Seth G. (actual name: Seth Gottesdiener) is on a journeyand a mission.
The fitness professional/social-justice activistseen as a leader in Los Angeles' LGBTQ communityis biking from L.A. to Washington, D.C., on The Great American Bike Ride, hitting cities along the way and asking the same 10 questions to a variety of people. Ultimately, he and the crew traveling with him plan to make a documentary about the ride.
Recently, Gottesdiener stopped in Chicago, talking with Windy City Times about similarities, differences and President Trump.
Windy City Times: I understand that the divisiveness in this country started the idea of the bike ride?
Seth Gottesdiener (Seth G.): Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, I feel like one of the key words of the year is "division" and how we're diverging on almost everywhere whether it's something political beliefs, human rights or something elseand I wanted to find out where all this is stemming from.
WCT: And how did you decide which cities to visit and which people in those cities to talk with?
SG: I wanted to go through places that offer diversity, but I also was being selfish because I haven't seen much of America. So I decided to go through the Southwest, because I heard it was beautiful and I wanted to go through Texas because it's a staple of American history and culture. Then, I had never been through the Midwest and Kentucky or anywhere like that. I also had never been to Chicago and my good friend is from there; I've heard so many amazing things about it, and I have so many friends from there.
Also, a lot of people I had spoken to were in my own circleincluding friends of friends of friendsbut I also have been reaching out to different groups with contrasting ideas other than mine.
WCT: What's been the biggest surprise for you so far?
SG: The biggest surprise is that I have been along really swimmingly with a lot of Republicans. It really was kind of humbling that not every Republican is a Proud Boy, and I feel ashamed that I felt that way. The media will have you thinking the fringe groups represent the entire [party], and that's just not true. Actually, most of the country is moderate.
WCT: And what's been the biggest challenge so far?
SG: That's been getting through the Southwest on bicycle. There were some really extreme conditions. When we left a month ago, it was still 100 degrees. There are tons of hillsthey're unrelenting. Also, I've gotten so many flats; I should've gotten my bike fitted to me. I just took some things for granted because I'm an [experienced] cyclist. I try to keep them around 100-mile days.
WCT: And you're traveling with a team?
SG: Right. There's a small film crew that's documenting this. We're all in an RV, and sometimes stay in a hotel or motel.
WCT: In Chicago, you plan on interviewing Shea Coulee. Is Shea one of the "friend of a friend of a friend" you mentioned?
SG: Yeah. She's a friend of a friend of another RuPaul's Drag Race [alum], Gia Gunn. When I mentioned Chicago, my friends said, "Shea." And that's like a lot of the organic-ness that's happened. I've interviewed one of your state senators, Pat McGuire. So a lot has been happening organically, which is really cool.
WCT: How did you decide which questions to ask?
SG: The goal was to open a conversation with these questions, so I wanted more philosophical questions. People have different moral compasses, and these questions were designed to be more subjected; they can be interpreted in different ways. Sometimes, people pivot in completely different directions during the conversation.
WCT: One of your questions is "Are you proud to be an American?" What have you heard so far?
SG: Ninety percent said "yes." However, out of that 90 percent, about 50 percent of them would say "but." [Laughs] [A small percentage] straight up said "no," and I can respect every one of those decisions.
WCT: I actually want to ask you something I've asked a variety of people: If you could ask the current president one questionand be guaranteed to get the truthwhat would that question be?
SG: "Are you doing this for your ego or doing this for America?" I am very curious, because he seems to be narcissistic and really insecure. I've been trying to have compassion for Donald Trump.
WCT: My last question is something you've been asking other people: What do you think has changed the most in this country right now?
SG: I think the collective of Americans' awareness of other people. I didn't know what kind of sentiment I'd have in doing this, and it's been trying for everyoneand I'm white. [Laughs] I can only imagine what it's been like for people of color.
See TheGreatAmericanBikeRide.com .