Queer Voices

June 12th 2024 Queer Voices

June 13, 2024 Queer Voices
June 12th 2024 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
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Queer Voices
June 12th 2024 Queer Voices
Jun 13, 2024
Queer Voices

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What if you could transform adversity into a force for change? Join Brett Cullum as we sit down with Paige Fastnow, co-president of Rice Pride, to uncover how they and their organization are tirelessly supporting queer college students in Houston amidst the challenges posed by SB 17 legislation. Paige offers a compelling narrative of expanding Rice Pride’s mission to include students from other Texas universities, illustrating both the struggles and successes in creating safe, inclusive spaces for queer students. Plus, get to know Megan Fairbanks, the pioneering transgender Grand Marshal for the New Faces of Pride Parade, as she shares the impactful work of Trans and Gender Queer Houston in fostering vital social connections within the trans community.

Ever wondered how someone transitions from engineering to the silver screen? Ryan Ali’s journey from Syria to Canada is nothing short of extraordinary. As the star of Reem Morsi's film "Queen Tut," Ryan recounts his fascinating career shift from civil engineering to acting, sharing poignant milestones such as working with industry icons and showcasing the strength found in his multilingual abilities. Also in this episode, we spotlight Olivia Juliana, Pride Houston 365's Trendsetter Grand Marshal for 2024, who turned a hostile incident with Congressman Matt Gaetz into a powerhouse fundraiser for abortion rights. Olivia’s resilience and strategic brilliance illuminate her impactful activism journey and the broader fight for reproductive justice.

Our final chapter takes a deeply personal turn as we explore the experience of attending an abortion rights roundtable with the Vice President of the United States. Imagine the nerves and awe of meeting such a significant political figure, only to find her deeply informed and genuinely caring. This narrative underscores the intersection of faith and activism, the profound impact of policies like the American Rescue Plan, and the transformative power of open dialogue with loved ones. Reflecting on stories of conservative parents becoming allies, this episode resonates with the powerful message: "You won't break our pride." Join us for these inspiring stories that bring hope and strength to our community.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

What if you could transform adversity into a force for change? Join Brett Cullum as we sit down with Paige Fastnow, co-president of Rice Pride, to uncover how they and their organization are tirelessly supporting queer college students in Houston amidst the challenges posed by SB 17 legislation. Paige offers a compelling narrative of expanding Rice Pride’s mission to include students from other Texas universities, illustrating both the struggles and successes in creating safe, inclusive spaces for queer students. Plus, get to know Megan Fairbanks, the pioneering transgender Grand Marshal for the New Faces of Pride Parade, as she shares the impactful work of Trans and Gender Queer Houston in fostering vital social connections within the trans community.

Ever wondered how someone transitions from engineering to the silver screen? Ryan Ali’s journey from Syria to Canada is nothing short of extraordinary. As the star of Reem Morsi's film "Queen Tut," Ryan recounts his fascinating career shift from civil engineering to acting, sharing poignant milestones such as working with industry icons and showcasing the strength found in his multilingual abilities. Also in this episode, we spotlight Olivia Juliana, Pride Houston 365's Trendsetter Grand Marshal for 2024, who turned a hostile incident with Congressman Matt Gaetz into a powerhouse fundraiser for abortion rights. Olivia’s resilience and strategic brilliance illuminate her impactful activism journey and the broader fight for reproductive justice.

Our final chapter takes a deeply personal turn as we explore the experience of attending an abortion rights roundtable with the Vice President of the United States. Imagine the nerves and awe of meeting such a significant political figure, only to find her deeply informed and genuinely caring. This narrative underscores the intersection of faith and activism, the profound impact of policies like the American Rescue Plan, and the transformative power of open dialogue with loved ones. Reflecting on stories of conservative parents becoming allies, this episode resonates with the powerful message: "You won't break our pride." Join us for these inspiring stories that bring hope and strength to our community.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Speaker 1:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a podcast version of a broadcast radio show that's been on the air in Houston, texas, for several decades. This week, brett Cullum talks with Paige Fastnow, a co-president of the Rice Pride organization. They have been chosen by the New Faces of Pride to be their organizational grand marshal this year, and Brett talks with Megan Fairbanks, who will be the first transgender grand marshal for New Faces of Pride.

Speaker 2:

But I felt fairly safe coming out at work and it turned out to be a good thing. I ended up staying at that job for another two, two and a half years after that and when I did move on, it had nothing to do with my transition or being trans, it's just a better opportunity came along.

Speaker 1:

Deborah Moncrief-Bell interviews Ryan Ali in the title role in the film Queen Tut and his first experience with doing drag.

Speaker 3:

I was an avid fan of drag, but I had never done it myself, and I think the main reason I hadn't done it was because I'm just really bad at makeup. It is such a skill and I didn't have the passion for painting my face that you need to have to like really get yourself.

Speaker 1:

Debra talks with Olivia Juliana, who is the Pride 365 Trendsetter Grand Marshal for 2024.

Speaker 4:

I often see people weaponize Christianity to justify their hatred and to justify their bigotry, and I find that greatly contradictory to the teachings that I was given as a child of just loving your neighbor.

Speaker 1:

Queer Voices starts now.

Speaker 5:

This is Brett Cullum, and right now I am joined by Paige Fasnow of Rice Pride. This organization was chosen as a grand marshal in the 2024 New Faces of Pride Parade, which is happening June 22nd in downtown Houston. The festival for New Faces of Pride starts around noon and the parade should kick off sometime around 7.30. So welcome, paige, to Queer Voices. Hi, thank you for having me. Rice Pride, tell me a little bit about your organization and what you do for them.

