... and chained by it. So we're learning.
Thanks so much, Heather.
Think you're so awesome.
One, two, three.
Page: It's incredibly moving to see that, no matter what, Heather's family loves and supports her.
But unfortunately, for many trans youth, their journey of self-identity begins alone.
Neil is also getting treatment at Lurie...
Nice to meet you.
But does not have the support or consent of his parents.
Maybe start by telling us how your family feels about what you've been going through and what you're going through now.
Um, so right now, both of my parents are very unsupportive.
When I told my mom, she cried and blamed herself because she thought it was because of her that I am the way I am.
It's more of a surprise to me that... that parents can be supportive and loving.
And people say that, "Oh, you know, my mom did this thing for me."
And I'm like, "Moms do that for you?"
Do you hope that, over time, they'll begin to understand and, um... Or what are your... what are your thoughts about that?
I personally don't feel like my parents will ever adjust.
My mom says that, you know, the more I do this, the more she's going to cut communication with me.
Mm. I'm so sorry.
Right now, what would you say is your biggest challenge?
The people around me have to try so hard for me to make sure I'm happy.
And I have to try hard for myself to make sure I'm happy.
Sometimes, I'll feel that it's just easier to just stop everything and give it up and just live a life that people want me to.
But at the same time, to imagine a life where I can't be who I am is, um, definitely not a life I would ever like to live.
People need to evolve to respect you and love you for who you are.
That's just your right as a human.
And that's your right as a man.
You deserve to be happy.
Page: We're in New York City, a place where many young people create their own families and support systems.
These communities, in expressing their identity, created powerful movements in q*eer art and pop culture.
One of the most prominent of which is voguing.
It came out of the 1980s Harlem Ballroom Scene.
This highly stylized dance battle grew into a worldwide cultural phenomenon and brought with it mainstream exposure for the gay and trans community.
So we are here in New York, checking out a classic vogue night.
But first, we have to pregame in Brooklyn with our host for the night, CUNTMAFIA.
They are a collective of q*eer artists and musicians making waves in New York's underground party scene.
It's that fine line between f*g and thuggery.
♪ Watch me eat a b*tch, eat a b*tch, eat a b*tch ♪
Welcome to the c**t Château.
What's up, bitches? Contessa.
Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you. Wow.
You look lovely.
Thank you so much.
I... I think, really, what would be cool to know is, for people that don't know about voguing...
Like, what is it, what its significance is.
Well, voguing is really important to the, um, LGBT people of color because, I guess, if you get banned from, like, playing at the Olympics, you make your own Olympics because a lot of kids...
They come out. They get disowned. And that's where they go.
They go to the ballroom scene. That's why you have houses.
They... they become family. It's bigger than just voguing.
They use that to get away from all that extra dumb shit 'cause it's like...
Sometimes, it's really hard, you know?
But the underground is also not becoming so underground anymore 'cause, even if you look at a lot of, like, the celebrities, they look like underground artists anyway.
A lot of people that's even from the straight scene are, like, stealing from the gay scene and, like...
Taking words, taking fashion.
The scene's really important because it does influence a lot of artists.
It influences artists.
Because of the fashion.
I can see that, if ... if I'm Rihanna, which I'm not, that...
b*tch, you could be!
We got... we got makeup in the back if you wanna get Rihanna.
Oh, maybe I will be tonight.
Wait till it's 1 a.m., and you better watch out.
You should do... you should do runway.
Okay. So start in the bathroom.
What's your house name?
Oh, my god. I don't know. Give me a hand.
We gonna call you Vanilla, Vanilla Ebony.
♪ Introducing Vanilla Ebony ♪
♪ Bring it to the floor like this ♪
♪ Bring it to the floor like that ♪
♪ Bring it to the floor like this ♪
♪ Bring it to the floor like that ♪
♪ Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla ♪
I did a twist.
We gotta get some energy in here, clap y'all!
Bring the energy up!
Page: Tonight's competition is for the fresh blood.
Each contestant will be judged on the basic elements of voguing: cat walk, duck walk, hand performance, floor performance, spins and dips.
♪ ... London town going round for round ♪
♪ And the telly got you jelly ♪
♪ Really getting mines if you ain't know already ♪
♪ Bad bitches on call cause I run that ♪
♪ Bad bitches on deck where your funds at ♪
♪ Call you my little sis cause I done that ♪
♪ And everything I get I know you really, really want that ♪
Page: The voguer with the highest overall score gets the trophy and the bragging rights.
