This Sunday night, Ellen Page and best friend/co-host Ian Daniel return to Viceland with a very special episode of “Gaycation” called “United We Stand.” From roaming the eerily empty streets of D.C. the day before inauguration, to the heartland of Indiana (where both Daniel and Vice President Mike Pence are from), to exploring the crucial community spaces queer and other marginalized people are grasping onto harder than ever, “Gaycation” delves into the reality of daily life for LGBTQs in Donald Trump’s America.
Page is quick to point out that for many in the community—queers of color, trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, immigrants, Muslims, indigenous people—this is not an entirely new struggle; it’s just been amplified.
“Our goal and our aim was to really reflect on individuals who’ve already been in crisis mode—marginalized people who are already just trying to survive every day and have been resistant because there’s no choice, essentially,” Page told GO. “And then, of course, all the dedicated activists who’ve been advocating for those groups; for them, this is nothing new. I think we just really wanted to hear those perspectives and have that lead the way in terms of, ‘Let’s talk to the people for whom this really is life or death; who’ve already been having an extremely difficult time but now are facing really new territory.”
From an Indiana youth group to Casa Ruby, a bilingual multicultural LGBTQ non-profit run by out trans woman Ruby Jade Corado that provides life-saving services and programs to the most vulnerable in Washington, D.C.’s LGBTQ community, Page spotlights spaces that provide hope and opportunities for acts of love and resistance during this dark time.
“I hope the episode highlights just how important and how crucial safe and supportive spaces are,” Page said. “I think there’s a conversation about [queer spaces] not really even [being], and after making this show and seeing how essential and important these spaces are—and how few of them there are—you witness that they truly save lives and offer these young people a future. That was something we really wanted to include in the special and I think these havens are so important right now, yet more at risk in terms of losing funding or being targeted for vandalism and violence.”
“Gaycation” is famous for exploring all of the nuances of living as LGBTQ in different parts of the globe (they’ve previously visited Japan, Brazil and the Ukraine, among others), and in America, the show’s investigations have included discussions with openly gay Republicans like Lucian Baxter Wintrich IV, the pro-Trump queer journalist behind the project “Twinks for Trump.” Page and Daniel visit Wintrich post-election, when he’s in full celebration mode and being asked for photos by others wearing the now all-too-recognizable hats bearing Trump’s infamous campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Their dialogue starts out friendly enough, but the co-hosts are never afraid to prod more controversial subjects, as Page famously did with presidential hopeful Ted Cruz on a previous episode. She admits the work can be frustrating at times, and that she often gets more aggressive in these types of heated conversations.
“Ian’s a bit better than I am,” she said with a laugh. “We communicate with signals on some level, where he knows how to be like, ‘Ellen, calm down.’ It can be really hard for me, particularly now that we’ve been making the show for a little while now, and we’ve just witnessed so much—I mean, a tremendous amount of joy and inspiration and perseverance, but let’s be real: There’s a lot of trauma and pain because of oppression, and then, we saw what it was like to be in Orlando [after the Pulse massacre, on a previous episode]. And I think when you’re in D.C., and you’re talking to people for whom these issues are life or death, and you’re feeling this intensity because of the inauguration and Trump, it gets harder for me to not just get annoyed and frustrated. How could it not? That’s my very honest answer about it.”
“Gaycation” doesn’t merely portray the darker side of LGBTQ life, though—it also celebrates how the community manages to persevere through deep-seated ignorance and homo-and-transphobia (among other obstacles) in the world, and live more authentic and, ultimately, fulfilling lives. Page and Daniel attended one of Jamaica’s first-ever Pride parades and helped to assist a young Japanese man as he nervously came out to his mother with surprisingly positive results.
“There are moments that lift your whole heart up,” Page said. “You couldn’t feel more inspired, you couldn’t feel more humbled, you couldn’t feel more grateful to learn, to have something really punch you in the gut and lead you to grasp something from a new perspective. And then, yeah, the next day you can feel such a deep sadness for humanity that you don’t even know how to describe. The reality is, that’s just a part of it because it’s part of presumably a lot of these narratives. And that’s the problem, you know?”
Page said future episodes of “Gaycation” will continue to expand on these narratives in more depth, and that there’s even a chance she could bring the cameras back home with her to Canada.
“When I was in Indiana, and I was witnessing ‘Ian returns!’, it made me think a lot about Nova Scotia in particular,” she said. “So, yeah … we’ll see.”
“Gaycation: United We Stand” is an honest depiction of LGBTQ life with Donald Trump as our president and how his views have echoed across the country, which boils down to the tragic and the triumphant; the horrible and the heartwarming. One moment that gave Page (and many others) hope was experiencing the Women’s March and the collective strength she felt from our inextinguishable need for unity—now more than ever.
“When we were in Washington the day before the inauguration you felt this heaviness—it was kind of dead in the street, to be honest,” Page said. “[There were] military vehicles, helicopters, Latino protesters—but mostly, just dead in the street. Like, empty. … And then the next day, during the Women’s March, we were heading down to it, and never have you seen numbers like that descending on a space. And that was a thrilling thing to watch. And believe me, at moments it was tricky—we couldn’t film—we physically could not move at moments—but it was a pretty powerful thing to witness. I’m not negating the fact that it’s a scary time, and this is life or death for people, no question, just like it has always been for members of the community. I don’t want to negate that it all—but I will say you felt this power. … I mean … we met people who were like those at the Indiana youth group, who are just the most radical, inspiring, brave people you could meet, and so you feel like narratives are collapsing—and that’s powerful and exciting.”
“Gaycation: United We Stand” airs at 10pm April 30th on Viceland.