Speaker 6:

I'm the co-president of Rice Pride, which is a student-run organization at Rice University that's dedicated to advancing queer rights on campus and making really a community and home for queer college students at Rice. This past year we opened our doors to queer college students at any university in Texas, so a lot of our organizational work these days is kind of all over, but mostly in Houston just creating community and support systems for queer students around Houston, sb17 affected.

Speaker 6:

you guys, we're a private university, which is fantastic because we aren't actually affected by SB17 in the traditional sense. However, our organization since we opened our doors to all of the students affected by SB 17, has had to basically figure out a lot of logistics and capacity situations that we've been dealing with. So, as a result of that, we are like a little bit affected by SB 17, but we're luckily kind of unscathed compared to a lot of the queer peers we have.

Speaker 5:

And just so the listeners know, SB 17, we're referring to is a state mandate that came down and sort of curtailed DEI or diversity and inclusion on a lot of college campuses, especially the state schools like UT U of H. It's very important what Rice Pride is doing right now, because you're obviously giving these students a chance to participate in a supportive program that may have been eliminated or not had funding from their school currently.

Speaker 6:

Absolutely. I couldn't have put it better myself.

Speaker 5:

Why do you think college students need a pride organization in 2024?, and especially at a place like Rice, where I've always had this feeling that Rice is a little bit more progressive.

Speaker 6:

There is a huge privilege of getting to attend college at all, let alone a university like Christ. I totally understand where that sentiment comes from, where the idea of why exactly is there a need for an organization like ours when our queer students at least, are already so much luckier and so much more supported than most queer people across the country, but especially here in Texas? I think a couple of things I'd say to answer. That is first off. Even at a private institution, and even at one that might get considered a little more progressive than a lot of other places like Rice, there's still a lot of work to be done. So I'm a transgender student here at Rice University and I can speak from personal experience to say that a lot of systems, even when they want to support us, haven't quite figured out how or implemented policy changes that can really help queer and trans students, especially when we get into the intersections of student needs, like that of queer disabled students or queer students of color, or queer and trans students.

Speaker 6:

Once these things start to pile up, the systems that even want to help us don't exactly know what to do yet.

Speaker 6:

The systems that even want to help us don't exactly know what to do. Yet and that's where Rice Pride comes in is we oftentimes will have to advocate between students and the university to try to make sure that students need their met in a way that creates new, better systems. And then, especially after SB17, we've kind of had to undertake the much bigger task of trying to provide that support, even in regards to other universities systems. So we've had people from like uh come to us with specific problems that they have on their universities that they need support with, and we've done our best to support them through that. So I think that's really where the real need for queer on-campus student organizations for colleges comes from, I think I I really really do want to emphasize, though, that, compared to a lot of other queer people, we're in an incredibly lucky position and an incredibly privileged one. It's just still, at the same time, we all need to keep fighting to make sure that we can all thrive in every environment we're in.

Speaker 5:

How did you guys get contacted by New Faces of Pride to inform you that Rice Pride is going to be choosing you guys as the organizational grand marshal?

Speaker 6:

We were thrilled to be contacted by New Faces of Pride. We've done a little bit of work with them throughout the past year. Specifically, we have brought clothing items and stuff like that to their fundraisers for Tony's Place and Grace's Place. We also were in the process of organizing a volunteer initiative for this event before we were contacted by New Faces of Pride regarding our status as Grand Marshals, which is super duper exciting. But in terms of this big announcement, we were actually contacted through Rikes' admin to let us know that New Faces of Pride was reaching out and wanted to see us at Grand Marshals. From there, we ended up getting the opportunity to be part of that announcement in ABC 13 studio and since then we've just been in a pretty constant dialogue with New Faces of Pride on these next steps of getting ready for the parade next month.

Speaker 5:

Do you know how many of you are going to actually participate in the parade? Do you have a number?

Speaker 6:

Not quite yet. We're still registering students. It's a little funky because it's our summer break, so a lot of students aren't even on campus or anywhere near Houston right now, but we're still going to have a pretty solid amount of people coming and we're really, really excited to have as many people as possible show up for this event.

Speaker 5:

How long has this organization been around?

Speaker 6:

It's really cool For Pride Month. Right now Rice University's Fondren Library is actually doing an exhibition on what queer life at Rice has looked like throughout the years. So the first queer org that was started at Rice was in 1979. And that organization went by a different name and had very different goals from what we have now. But it was essentially a lot of students that would meet at a bar pretty regularly and just network and try to advocate for themselves. Pretty much all of them in 1979 were in the closet. So there's photos in the yearbook of a group of students with like bags over their head or like masks, depending on the year.

Speaker 6:

But over the years, especially throughout the 80s and 90s, the organization that they were all a part of, which was called Gaylore, which is gays and lesbians of RICE, continued to just get bigger and bigger and get more and more institutional support throughout the years. Then around the turn of the century, rice University started a queer resource center that was also student run and that was its own separate organization. But recently, as in like the past 10 years, rice University's student organizations that work for queer resources have kind of all coalesced into what we now know as Rice Pride. In some ways we've been around for almost 50 years and in other ways we're brand new and still finding our footing and still figuring out a lot of the steps of starting a student organization.

Speaker 5:

That parallels Queer Voice's story as well. We started in the 70s and we're still trying to find our footing. Tell me what Pride means to you personally. Is it an important component of this experience? I mean, what does it represent?

Speaker 6:

Is it an important component of this experience? I mean, what does it represent? I think there's two ways that I sort of approach pride right now. I think on the very personal level, it's really just wonderful to experience a feeling or a community that just welcomes you for who you are and lets you know that the differences you might have with like the standard quote unquote type of person are celebrated and are exactly what makes you amazing and wonderful and special.