♪ How'd this b*tch get back in the mix ♪
♪ I will break my fast just to eat this b*tch ♪
Page: Activism isn't always political.
It's how you create family, how you create community, how you come together and empower one another.
Our last stop is the place I call home, Los Angeles.
It's a city known for its wealth and glamour.
But it also has the largest chronically homeless population in the country.
And of the homeless youth, The Los Angeles LGBT Center is the world's largest provider of programs and services dedicated to the q*eer community and has been leading the charge in helping LGBTQ youth get off the streets.
You know, L.A. sort of has the dubious distinction of being the homeless youth capital of the country.
And there's a couple reasons for that.
One is the weather here is better than, you know, any place where it snows.
And the other is that there's sort of these ideas that kids are gonna come here and be discovered and sort of the Hollywood glamour, which is obviously not the case for most of our clients.
So oftentimes, what will happen: These kids will get off the bus with everything they own, typically in backpack.
And within that first week, they are likely to be beaten, robbed of all of their possessions.
They are likely to have done dr*gs for the very first time.
And they are likely to have performed their first act of survival sex, which is typically not for money, even.
It's for food or for a place to stay.
To give you sort of a sense of the scale of the problem, there are about 200 beds in L.A. County that are specifically funded for youth in general.
So if there are 6,000 kids on the street, the need so dramatically outstrips the resources...
Mm-hmm. that we're able to bring.
Page: We wanna get a better idea of the scope of the issue.
We're meeting with young people who've sought refuge here to find out what forces pushed them out of their homes.
Where I came from, it was very, like, I guess you would say a redneck town.
Um, my stepdad would always be like, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
And so I got kicked out.
But then, I ended up getting into, um, to dr*gs.
Everything that I've wanted, you know, was to stop hurting, to stop the pain and feel loved.
And I just didn't know how to do it besides dr*gs.
My mom was physically, emotionally abusive.
And it does put such a strain tolerating that kind of stuff, you know?
I know. Yeah.
Like, thinking that you have somebody when you have had nobody...
Being here at the Center, I get, like, depressed a little bit.
Everybody comes there. And a lot of them are on dr*gs.
Meth is so prevalent here. And it's, like, really...
It's so easy to get to.
Because there is a lot of sex work out here.
So they do do it to, kind of, numb themselves.
Yeah, numb themselves so they don't...
Because, like, having to do sex work...
I've honestly done it. And it's, like... it's not something that I wanna, like, have to do again.
But, and, like, feeling it and all the emotions rushing to you while you're doing it's kind of, like, such a sad thing to go through.
Right now, we're headed to the food line.
This is my... this is my cousin Tink.
She was one of the first people that, when I was first in L.A. and I was on the streets, she really helped educate me.
When I got out here, like, a lot of stuff that I know now I didn't know then.
You have to roll with the punches or you're knocked down.
I've been struggling, doing bad, like, lately.
I'm on the streets every day. Like...
Is this part of your daily routine?
Yes and no.
Okay, 'cause, like, the way I support myself, personally...
I don't think I should stand out here.
Like I said, I'm a runner.
Like, so it's easier at nighttime to disappear.
Usually, this is a area, this gathering, to make money.
So then, tonight, what would you...
What's your plan?
I go to the beach.
You go to the beach?
Yeah. I sleep right next to the water.
We're... we're lucky that you gave us such access into your life.
No one asks this stuff from me. No one cares.
That you guys are even trying to get our... our point of view...
Page: These young people have had to grow up too fast.
Even with the cultural sea change of the Supreme Court decision, many q*eer youth in America are still cast out and find themselves living on the margins, hidden in plain sight.
Daniel: I do think kids in small towns still, to this day...
It's hard to meet a friend and talk about being LGBT.
Your family puts the fear in you that you shouldn't be talking about it.
It's really behind closed doors.
It feels like walking on eggshells.
Someone's just gonna be like, "Oh," you know?
Page: The good news is, we are at an exciting time, where more people are feeling empowered to represent their experience on their own terms.
We're meeting Rocco Kayiatos and Amos Mac, founders of "Original Plumbing," a magazine dedicated to trans men and their stories.
Why is there not as much attention or representation for the trans male community?
I ask that question constantly.
That's the golden question.
