Chicago Humanities Festival has created events that bring artists and audiences together for one-of-a-kind experiences in the Windy City for yearsand 2023 will be no different. Programming slated for this year includes LGBTQ+ favorites such such as Bravo's Andy Cohen and Book of Mormon's Andrew Rannells, as well as the dynamic duo of YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous and RuPaul Drag Racer Gottmik.
Transgender activists Gorgeous and Gottmik have teamed up to create The T Guide: Our Trans Experiences and a Celebration of Gender Expression- Man, Woman, Nonbinary, and Beyond. From the very first pages, this helpful guide supports their trans siblings with a powerful statement: "You are seen, you are heard and you are loved."
Throughout the book, these two unique individuals express how much they care about each other and are determined to lift others up in the LGTQ+ community. Guest quotes conclude each section; readers will learn about singer Adam Lambert's coming out story, and can take away advice from Gorgeous and Gottmik's parents on fair treatment and creating safe spaces at home.
Named one of Time's 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2017, Gorgeous also dropped a documentary about her life that same year entitled This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous. She has appeared on television for Project Runway All Stars and Canada's Drag Race as well.
The GT Guide is Gorgeous' second book; the first was He Said, She Said: Lessons, Stories and Mistakes From My Transgender Journey, published in 2019.
Windy City Times: Hi, Gigi. Are you from Canada?
Gigi Gorgeous: Yes from Toronto, but I have been in LA for over 10 years.
WCT: How did this book, The T Guide, come together?
GG: I just organically met Gottmik one night out in West Hollywood. Our friendship grew and grew. We did a magazine cover together and then decided to combine all of our resources one night to make a book. We decided to not gate-keep anything, and be honest about our trans experiences. I had already been an author, so we started pitching it and it really quickly happened.
We began writing it and it has never been done before. We wanted the book to be both a guide and a best friend to people that can observe our conversations together.
This makes a fabulous audiobook, because it is us going back and forth with the banter. It was just meant to be and one of those things where it wasn't calculated. It just happened.
WCT: It's an easy read, with healthy conversations and questions along the way.
GG: It is just like they say in school, that no question is a stupid question. That is what we tried to cover.
WCT: Was it hard to write personal things in this book?
GG: Yes. It is always hard letting personal stuff out. I have been sharing my life for many years with the public, some of which are extremely uncomfortable. I know Gottmik is a little bit newer to it, but he dove right into sharing the craziest things.
We have read the book back, and can't believe some of the things we put in there. Now people know things about us and that can be tricky. We can't wait to hear the response and it is exciting. It is certainly freeing to get it all off your chest!
WCT: You wrote about coming out multiple times in the book.
GG: Yes, it is interesting because we have both come out in several ways. We originally thought our stories would be very different, but in the grand scheme of things we have so much in common. He is a drag queen and loves fashion like I do, but it was more about the life lessons with the trials and tribulations of trans people that were so similar.
That is why in the book we included what allies can do [as well as what parents can do]. We had people who are not trans write in the book, like Paris Hilton, to cover all the bases, because we felt that was important to do since we were writing a guide. We tried to leave no stone unturned.
WCT: Did you ask Kim Petras to be part of the book?
GG: I'm not sure if we did. Most of the people featured in the book are our friends. Some of them we just cold-called and Paris was one who said, "Hell yes!"
WCT: Talk about the photo shoots in the book.
GG: That was another one of my passions for this book. We knew we wanted to create a picture book and spent about three days at my house. We set up a backdrop and had so much fun.
I am thrilled with how the photos turned out. Every chapter has a concept and a meaning. There's a part about the washroom in The Abbey in West Hollywood, where so much has happened. This all reflects a memory of ours.
WCT: Was the upside-down picture photoshopped?
GG: Yes, it was photoshopped. No, I was not holding him upside down! [laughs] That picture was actually in the running to be on the cover because it is such a strong image. I gagged when I saw it, then I saw the split of us and that had to be the cover.
We also thought it looked too much like V Magazine, so that was another reason to not make it the cover image. It is one of my favorites though.
WCT: The section about your dad saying transitioning is not just one moment but a journey showed how wise he is.
GG: My dad was a part of my documentary. He didn't know what he was in for when the director asked him to do a sit-down confessional. When he saw it on the big screen, he was in shock.
He has become a father figure for a lot of trans people. I know his colleagues have reached out to him about their own sons and daughters going through hard times. He gets stopped out in public and asked questions sometimes.
He said to me once, "It is not just Gigi who transitioned, we all transitioned with her." I thought that was super-profound. He's a stoic man, but when he says things, they really hit home.
WCT: Would you ever audition for RuPaul's Drag Race?
GG: I am more of a backyard performer, like at my house when I have a party. Let's just say I am no Sasha Colby!
WCT: Sasha was a hometown hero for us in Chicago because of her history with the Miss Continental competition.
GG: Girls like her and Kylie Sonique Love have such a passion for performing. I am not a performer like that yet, but the world is my oyster and I did get to judge on RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars.
WCT: The writing in the book uses pink and blue to differentiate between you two. Did you know in the 18th century the color blue was for girls and pink was for boys?
GG: Well, now that I think about it, boys do look really nice in pink. Maybe it is my brain always wanting to go against the norm…
WCT: Speaking of brains, Gottmik mentioned in the book how his brain works when he is misgendered. Can't we just be kinder to ourselves and each other?
GG: Yes, it is a coping mechanism that trans people use and I am the exact same way. That is one of the main reasons that Gottmik and I connect so well. We just get each other.
WCT: What are you doing for Pride this year?
GG: It is going to be chaotic with the book coming out, and the tour right before Pride. It is going to be a whirlwind of a summer. I am so locked in and ready!
WCT: For the Chicago appearance is there a Q&A with you and Gottmik?
GG: There will be a step-and-repeat to take photos with us. We will answer questions and we just love talking to people. We would rather do that than talk at them and read parts of the book. This will be more memorable and fun this way.
The format may change but there will be a signing station and a backdrop for photos.
WCT: What would you like readers to take away from the book?
GG: I think everyone will take away different things from it, but after reading the entirety of it, I hope people will see aspects of their lives in it. That will depend on what they have been exposed to in the past.
I want readers of the book to realize that trans people are people too. Everyone's experience is different, but we are all in this together within the grand scheme of things as part of the human race.
We are very different than some people, but after reading this maybe they can relate to something or have experienced something similar to show that we are not that different. I hope they can look at us as whole human beings. Unfortunately, right now we are not being looked at like that…
WCT: Was there anything on the cutting room floor of the book that didn't make it in?
GG:À§ Countless things. There are so many things that we went back-and-forth with, because there was a page limit for the hardcover book. My first book was a paperback so this hardcover excites me.
We could write another book. We still have so much material, especially with the quotes from people in our community. We could go on and on with so many stories!
An Evening with Gigi Gorgeous and Gottmik takes place at the Chop Shop, 2033 West North Avenue on Sunday, May 21, 2023. Visit ChicagoHumanities.org for the complete schedule and ticket information.