Speaker 6:

And that sort of feeling is something I think everyone should strive to find but is unfortunately really hard to find in this world. So I think pride is really good just in terms of that level of just making queer people feel seen and helped and loved and welcomed. And then I think, at the same time, pride as a bigger political project is a fascinating one because it's one that is constantly looking out for everyone involved. Pride marches and Pride parades started with political protests that had no backing and was just full of people harassing them on the streets, but they would march anyway. And now we're getting to a point where it's not just gays and lesbians but all sorts of other underrepresented queer voices that are getting the chance to find their pride and find their celebration, but also to find allies and people that are willing to walk in the streets with them and make them feel safe and make their voices feel heard in a climate that doesn't always want them to.

Speaker 5:

Let me ask you a little bit about you. You're currently a student at Rice, is that right?

Speaker 6:

What's your major? So I study linguistics and anthropology, and I'm a junior at Rice.

Speaker 5:

And when did you come out?

Speaker 6:

I think I had a very difficult journey coming out.

Speaker 6:

I wasn't exactly comfortable coming out as trans in high school but I did end up spending a lot of time with like the other queer kids in my school and trying to find a community there. But it was hard because I didn't really feel like even in that community I was ready to really share who I was with anyone I knew and that was really isolating. I eventually made the decision to come out the first day of college. A lot of preparation and planning went into that. I had already started taking hormones by the time. I had left my home state of Montana and drove down to Texas, which was terrifying and like really scary and I wasn't sure what was going to be next or how I would be treated in this new environment. But the first day that I got to Rice was also the first day that I was publicly open about who I was and yeah, it was a really nerve wracking but also exciting experience and I'm just so lucky to have had that experience in a community that really does support me and care about me.

Speaker 5:

That is amazing.

Speaker 5:

I know that everybody kind of feels like they're a new person when they go to college, but you literally feel like your authentic self. I mean, that's amazing. I am so excited to have Rice Pride as part of the inaugural New Faces of Pride Parade. It is going to happen on Saturday, june 22nd. 730 downtown is when it kicks off. Festival starts that same day at noon around City Hall and, of course, we'll get to meet page and all of her amazing cohorts and things like that, all of the people that run rice pride and all the students that come in there. Thank you so much for talking to me about this. I appreciate you being such an activist and it's so mind-blowing to me to talk to some of the younger generations and things like that about what their experience with pride is and that's what you guys represent thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 6:

We can't wait to see, hopefully, as many listeners as possible at the pride parade on the 22nd you guys are literally the new faces of pride, so very appropriate that was brett cullum talking with page fast now about the Rice University Pride Organization Still to come.

Speaker 1:

On Queer Voices, megan Fairbanks, the first transgender Grand Marshal for New Faces of Pride. Ryan Ali from the film Queen Tut and Olivia Juliana, who is the Pride 365 Trendsetter Grand Marshal.

Speaker 5:

Brett Cullum here and I am joined by one of the Grand Marshals from the new Faces of Pride Parade coming up on June 22nd. She is Megan Fairbanks, representing the transgender community for us in the celebration. Megan, welcome to Queer Voices.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much. Glad to be here Up first. I wanted to ask you what.

Speaker 5:

Thank you so much Glad to be here Up. First I wanted to ask you what makes you proud. What do you feel proud about? I?

Speaker 2:

feel proud about our community, like everybody in the LGBTQ plus community. We have such a vibrant, robust community in Houston. You know, one of the things that I hear from people in other states is Texas kind of gets this bad rap sometimes for being a red state and the associated stuff that goes with that, but it's like y'all don't know Houston, though Houston is a great place. It's a great you know great place to be a member of the LGBTQ plus community, a great place to be a member of the trans community, and just you know we thrive.

Speaker 5:

I agree, I think Houston is this pocket of blue and a sea of red and I feel like most of our cities are like that and it's really amazing when you go to places like Austin, houston, dallas. Absolutely Isn't that backwoods kind of mentality that Texas seems to be known for, I agree, which amazes me and it still confounds me how we stay a red state and have the politics we do. But here we are. I wanted to ask you about the organization that you founded. It's Trans and Gender Queer Houston. Can you tell me a little bit about that organization?

Speaker 2:

Just kind of happened. I based this group off of a group in Austin. Honestly, there's a group out there called the TGQ Social TGQ standing for trans and gender queer and it kind of became this perfect storm of I have wanted a group like this in Houston. We were getting to a point in time where the pandemic had gotten to a point where people were feeling safe to go out in public again. I had seen some posts on Facebook and other social media with our trans communities, with people saying things like you know, hey, is anybody doing anything? In person. I ended up talking to one of the leaders of the TGQ group in Austin and she gave me permission. Not only gave me permission, but encouraged me to use the TGQ name. I tweaked it a little bit for Houston and put something together, created an event on Facebook and people showed up and we've been doing that for a little over two years now.

Speaker 5:

You're looking for the connection socially with the transgender community.

Speaker 2:

Yes. So one of the things that I kind of had in mind too with this was, like you know, I've been to numerous support group meetings myself and a lot of times in those support group meetings, after the group is over, a lot of people get together. It's like, hey, let's go down and grab a bite to eat afterwards. And I got to where I found that I enjoyed that social aspect after the meeting more than I enjoyed the actual meeting. Don't get me wrong. I think the meetings are great. I probably would not be where I am today without those meetings. But I just kind of felt I had moved past that part of it and I just love that social connection, just talking with people, talking with our peers, finding my people. And that's what I want for other people that come to our group is for them to find their people.

Speaker 5:

I think it's interesting because I think it's hard. I was talking to a lot of transgender artists or people in our community and I'm always curious. I'm like, how do you find your tribe? How do you actually reach who does so? I think this sounds like a great organization. What kind of social events do you guys do?

Speaker 2:

mostly it's just we have our main event. That is just our main social event that meets once a month. We do occasionally spin off and do some one-off things. We actually tried something a couple of weeks ago. We usually just meet up at like a bar or something. We have explored other venues but due to logistics and things like that, it does generally tend to be bars. I would love for us to figure out how to do something in something that's less of a bar vibe. But we'll see what happens with the future.

