In VICELAND’s new series Twiz & Tuck, we tag along as two best friends snake their way from New York to California. Along the route, Twiz, who is gender fluid, and Tuck, a trans man who is soon to be married, stop in the cities that have shaped them, as well as some towns they’ve never seen. They visit family and drop in on former lovers, ride horses in the desert and rage in Vegas—all before hitting San Francisco, the city in which they met. express editor and VICELAND binge-watcher, Chanel Clark, spoke to Twiz and Tuck to find out a bit more about the duo, what it was like travelling together, advice for struggling LGBT+ youths, and why the hell they haven’t yet been to New Zealand.. (Lost brownie points on that one..)
How did you get approached by VICELAND to do the show? And what were your initial feelings about it?
Tuck – VICELAND bought a UK company called Pulse, who originally had us do a small web series they had sat on it for over a year, and when VICELAND saw it they loved it and wanted to put it on TV. I was worried a bit, I’ve heard a lot about reality shows being vaguely traumatic with the fake innuendos and weird editing. Luckily, VICELAND is actually a company of sweethearts, so while there was some set up and forced prompting in the two episodes they shot, I don’t feel violated, and I also think they did a good job at keeping a lot of the same documentary vibe feel. I had a great time shooting with them.
Twiz – The way I remember it was, that I was working on a film with Elvira Lind, Songs for Alexis, when her producers noticed Tuck and I on some B roll footage and they told her that she needed to pitch something that involved us… They must have really liked our chemistry. I originally came up with the idea to take Tuck on an epic bachelor party road trip adventure… something to get us out of the city, and that was more fun than getting drunk in a bar (also Tuck is sober so thought it would be a better deal)… Elvira wanted to film it, and she pitched the idea to Pulse, and it was originally picked up as a web series… VICELAND approached us after the show was set to be released. They had merged, or taken over Pulse, and I guess they offered us the show on TV… My initial feelings were full of hope and excitement that it would take off! I was a little nervous at first because I suddenly remembered that I was naked…ALOT… before I knew it was for network television… but I got over that pretty quickly… I mean… bodies are bodies right? sorry mom, hi dad…I think at first we were a bit confused as to why they wanted to fit two random dudes driving cross country… but I guess our stories are interesting, and that Tuck and I have a very relatable relationship, one that most people can relate to.. It was very difficult to wrap my head around the idea, that we would be making history for tranvisibilty, as well as Tourette visibility.
Was there a favourite part for either of you while filming the series?
Tuck – Getting Ben was my major highlight. But traveling through New Mexico and watching wild mustang horses just galloping across old dirt roads blew me away. It was the most beautiful place I’d ever been. Oh and hanging out with gay cowboys and cowgirls at this weird LGBT+ resort in Oklahoma City was awesome. They introduced us to the gay rodeo and took us under their wings. Also especially fun because Twiz was a bit scared due to the fact that we had some lonely creepers popping their heads in our hotel room periodically throughout the evening (in hindsight, I suppose we could have locked the door, ha).
Twiz – There was so many favourite parts! We had so much fun that I can’t even remember everything. There are those epic moments, when Tuck gets hurt…while being choked, or falling of a bull… but I think my favourite moments are when we are hanging in the desert having “moments” and talking about life.. and soul searching… but obviously… the colonic was my favourite moment (It’s in the Twiz and Tuck Bucket List mini-series on vice.com)
What is the best part about travelling with each other?
Tuck – If you looked up fun in the dictionary, Twiz’s picture would be in it. He’s easy going, he loves finding weird things to see or do and at the drop of a hat he’ll stop what he’s doing to go on some random adventure. He has this natural happiness that kind of wears of off anyone who’s around him.
Twiz – Oh man. I love traveling with Tuck because he’s just as open and spontaneous as me. We both love meeting new people and being social, and collecting new experiences. We had a saying the whole time simply put “Yes Ma’am”… which is my made up version of Daoism… the idea is to take advantage of every moment and opportunity that came our way. Never say “no”… and many doors will open, to new stories.
And the worst? Any horrible habits…?
Tuck – He never stops talking about shitting. But I think it’s funny.
Twiz – Hmmm… I’m pretty easy going and avoid all drama, however, have Tourette Syndrome and a side salad of OCD, I was much cleaner then Tuck, I was constantly cleaning up after everyone in the car cross country… I was also driving most of the time and I need my space clean and organised so that I can process correctly, and ultimately twitch less….Other than that I really can’t think of anything! Traveling with Tuck is like a dream! I’m just so lucky.
We are currently dealing with a huge amount of bullying and high suicide rates here in NZ for kids who are gay or transgender. How do you hope your show will help improve this?
Tuck – I hope that some of these people can see that we’re two happy, healthy people who decided to say fuck it and live our lives for ourselves, even if it’s not the norm. I know it can be isolating and sometimes scary, especially for the younger kids. But if they would just hold on, and keep going, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for them. I had a really depressing childhood and have struggled hard in my past, but transitioning and coming out was the best thing I’ve ever done.
