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Queer, proud, & vocal: Matt Cullen is sharing heartfelt LGBTQ+ stories

Queer, proud, & vocal: Matt Cullen is sharing heartfelt LGBTQ+ stories

YouTuber Matt Cullen documenting heartfelt conversations LGBTQ community TS Madison
Courtesy Matt Cullen

YouTuber Matt Cullen, creator of "Our Queer Life," with T.S. Madison.

YouTuber Matt Cullen shares his experience documenting the journeys of LGBTQ+ individuals through heartfelt conversations.

September 22, 2021. I remember the day so clearly, looking out my bedroom window in Koreatown, Los Angeles. To anyone else, it was just another day in this new COVID-19 world we were all adjusting to. The sun was out, the palm trees had a light sway from the wind, and a few people walking on the streets clad in face masks and their groceries for the week.

After more than a year of near-complete isolation from the pandemic, something had shifted deep inside me. I wanted nothing more than connection. I had suffocated myself with my own thoughts and needed to get out of my brain and get into someone else's, to hear about their life, their hurdles, their dreams. I craved a one-on-one conversation with someone new.

What I didn't know when I stared out that window is this journey would become a series that dives into the queer community in a way I have never seen before.

I soon found myself deeply entrenched in an "Ex-Jehovah's Witness LGBTQIA+" Facebook group. On a whim, I contacted Rob, an LA-based member who was vocal about his experiences. I had no clear plan of what I wanted to do, how I wanted to record this, or even the goal, but something was calling me to see this through.

The conversation with Rob was effortless but also educational, heart-wrenching, and honest. Coming out of the closet for Rob meant losing his entire family; his mom, whom he had the closest relationship with, no longer talked to him. He was still grappling with this - the person supposed to love you unconditionally, cutting off all communication solely based on who you choose to love. When I talked with Rob, I saw someone heartbroken, confused, yet resilient. His wish to live authentically for himself, no matter the consequences, inspired me.

After that interview, I reflected on my queer journey and how it looked a lot different than Rob's. I was a senior in high school when I decided it was time to open up to my family. All my friends knew - I even had a boyfriend - and it was time to be honest with the people closest to my heart. Nervously, I wrote them a letter and left it on the kitchen table for them to read in the morning when they woke up. I tend to talk faster when nervous, so I figured a letter would be best. I lay restless that night, anxiously awaiting their footsteps as I heard them wake up and walk to the living room, where they would soon find the letter. The time came, and I could feel the silence as they read the letter and took in my words. I will never forget the first words that my dad told me after he entered my room that morning.

"I can't wait to meet the man that you fall in love with. He is going to be a lucky man."

As an adult, his words still stick with me to this day. My parents' support has undoubtedly shaped me into the man I am today.

Since my interview with Rob, I've had the pleasure of interviewing others and taking a deep dive into the queer community, taking me all over the country to learn the realities of what so many people in my community have gone through to live in their authentic truth. Guests have ranged from RuPaul's Drag Race's Eureka O'Hara, who talked after first coming out as transgender woman, decided to go back in the closet for her safety in Tennessee (she is now living her life as a proud trans woman) to twin sex workers working the streets in Puerto Rico who worry for their safety every night as they leave their families and head to work.

YouTuber Matt Cullen documenting heartfelt conversations LGBTQ community RuPauls Drag Race Kandy MuseMatt Cullen with RuPaul's Drag Race alum Kandy MuseCourtesy Matt Cullen

After more than two years on this journey, my guests have connected with me on a deeper emotional level, teaching me what I'd hoped to learn all along: my community is full of strong, layered, unique, beautiful, honest, and resilient people.

In a world that is so quick to shun our community, I want to continue interviewing individuals to humanize our experience and show others that we are more alike than one would think. We may all come from different walks of life, but we all want the same things: love, acceptance, a roof over our heads, and to live another day with a smile.

Matt Cullen is the creator of the queer digital docu-series, Our Queer Life, available on YouTube. Like and follow Matt on Instagram at @mattcullen.

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