Speaker 5:

There's nothing wrong with the bars, though I mean, that's where pride started outside a bar.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, a valid point. One negative aspect to the bar so a lot of times is it's limited to 21 and up, and I would like to at least includes 18 and up and, and, heck you know, have it be a little bit more of a family event as well too can you tell me a little bit about how you got here just whatever you can about your journey and how you became megan fairbanks?

Speaker 2:

I guess.

Speaker 2:

I guess probably the short version of that is I always kind of knew that I was different as far as gender identity went.

Speaker 2:

What I now know to be gender dysphoria kicked in for me at about age 13, and I carried that with me for a very long time. I didn't really think I was trans, or I knew that there were people that transitioned and I didn't think that was something that I was trans or like. I knew that there were people that transitioned and I didn't think that was something that I could do or something, and kind of learned that some of those ideas that I had in my head were a little outdated or just a little wrong and finally realized that oh yeah, I am trans. And then started kind of well going to one of those support groups and talking to people and realizing, yeah, I'm definitely trans and transition is a possibility for me, it's doable. That was at age 47, by the way. So age 13 to age 47, that's a long time to carry around a lot of those feelings and not know what the correct answers to things were. And once I started realizing that, yes, transition is a possibility, it was like, okay, let's go, we're doing this.

Speaker 5:

What was it like coming out later, like 47? I mean, that's a different time in your life, obviously. Oh yeah.

Speaker 2:

It was scary. I was really. Probably the biggest concern for me was the idea of transitioning on the job. I didn't know how my employer would take that, did a lot of digging into our employee handbook and you know I saw that we had protections in there and you know I remembered when I first started working there.

Speaker 2:

You know how you get a lot of those standard HR trainings. One of them was a training on sexual harassment, or just not even sexual harassment, just harassment in general. One of the scenarios they put in there was one about a trans woman being excluded from meetings and stuff just because she was trans. And it's like, okay, if I'm working at a place that's got that stuff in their HR training, that seems fairly progressive and I'll probably be okay here. Now you know legal protections and everything aside. You still have to deal with the culture and environment that you're working in. But I felt fairly safe coming out at work and it turned out to be a good thing. I ended up staying at that job for another two, two and a half years after that and when I did move on, it had nothing to do with my transition or being trans, it's just a better opportunity came along.

Speaker 5:

So that's great, because I really don't always hear a positive story about coming out at work. It's hard to make that transition so publicly with people that maybe aren't as aware of the issues and what is important to you.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. It can definitely be scary. I mean, it's definitely scary for everyone and I know I personally feel lucky that I've had such positive experiences with that Now switching gears a little bit.

Speaker 5:

You are part of the inaugural parade for the New Faces of Pride and I wanted to find out how did they contact you and let you know that you're going to be a part of this?

Speaker 2:

Driving home from Austin one day. I've made so many trips to Austin. This is one of those rare off-legislature years trips to Austin. But yeah, no, it just happened to be in the car driving back from Austin and I get a call from one of the folks from New Faces of Pride just out of the blue saying, hey, do you want to be one of our Grand Marshals this year? And I'm like, okay, sure, why not?

Speaker 5:

Well, it's definitely a great honor because you get to be at the front of the parade and this is their first inaugural event.

Speaker 2:

So you are the new face of the transgender community. I mean, that's it. I mean I gotta admit the. The fact that it's their inaugural year and I get to be one of the inaugural grand marshals is definitely not lost on me. That feels like a privilege in and of itself.

Speaker 5:

So I think it's great. It's an honor well deserved. I wanted to ask you about what you think pride, how it is relevant to the transgender community.

Speaker 2:

I think it's relevant in that pride is all about I mean literally about being proud of who you are and being visible and showing the world that you are proud of who you are. I think one of the things that the transgender community could really benefit from is visibility.

Speaker 2:

I know that visibility is scary for a lot of folks in the trans community. I know that it's not something that everyone can do. But when we are visible, you know people get to know who we are. We're not just that anonymous person from the internet or the anonymous group from the internet. When it's your neighbor or you know your friend or somebody that you know from your church or work or whatever, and you know you've known this person for years, it's very easy to look past some of that negativity that gets put out there because you realize you know, I know this person. They're not like that. That's not how they are. So, yeah, I think visibility is a big thing for us and I think pride plays into that and helps with that visibility and just shows that you know, hey, we're just people.

Speaker 1:

That was Brett Cullum talking with Megan Fairbanks, the first transgender grand marshal for New Faces of Pride. Now there's some good radio, a conversation that you almost feel part of, providing clear information and opinions from people in our community. I'd say that's almost worth paying for. Well, except that all of the good work that you hear on Queer Voices is done by volunteers. But like anything, it still costs money, as well as our volunteers' time, to bring this unique radio program to you each week. Will you contribute a little bit to help keep us and KPFT going? We're looking for listeners to become members of KPFT, partners with us, really, in keeping us out there on the airwaves and in podcasts around the world. But even a one-time gift will make a difference. Please go to kpftorg and click the red donate button for more information. We thank you and I think you'll thank yourself the next time you hear us on Queer Voices. I know Martha thanks you.

Speaker 8:

Queen Tut is the celebratory queer tale directed by Egyptian-Canadian filmmaker Reem Morsi and stars Ryan Ali. Ryan is Queen Tut in the starring role and performs alongside SAG Award nominee Alexandra Billings, who many people know from Transparent, the Perverifield and the Conners. Ryan, you're fairly young and you've already got a body of work. First of all, let's talk about the fact that you are of Syrian descent.