And to me, it's rooted in misogyny.
I mean, at this moment, I don't feel upset that I'm not represented in mainstream media.
I actually feel really grateful that trans women, of color specifically, are given a platform 'cause I'm not facing the same struggles.
I get to assimilate into society in a way that's, like, a white straight man, you know?
Uh, that's... Obviously, that's not how I identify.
But that's how I'm read and observed.
But I feel like a big fear is, like, am I a real person?
That's just, like, a baseline fear I have on a regular basis.
What if someone finds out?
Which feels archaic at this point 'cause, like...
I still have that fear too, like, even though...
Like, of not ... not being out in one of my jobs and just... Just feeling like, what will happen if people do find out?
How will they treat me differently? How will they see me?
I know, immediately, they'll think about my genitals.
Like, that's what...
Goes through my mind. But it's just...
A fear of, like, being treated differently and being seen as...
On some level, we all share that experience of, like, "I'm gonna act like something I'm not."
Even, like, growing up in... in Indiana, if I could've acted like I wanted to, I would be, like, sashaying.
You know, I probably would.
But instead, I'm like, "I'm gonna have to walk like this."
"I'm gonna have to talk like this.
My voice is gonna get a little deeper."
And when people would ask me if I'm gay, I'd be like, "What did you just say?"
Like, you run off, you know?
And... and you just don't acknowledge it.
And, um, and I feel like I still go through that today.
As a result of navigating the world as a q*eer person who is trying to figure out how to be safe at all times and that your relationship to others is conditional upon how you present yourself really creates barriers.
But when you are a q*eer kid and you know that you're q*eer and if you're able to remove all of that and you're able to understand how you are, like, unique and special and lovable.
And that grants you access to finding healthy relationships.
Page: Amos and Rocco have created a magazine for anyone to express themselves freely.
But these safe spaces didn't always exist.
We're gonna talk to those who remember a different time.
There are nearly 3 million q*eer retirees in America.
And LGBTQ retirement communities are cropping up all over the country.
We're meeting seniors at one such home here in L.A. to find out what it's like to be what some call, "The first generation of Americans to come out."
I think, though, for the most part, people, if you had told them, "Oh, we're going to LGBT retirement community."
They'd be like, "Oh, right, like of course."
"It never occurred to me before."
Like, yeah, we all age.
They need a place, yeah.
Should we, uh, go up?
This is so nice, honestly.
Our job is to really help people stay here as long as possible 'cause there's so much trauma for older adults if they have to move.
And we certainly don't want our seniors to have to move, you know, to assisted living or a nursing home and feel like they have to go back in the closet.
This is nice.
And I have more pictures in the bathroom.
This is amazing.
Oh, that's my gay fish.
I... I think what would be amazing would be to hear your perspective of what it was like growing up.
I... I knew that I liked same-sex.
But there was no words for it back then.
And you couldn't express it. You couldn't talk about it.
So you had to live a double life.
I mean, you could get arrested at that time.
You could get arrest... Yes, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And you could get beaten, which has happened to me, unfortunately.
They had what they called the vice squad.
They were the police.
They dressed... the tight clothes, a tight pants showing, whatever, to en... to entrap you is what ... it was entrapment.
But slowly but surely, it started getting better, and I felt more like I could be myself out here.
And then I met my partner.
We ended up being together for 34 years.
He passed away in 2002.
Sorry to hear that, yeah.
So is this something you thought that you would see in your lifetime, a president...
Talking about gay rights?
Never thought it'd ever happen.
Yeah, it's amazing.
We still have more to do...
But it's going in the right direction.
Who'd have thought it?
Man: Our first game of the evening will be a regular bingo.
Oh, my God. You're really close.
Get us that card, baby.
Where'd you grow up?
That's where I'm from.
So what was it like growing up in Indiana when you were young?
Well, I was bullied after they found out that I was a h*m*.
There was no such word as gay.
And then I went to transform, to become a woman. And I got dra... involved with dr*gs and everything.
You know, and then getting in pro... to prostitution and going to jail so many times.
And then, one day, I just finally decided I can't take it anymore and left.
But I overcome that after I joined the Army.
Which I kept it secret, you know, that... that I was who I was.
And so to be here, it just means that you can I can be myself. live freely.
And where I was at before, for 30 years, I was scared to walk down the hall to go outside.
This is my home, you know? And I love everybody here.
