Grand Junction is little known for its LGBT scene – at least not yet. This is one of the reasons the creators of HBO’s We Are Here were drawn to the city on Colorado’s western slope, where they filmed the show’s finale in late September.
On November 29, the local queer community will take center stage across the country when the episode airs in all its fabulous beauty, adorned with a wig and sequins.
“I don’t know if anyone has had incredible drag queens walking the Colorado National Monument, but this is going to happen in this episode,” said Peter Logreco, the show’s director and executive producer.
LoGreco is referring to the opening scene where hosts Eureka, Bob the Dragon Queen and Shangela pose for a pose on the iconic natural site that gave its name to Mesa County. (“Obviously, these are not mountains, these are dining rooms,” remarks Bob the Dragon Queen.) This is right before the trio race downtown in flashy gold outfits, turning their heads and collecting comments about the “golden fairies” as they go.
The queens’ challenge is to transform the three locals into drag and drop masters with makeup, costumes and choreography to prepare for a public performance at the end of their stay. TV show fans know that transformation is never purely superficial. “We are Here” deliberately displays places perceived as conservative or contrary to progressive ideas about gender and sexuality in order to highlight and, importantly, raise the LGBT scene.
With more than 60,000 inhabitants, Grand Junction is the largest city on the West Slope and the center of the LGBTQ community, which includes residents of the surrounding countryside. The fact that the city became the backdrop for the season finale largely coincided in time, LoGreco said. But because of this, the film crew specifically singled out three local transgender people: Dustin, Taylor and Angie.
“This is not what we did before, and it was a very specific choice when looking at where we are as a society – what seems to be the loudest topic in cultural conversation?” LoGreco said. “Trans-visibility is one of those things. We found a vibrant and large transgender community there. ”
Visibility was the main reason Dustin Holt chose to be on the show. Holt uses a wheelchair because he has spastic paralysis, paralysis paralysis, and lives with his best friend and caretaker who helps him get dressed and use the toilet. Holt is a self-proclaimed “open book” with a YouTube channel featuring videos of his transition and drag shows he has performed in.
But the intimate moments of his daily life were not broadcast in this manner prior to the show. He decided to invite a film crew to them in the hope that it would inspire other people with disabilities.
“There weren’t many people with disabilities for me as a kid, let alone being trans,” said 27-year-old Holt. “It’s a huge thing that I got over when I started to move because they didn’t talk about where I grew up.”
23-year-old member Taylor Corpier characterized the LGBTQ scene in Grand Junction as “hidden” and, like Holt, wanted to show the rest of Colorado that the area didn’t fit one archetype. It was also important for him to raise awareness of events such as weekly coffee meetings that can help attract more local residents to the community.
“A lot of people think of the Conservatives when they think of the West Slope,” Korpier said. “We have a great opportunity to declare ourselves and tell other people that we are here and exist.”
Courtesy of Greg Endries / HBO
The Queens noticed a tension between pride and perception during their visit, as the pro-Trump and Blues Lives Matter iconography juxtaposed the atmosphere of the people they met. For example, filming was synchronized with the celebration of the Pride of Grand Junction, which took place on the underground level of the garage. Eureka immediately noticed that it sounded like a private party, not a frank celebration.
“The reason for pride is to be open and proud of the place where you live – visible, visible, how powerful you can be as a community by owning this space in which you live,” Eureka, Corpier’s mentor told The Denver Post. … “Honestly, you might be a block away and not even aware that this is happening.”
The end-episode drag show ran on the same night, but Eureka hopes the queens’ visit will last longer, giving local LGBTQ people an opportunity to “stop hiding” and fostering greater acceptance in the Grand Junction community.
For Korpier, some of these effects have already been implemented. The We Are Here experience helped him gain more confidence and made him proud of the work he put into becoming a leader in the community. He plans to leverage that momentum by applying to the Colorado West Pride board of directors in hopes of planning more youth-friendly events during the annual celebration.
Holt hopes the show will have a “positive, upward and progressive push” for acceptance among the residents of Grand Junction and that it will make transvestites more aware.
“Not all transgender people express themselves the same way. Not all people “Period — express yourself the same way, and that’s okay,” Holt said. “I knew it, but being in it really made me do it. I need to stop letting people come up to me and tell them (swearing) and be myself. “
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