Speaker 3:

That's right. Yes, thank you. Thank you for that introduction. I feel very lucky that I get to do the things that I get to do and that I've already been able to build such a body of work and, like you said, with such brilliant people as Alexandra Billings. I mean, what a person to be able to work alongside with and learn from through this journey as well. And yeah, I am of Syrian descent. I was born in Syria and I grew up in Montreal as well, so it was sort of a back and forth for a while.

Speaker 8:

What age did you immigrate to Canada?

Speaker 3:

So the first time I was three and then I went back to Syria for high school with my parents, and the second time I moved to Montreal, I was 18. So I moved twice. It's all part of you know. It's all made me who I am today. You didn't start off to become an actor, so I moved twice. It's all part of you know. It's all made me who I am today.

Speaker 8:

You didn't start off to become an actor, so tell me a little bit about your journey from studying civil engineering to starting an acting career.

Speaker 3:

There's a running joke in the Middle Eastern community that our parents want us to either be engineers or doctors. It's very it's true. It's sort of you know, these are people that immigrated to find a better future for their children, to offer them more opportunities, and they can be very fearful of what the world is like out there. And so, for me, my dad was an engineer and I was, you know, I was good at math and physics and it just felt like it made sense to follow in that footstep. So that happened when I turned 18.

Speaker 3:

And I was back in Montreal, decided to pursue engineering. But then at the same time I was like Okay, well, I'm 18. Now I'm making my own money. I'm, you know, I'm working part time at a cafe. Let me just take an acting class, because it's something I've always wanted to do and let's just see what that's like. And you know, slowly but surely, here I am. It's like 10 years later and that ended up really taking over. I had such a passion for it, it just was so exciting to me that it started just grabbing all my attention and I decided eventually to focus fully on acting. I left engineering behind and regret it. It's a wonderful journey so far.

Speaker 8:

Not only were you in this film with Alexandria and another amazing group of actors, you also were in the Hummingbird Project with Salma Hayek and Alexander Skarsgård. So what was that?

Speaker 3:

like I think that was the first project that I got to do where I really felt like it was a personal breakthrough. It just felt like, like you know, I am in this room acting opposite of these people, like we're in a room, it's just the three of us it's me, salma hayek and alexander skarsgård, and I'm you know, I'm doing a scene with them and I think that really opened up in my mind the possibilities of how far I could go with this. It was a wonderful experience. It was directed by another fantastic director from Quebec. His name is Kim Nguyen.

Speaker 3:

This movie we premiered at TIFF, so I also got to experience what it was like to have a premiere at such a prestigious festival and all of that the same time being in a room with other actors. I think, regardless of how big of a name they are, out and about, you are just these characters in that room, and that's such a really cool thing that we get to do. We kind of leave who we are behind and just play with with these characters, and in that room that's who we are and it's such a professional setting and it was a really, really great experience to get, especially at that point in my career. I had just moved to Toronto and really had left engineering behind and I was diving fully into this dream and this thing that I wanted to pursue and this felt like a sign that I was doing it right.

Speaker 8:

And let's just say that TIFF is the Toronto International Film Festival, because I had to think about it for a moment. So also, you're multilingual in English, French and Arabic, so have you had the opportunity to use all of those in your acting?

Speaker 3:

I actually have. Yes, that is a great question. I actually have, and I think I've tried to as much as I can, because I think we live in a world nowadays where a lot of us, especially in acting, are put into boxes, and I think I think I'm trying to fight that norm a little bit by. You know, showcasing all the things that I can do and and languages is one way that I get to do that. I remember one of the first things I did in Toronto.

Speaker 3:

My friend was producing a TV show called rencontre, which was about and it's a French word for me at meetings. It was about a French immigrant, that, or a tourist that was sort of discovering Toronto. And he called me up and he was like I know you speak all these languages and I think there's a really funny scene for you in there where we get to use all three of them, and so that's really cool to get to do that. I picked up Arabic from Syria and then I picked up French from Montreal and then eventually just sort of decided that English projects is where I wanted to live, and so I had to learn that as well.

Speaker 8:

But let's talk about Queen Tut In the film. Supposedly you're a teenager, which is a little hard to grasp, being that you're six foot two and you're quite fit. I mean, I noticed there was some muscles there.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think it was really interesting with Queen Tut, because I think a lot of the time when you're creating something, before you're thinking of who's going to get cast in it, you have a general idea of where it's going and what you would like the story to look like, and then comes in the reality as well of who is out there, like if you really think of who another arab actor, uh, who you know would be playing a queer character as the lead in this feature.

Speaker 3:

It's just something that is not as as current or not as available yet in our industry Just Arabs alone. In general, like I said, most of them just go routes that are a little bit more secure, like becoming doctors or engineers, so there's very few of us out there really taking on artistic routes and fully committing to it. I think when I came in, it started changing a little bit that we would make the story about a young man rather than a teenager, but I think there's still a lot of descriptions out there that call him a teenager, which is really really funny, because I think in the movie I do look fairly younger than I generally do and I had to. I even lost some weight for the film and just stuff like that and obviously I'm shaven for it. But I think he's like early 20s. I do not see myself as a teenager in this specific movie.

Speaker 8:

In your acting there was a nuance that I thought he could be a teenager or very close to being a teen definitely a young man and he's dealing with coming back to Canada, just like you did. And so he returns to Canada and he's living with his father, who is, I guess, an architect or somehow into the development of an area of town, and it's an area I guess people would call it the gay area of town, and it's an area I guess people would call it the gay area. And there's this club called Mandy's which is run by Alexandra Billings as the character of Malibu. Through this accidental meeting with Malibu, you enter this world and I think you already had realized that you were gay, but you didn't know what to do with it. Was that anything at all like your own experience?