And where are you from?
I was born in L.A., and back then, it was very difficult.
I struggled as a kid with Mom and Dad coming from Orthodox Jews. But God loves us just the way that we are.
It doesn't matter how anybody else thinks.
It's okay to be who you are.
I was in a relationship for 36 years.
We raised a son together, so my son had two mommies.
And my other half passed away, and then I met Nancy.
Oh, you guys are a couple?
She's just been more than a friend to me.
I mean, she's just been there, you know, to pick up the pieces.
And, uh, and this place is such a safe haven because if you live anywhere else, you have to pretend to be somebody else.
Page: It wasn't so long ago that to live openly as a gay or trans American would be unimaginable.
Even though many of their partners were unable to see this day, our q*eer elders have seen enormous change right before their eyes.
They've come from being considered criminals under the law, to seeing their love celebrated by the highest court in the land.
Where would I be without the passion and determination of the generations that came before me?
Dennis, help me.
Page: Ian and I have come to the end of our journey, but part of my motivation in doing this series was to work through my own thoughts and feelings about what it means to be gay in America.
Growing up, for me, I started acting at a very young age, and then, bam, I went from being an anonymous person, to not an anonymous person.
And that's when it felt like, "Hey, nobody can know you were gay."
It's not a nice way to live.
Woman: Who are you wearing? You look great.
Oh, thank you. I'm wearing Zach Posen.
And your shoes?
Um, I don't know.
Oh, you got to rehearse this stuff.
I'm just, you know, I'm horrible.
And I feel like we met in a time where we were both feeling that exploring about how to get through that and how we bonded.
We were both going through something similar.
It's like we're both figuring out how to... how to navigate our various, different worlds with our sexuality in mind.
Ellen is my family, and she's the friend that I have that I can talk about issues with.
You know, Ian will be my... my family for life, no doubt on my mind.
And a big part of that, I think, is getting to find a friend who, together, you work through that.
That's a very, very, very special thing.
Loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves.
And I know many of you have struggled with this.
And I draw upon your strength and your support in ways that you will never know.
And I am here today because I am gay, and because...
[Cheering and applause]
It was a moment that changed my life, but I didn't do it alone.
Along with friends and family, Kelly Bush Novak has been instrumental in supporting me through this whole process.
So, Kelly Bush, who are you?
You have a hair going like this on the side of your head.
She's my publicist and manager, clearly.
Seriously, it's a big loop.
Kelly, why don't you just tell us a bit about yourself.
So I, um, came out when I was 19, told my family and all my friends immediately, so I've always been out in my life.
And in terms of my business, I happened to be in an industry where, if you're an executive and you're gay, it's not an issue.
So I never hid it, and I'm very proud of my relationship and proud of my family.
I felt like I've been a good example of a successful person who happens to be gay.
So we met when I was 20?
Yeah, 20. I was about to be 21.
I have to say, you were a different person than you are now. It's crazy, actually, how much you've changed...
In particular since you came out.
I think what's an interesting conversation is your evolution.
My visual is you like this...
To being like, you came out and something did totally change.
I remember even being overwhelmed in that time because I was young.
I was still figuring out my own identity, and people were writing about my sexuality.
It was just overwhelming for sure.
But that wouldn't be happening if there were more out gay people, particularly young, out, gay people in Hollywood.
Yeah. But, also, you felt confident and ready to do that.
But in terms of Hollywood and being out, it's still very new.
You were supported fully by everyone in your life and embraced.
And you are having, like, a very busy, active career moment right now.
But in terms of long term, will it have affected your career?
We don't know.
You know, we'll see.
I can't hold a surfboard like this because my arms aren't long enough.
I have to hold it...
Over your head.
Page: Of course, there's still a long way to go.
That's very... that's very, very evident.
It does feel like this massive societal shift needs to happen, which I'm hopeful will happen.
And it's because young people are moving past this.
And this noise and this political rhetoric is going to disappear.
And if the politicians don't make it disappear, they're going to disappear.
It can feel daunting with what we've seen, but it does feel like love prevails.
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01x04 - USA
Episode transcripts for the TV show "Gaycation". Aired: February 2016 to April 2017.
"Gaycation" follows Ellen and Ian as they set off to explore LGBT cultures around the world. From Japan to Brazil to Jamaica to the USA, the two meet some fascinating people during their travels and hear their stories.
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