Twiz – Oh no, oh god that’s awful… I can’t stand bullies. People can be so ignorant and hate what they don’t understand, or just really hate themselves. I was bullied a bit when I was younger, but my mom gave me the heads up when I was nine years old that I would be made fun of for the way I dressed, my size, and my twitching… this was amazing advice.. so I was prepared for it… Since I was bigger than the other kids I would just fight back… With that said, I’ve already received some really lovely messages from queer teens from middle America who have expressed their appreciation for seeing fellow queer fam on TV… and that it has helped some with their depression, and maybe not with being bullied, but that they have felt hope… it’s so sad that people (of all ages) still have to go through this… I really hope the show reaches the right populations and spreads trans/queer visibility/awareness. I hope that I personally can do more too… I think queer and straight people alike can see Tuck and I as fun loving best friends, and hope that they all can have friendships like ours…and accept the fact that all people are different, but all people deserve to have same happy healthy loving relationships. F*ck the haters!
This one’s just for Tuck (sorry Twiz!) – What was it like visiting places that you hadn’t been back to since your transition? And what was it like taking Twiz with you?
Twiz is so relaxed all the time, and so curious that it kind of made me look at places like my hometown in a different light. Going back to Iowa was kind of mind blowing. First, I was worried that I’d make my ex feel uncomfortable. Secondly, I didn’t think anyone from my past would accept me. I was so wrong. My ex bf and his wife were so kind, the farm we stayed at was owned by a gay farmer, my best friend didn’t blink an eye. And everyone just kept saying, please come back and visit. It really changed my perspective on a lot of things. I thought I had to leave my past and rural
America behind if I wanted to be able to be myself and to love who I wanted to love. I figured it was one or the other. I don’t know if everything somehow drastically changed there in the last decade, or if I was just afraid that I would be hated for being different. For years I’ve missed being in the country, and now I’ve realised that it’s actually a possibility for me again.
If you could give our readers any advice on dealing with the hardships that come along with being LGBT+ and being accepted, what would it be?
Tuck – Find your community and friends and make your own family if yours isn’t being good to you. If you’re in a remote area, try looking for support online. Know that while there are angry, hateful people out there, there are good people too. If you’re underage and your parents are threatening you and you have no other options, just breathe and grit your teeth until you turn 18 and then get the fuck out of dodge and don’t look back until they start treating you with respect.
Twiz – Great question…I had to figure it out on my own (in the 90s)… would have loved to have a mentor. There are many hardships with being LGBT+ then and now… today, it’s still considered taboo, and even illegal in many cultures, even though it seems to be turning in the right direction, appearing in the main stream, etc. Being a full grown adult now, I have the luxury of surrounding myself with amazing, open minded people and especially other queer people. It does get better. However, when I was a kid it was terrifying… I immersed myself into sports and making art. I found things that I loved to do and was praised for it, which made me feel good. I learned about camaraderie and how to be social… I think that really helped me break out of my shell… I would just say, try to stand tall and be proud of yourself, who you are, and every accomplishment you make… try keep your self-esteem up… invite others in who are interested, be open and willing to communicate and educate… and to those who don’t want anything to do with you? Well that’s their loss! And you don’t need them! Choose your battles.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Tuck – I should say my brother, who passed away. I think of him all the time, and miss him even after 15 years. But to be honest, if I could have even ten more minutes with my old dog Shady, I’d take that over anything. She was my best friend for 16 years and I’d kill for another second with her. If I can’t have those two, I’ll take Lana Del Rey or Amber Rose so I can devote my short dinner hour towards wooing them into loving me.
Twiz – OMG, there’s like 41 answers to this question…. I can’t just give one…
Here’s a few:
Living: Laverne Cox, because duh, Kate McKinnon because she’s a comical genius, and Angelina Jolie because she’s hot, and got me through the 90s, and does a lot of amazing things for humanity. Dead: Oliver Saks, only certified dude I can find that went in depth about Tourettes, Frida Kahlo, because I want to talk about art and flirt, and my mother’s father, who I never met… maybe he could shed some light.
What would be your one motto or mantra to live by?
Tuck – I’m trying to train myself into living for the moment and for experiences and people we meet in life. I get caught up in stress and career panic and I often forget to just sit back and actually look around. That’s not really a motto. Sorry I failed you guys on this one.
Twiz – “Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn, be a unicorn.”
“Seize every opportunity by the horns, surround yourself with good energy, connect with people, have fun, learn, grow, repeat.”
And most importantly, have you ever been to New Zealand? (If not, why the bloody hell not…)
Tuck – NO AND I DESPERATELY WANT TO SO PLEASE CON SOMEONE WEALTHY INTO FLYING ME THERE IMMEDIATELY.
Twiz – I have not been to New Zealand!!!! Fly us there! In the warm months obviously…. and take me to all the good parties!
Twiz & Tuck airs on VICELAND, SKY Channel 013. June 13