Speaker 3:

I'm glad the nuance is translated in my performance. I think the beauty of this film is that it is a coming-of-age story and I think that a lot of themes of the sort. Usually we see a lot of teenagers in it when it's someone that grew up in the us or grew up in canada. But a lot of the time for queer people, coming of age happens at very different places in our lives and I think that for someone who is an immigrant from an arab country like egypt, I don't think he would have gotten that experience um at a place in his life. I think that's why it's happening in his early 20s and I've met people who've had that change happen to them in their 30s and their 40s. We find ourselves when we are meant to find ourselves and when we are in a place where we're able to do that.

Speaker 3:

And I think for this story, for Nabil him meeting Malibu, which is Alexander Billings' character in this film that was the safe space that was needed. But even then, even when he was surrounded by all these people, he still struggled and he still fought a lot of that until it felt like he just had to. And there comes the drag element in this movie when he just sort of like there's a beautiful scene where he's really just goes all in, he dives right into it. He's like let me just do this and see what it's like, and it's beautiful, and you get to see all these nuances and that's the beauty of Quintet. I really, really love this film. I loved it from the script to when we got to make it and then now we get to share it with people as well, which has been really, really fun.

Speaker 8:

Had you had any experience with drag prior to this?

Speaker 3:

I was an avid fan of drag, but I had never done it myself, and I think the main reason I hadn't done it was because I'm just really bad at makeup. It is such a skill and I did I didn't have the passion for, for painting my face as that. You need to have to like, really get yourself there, and so I had always said I will do drag, I'm sure I will, but I need someone to put me in it. And in the movie there's, you know, you get to see him do it like in a very like very poorly at first and then get better and better at it too. So that's, that's been really fun.

Speaker 8:

Part of the story is this dream dress that his mother had designed. That she never got to make, because Alexandria's character, malibu, is a proficient seamstress and maker of costumes. Your character, nabil, learns how to sew and makes that dream dress. It kind of goes in pieces for a while, but at the end of the film, the transformation from Nabil into Queen Tut, I mean wow.

Speaker 3:

I'm so glad it had that effect on you it was magnificent. Oh yeah, I agree, yeah, and it was a long. Like you said, it was a process of him and that's the beauty of it is, it was connecting him to his mother, and also to himself, but also to his drag mother to Malibu, and there was just like such a beautiful love exchange in that dynamic.

Speaker 8:

That closing scene, I imagine, was a lot of fun to film.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it was, because it was very much. It was both a celebration of queen tut celebrating with the drag family and the queer family that he discovered, but also it was just us celebrating the making of this movie at the same time. Like you said, it was such a wonderful cast and such a great group of people. We really formed such amazing bonds behind the scenes as well, and I think that's really what translated into the chemistry that you can see, and I think that's really what translated into the chemistry that you can see, and I think that's one of my favorite things about them was that chemistry that everyone had with one another.

Speaker 8:

And also you dance and it brings in that Middle Eastern style of movement, and then the dress is reminiscent of a egyptian queen. It is quite lovely the the film is being released digitally june 11th.

Speaker 3:

I think people will be able to to buy it on um like itunes and apple and and all these uh places that you can buy it on digital.

Speaker 8:

We've been talking to Ron Ali, the very enchanting star of the movie Queen Tut, which will be released June 11th, and thank you so much for being with us.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, it's my pleasure. Thank you so much. This is.

Speaker 1:

Queer Voices.

Speaker 8:

The trendsetter grand marshal for Pride Houston 365, is someone who is under the age of 22 who has contributed to the community in a significant manner. At just 21 years old, olivia Juliana is a powerhouse activist, political influencer and a champion for abortion rights. Influencer and a champion for abortion rights With over 1 million followers on social media, she's used her platform to amplify youth voices, challenge political norms and raise awareness about crucial issues facing our community. Her fearless advocacy and groundbreaking initiatives have made a profound impact on the political landscape. We welcome her now to Queer Voices to talk about the significant recognition of her work as the trendsetter Grand Marshal, olivia. What does this recognition mean to you?

Speaker 4:

It means so much. I often talk about when I came out. I didn't really ever come out per se. I was 18 and I was in the car with my dad one day and I just gotten into politics and I've kind of grown up and gotten into adulthood. A lot of times I find, because I focus so much on abortion, advocacy work and political work, a lot of times people don't actually recognize the fact that I am queer To receive this award at my age. I'm just so honored because it shows that people are paying attention and that they respect what it is I'm trying to do, which is already so heartwarming. But it's also very affirming to me because it serves as a reminder that people do recognize my identity and people do respect my identity. And in a time where so many of our rights and our leaders and our ability to just live our lives freely are under attack, it really is such an honor to be able to join the community in such a special, special way.

Speaker 8:

You became a shero of mine very quickly once I heard about you, and of course that was through this famous Twitter war that you had with Matt Gaetz. Tell me what happened and what were the results of that.

Speaker 4:

One day I was sitting at home this is after the Dobbs decision that had overturned Roe v Wade and I got a text message from my friend and he said I hope I don't have to be the one to tell you this, but do you know that Matt Gaetz is attacking you on Twitter right now? And I was just in complete shock because I was. I was wondering like why, of me, of all people you know, come after me? And I had realized he had just given a speech at this conservative event where he just had this very misogynistic, very disgusting description of what an abortion rights activist would be. And he was kind of indirectly talking about me. But he said in this speech he was like oh, you know, they're all 5'3". And I responded by saying we're not all 5'3", I'm actually 5'11", 6'4", and heels, I wear them to remind small men like you of your place. And I guess he didn't like that, because a few days later there was an article that came out talking about how his speech was raising the dander of his political foes. And then he quote tweeted this article with my picture, with my profile picture on Twitter and said dander, raise this kind of effort to be like see, we got this this liberal girl mad and pissed off.

Speaker 4:

We're kind of reaching our point here and it was very clearly an effort on his part to try to body shame me and bully me online, which, you know. You would think coming from a member of Congress, that kind of thing wouldn't happen, but the reality is, in the circumstances we live in now, it's totally plausible Realizing now I have this opportunity I was a political strategist at this point already. I had already had a social media following I took advantage of the situation and I immediately said, in honor of Matt Gaetz trying to body shame me online, I want to fundraise for abortion access. It ended up working because, as this was going on, I was just kind of bullying him back, I was making memes of him back, I was cracking jokes, I was getting hashtags to trend about it and we ended up raising, in the span of a week, $2 million for abortion access for 50 different abortion funds across the country, most of which went to states that were absorbing a lot of patients from places like Texas and Louisiana and other states where abortion was banned. So each abortion fund got a little over. I think $40,000, which is a huge donation got a little over, I think, $40,000, which is a huge donation, and I was just so warmed and shocked by the outpouring of people who were being supportive, who were donating, and I don't think people realize a lot of times the severity of that story.

Speaker 4:

It was trending on Twitter for three days straight. There were news clips and articles and videos done about it in Australia and India, in Spain and Mexico. It was really trending globally and I gained in the span of a few days like 500,000 followers across platforms. There were governors who were talking about it in states like Wisconsin Tony Evers talked about it, jb Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, josh Shapiro, who was running for governor of Pennsylvania at the time, and it was for me. I think this moment, a few short months after Roe v Wade had been overturned, for people to kind of come together in defiance and say no like this is an opportunity for us to stand up to this kind of behavior, to do something good for people, but also to remind them that the younger generation that is coming up behind us, they're not weak, they're not afraid to stand up to people in positions of power and when the time comes for them to organize, that's exactly what they're going to do.

Speaker 8:

And let's just remind people that Matt Gaetz is a MAGA Republican from the state of Florida. Now you kind of cut your chops in your political activism with the organization Gen Z for Change. Tell me how you got involved with that group and explain to people what it is.

Speaker 4:

I worked at Gen Z for Change for several years no-transcript to get involved with national activism and really start to learn the meaning of intersectionality when it came to abortion rights and LGBTQ plus rights, climate justice, all those things coming together and I really kind of came into who I am while I was there and I'm so grateful to have had those opportunities and to have had those opportunities and to have had those folks in my life when I did, because, especially when we were fundraising for the abortion funds, you know they were a very clear support system for me. Then, even though I'm not there now, you know I wish them all the best.

Speaker 8:

You certainly have made an impact and you've been featured in a number of publications and you've gotten to hang out with Vice President Camilla Harris. So tell me a little bit about that.

Speaker 4:

I grew up in a very, very conservative Christian household and when I was doing content around the 2020 election, I was 17. I wasn't old enough to vote yet. I turned 18 a week after Election Day. It happened to be that Election Day was. It was the day that we were celebrating my dad's birthday. We were having dinner at the kitchen table and this is a few hours after it had been called that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were going to be the president and the vice president. We were sitting there and I watched her come up, give her speech, accepting the results of the election tears running down my face because, after so many years of Trump being president and living here in Texas, it just felt so important and powerful to be able to witness that moment in history. I never would have imagined that being that little girl sitting at that table watching her become the first woman vice president in history that only about a year and a half later I would be meeting her for the first time.

Speaker 4:

I was living in Houston and I got an email that said the vice president was going to be here in Houston and that she wanted to do an abortion rights roundtable with some different activists, some abortion providers, and I was invited to go and I stood there and I was so anxious. We had to stand there for an hour because Houston traffic is a little bit different than DC, she'd gotten held up a little bit. When she finally walked in the room it just really hit me like, oh my gosh, this is the Vice President of the United States. And she immediately started talking to all of us about the state of abortion access here in Texas, about what the laws were. She had brought with her pages of different Venn diagrams and charts showing us statistics and facts that people might not have known, and you could tell that she just really cared so much about what it is she was talking about and she went through and introduced herself to everyone in the room. And then she came to me and I felt near speechless, and anybody who knows me will tell you. And then she came to me and I felt near speechless, and anybody who knows me will tell you I love to talk. I'm not someone who is shy. I don't really get flustered very often, but when she stood in front of me I just I could feel my voice. I was barely above a whisper.

Speaker 4:

As I was talking to her, I told her about fundraising for abortion funds and what I did, and she just smiled. She told me congratulations and then I told her it was very important for me to let her know when I graduated high school, I did not have enough money to go straight to a four-year university. I grew up working class and I decided that the best case for me was to go to community college and because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan, I was able to get a grant for my tuition to pay for my entire freshman year of college, and that set me on a track now where I've taken some time off school to focus on the election. But in a few years, when I graduate, I'll be the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college, and it's because of policy that was passed by the president and the vice president, and I told her that I'll never forget. She took my hand and she was like Olivia we are so proud of you, I am so proud of you, and people ask us sometimes, when we do these things, what the return of investment is. It's young people like you that are the return of investment, because we're helping you get the future that you deserve and in turn, it's going to make our country a better place. I just was totally speechless, near tears, and we took our photo and we went our separate ways.

Speaker 4:

A few days later I was emailed that the vice president had been impressed with me and that she wanted to do a collaboration with me on our social media pages. And ever since then I've gotten to meet her a few times. I've done a few different collaborations with her. Back a few months ago, when she was here in Texas at the Hispanic Caucus event, I did a social media collab with her about SINA and abortion access. A few months ago I also got to attend a holiday celebration at the vice president's residence, the Naval Observatory, and she's just.

Speaker 4:

I feel like she doesn't get enough credit for how hard she worked and for how much she really does try to get good things done, but also just how genuine she is. I feel like that's something that people really do miss about her is they think she's a politician and it's an all in act, but when you're standing there and you're talking to her and you're really listening to what she has to say, you can tell she genuinely, deeply cares about what it is you have to say. Ever since that day that I met her, I have had a deeply profound respect for her and I am honestly very happy and honored that my first time voting in a presidential election, I'll get to cast my vote for her.

Speaker 8:

Historian and political commentator, heather Cox Richardson, has spoken about the vice president and that she goes out to college campuses where she's very well received and that a lot of people don't get how popular she actually is with the younger generation and a number of other folks that I know all brought up in conservative churches, but you say that that upbringing actually led you to this role of service.

Speaker 4:

It absolutely did. I'm still a practicing Christian to this day, a devout Christian. But my parents growing up in the church we went to a Baptist church for much of my childhood and then eventually a non-denominational church. It was very important to them that I understood community service and being involved in my community, and my dad in particular. I often say he didn't shape my political beliefs, but he shaped my political mind and he shaped my morals. It didn't matter who you are truly, it didn't shape my political beliefs, but he shaped my political mind and he shaped my morals. It didn't matter who you are truly, it didn't matter what race or gender identity or sexuality you have. My dad is the type of person where if you were in trouble, he would literally give you the shirt off his back to help you.

Speaker 4:

And because of that and the teachings I had of being kind and good and gracious and just loving to people that I was taught in the church, I felt called to action in so many different ways when it came to politics, because I often see people weaponize Christianity to justify their hatred and to justify their bigotry, and I find that greatly contradictory to the teachings that I was given as a child of just loving your neighbor.

Speaker 4:

I don't think you can be a Christian and be hateful. I think you can have hate in your heart and use your Christianity to shield yourself from the reality that those are your own beliefs. I'm very open with the fact that I'm a Christian, and it hurts me so much to know that there are other people out there who use this religion that's supposed to be based in love and community service to be so hateful to our community, which is why I find it to be really important to talk about my Christian identity and also my sexual identity, because I want people to know that I'm queer but God still loves me, know that I'm queer but God still loves me. I love other people, and there's no amount of hatred or anger, criticism that's going to change those things, and so I just want people to know that there are Christians out there who are loving and accepting and who want to do good things, and we're trying to fight back against this far-right Christian nationalism that is creeping up throughout the country.

Speaker 8:

This is Deborah Moncrief-Bell and we are talking with Olivia Juliana, who is the trendsetter grand marshal for Pride, houston 365 for 2024. What is your past experience with Pride and what does it mean to you?

Speaker 4:

I talked about growing up in the church and not coming out really until I was 18. So growing up, I never really experienced a lot of pride celebrations or even people who were openly queer, because I grew up in rural Texas and it wasn't until I moved to Houston that I kind of started getting more acclimated. And the first pride ceremony I ever attended was actually in 2022 in Orlando, florida. It was about a year after I graduated from high school and I moved to the city on my own. I was there knocking doors, talking to voters for Charlie Crist, who was running for governor at the time, and it happened to coincide with the Pride Parade. It was the first time in my life that I had seen so many people so openly celebrating the LGBTQ plus community, celebrating themselves, their love, their light, and it truly was just a life changing experience for me to really physically see with your own eyes that you're not alone.

Speaker 4:

Now this year, I'm just so excited that I'm going to be able to experience that here in Houston, my home. I've been very active the last year or so in the LGBTQ plus caucus here in Houston. As a kid who grew up just in denial of my identity didn't really see much in my community now. To be here to be able to see all of these things it's just awe-inspiring and it really does give me hope that even in the times when people are telling us not to be ourselves or not to be so obnoxious or open about it or flamboyant, that we're still who we are and we still have a community behind us supporting us.

Speaker 8:

The theme this year is you won't break our pride, and I think you just explained what that means to you. You have expressed that apathy is our greatest enemy. What do you consider your greatest achievement so far, or what do you take the most pride in?

Speaker 4:

Oh man, I feel like gosh. That's such a difficult question to answer. The thing that is probably impacted me the most is my dad. He has been for a long time lifelong conservative, anti-choice, very critical of the LGBT community and in the last few years I've gotten really involved in politics. I've made it a point to bring my dad with me places and talk to him about the things that are going on. It's gotten to the point now where I take my dad to local events with me. He's already told me he's voting for Colin Allred, who's running for US Senate this year here in Texas as a Democrat.

Speaker 4:

But I think the proudest moment I had was actually about two weeks ago.

Speaker 4:

I took my dad with me to a rally here in Houston for Lauren Ashley Simmons, who is running for House District 146, and with Jasmine Crockett there as well. It's so heartwarming to me to see my dad, to go from someone who was not supportive of the work that I was doing and not supportive of my identity to now coming with me to these events and enthusiastically talking to me about them, talking about how much he likes people. I'm introducing him to how passionate he can tell they are, and I'm just so proud to have seen my dad passionate he can tell they are and I'm just so proud to have seen my dad change and to see his heart change and to see it open. And it really does give me hope to know if my dad, at 56 years old, if he can change his mind, if he can change his heart and be the most supportive parent that I can imagine I mean truly like the most supportive parent that I could imagine having I think that real change systemically is definitely possible.

Speaker 8:

Thank you for being with us today on Queer Voices and congratulations on being the Trendsetter Grand Marshal for 2024. You're listening to Queer Voices.

Speaker 1:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home-produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg. For more information. Queer Voices executive producer is Brian Levinka. Andrew Edmondson and Deborah Moncrief-Bell are frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Speaker 7:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. For Queer Voices, I'm Glenn Holt.

Queer Voices Interviews Rice Pride Co-President
Coming Out and Community Support
Ryan Ali's Journey and Multilingualism
Empowering Activism and Recognition
Meeting the Vice President, Embracing Identity
Journey to Acceptance and Advocacy