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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities
It's A Queer World

Matt Cullen: It’s A Queer World

Matt Cullen presents intimate portraits of people in the 2SLGBTQI+ community…

By Paul Hutnick

Matt Cullen believes all queer people aspire to the same things in life: love, a roof over our heads, good health, supportive family and friends, and to live each day with a smile on our face. In his inspirational documentary series, Our Queer Life, he interviews 2SLGBTQI+ people from every colour of the rainbow – from celebrities to street hustlers to people living in an off-grid community, and hundreds more – to discover how their individual journeys are shaping to build a strong and resilient 2SLGBTQI+ community. 

“My passion is spotlighting those in my community who are fighting to live their authentic truth,” Matt Cullen explains from his Los Angeles home. “I enjoy sharing stories of those who display perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances, who don’t allow setbacks to hold them back.” He is especially interested in speaking to those who, without Our Queer Life, might not have the platform to share their story with the world.

Matt’s own story began in northern California, where he grew up in a typical ’90s nuclear family with a mother, father and older sister. He recalls being picked on by classmates for his love of musical theatre and dance, and for being too feminine. He came out as gay during his senior year in high school in a letter to his parents. “I left it on the kitchen table for them to read when they got up in the morning,” he says. “I was so nervous, I was shaking.” After reading it, his parents appeared in his bedroom doorway and Matt vividly remembers his father telling him, “I can’t wait to meet the man you fall in love with.” 

Matt is grateful to his parents for their love and acceptance, especially after meeting so many people through Our Queer Life who have not been so lucky.

People like Renee “Mousie” Russo, a transgender woman and street hustler. Mousie was one of the first to open her world up to Matt, sharing how she had served seven prison terms and lived in 17 of the 34 men’s prisons in California. More than 300,000 viewers tuned into the episode where Mousie detailed her tumultuous past to Matt and gave him a tour of her $67/month apartment in Los Angeles. A year later, Matt revisited Mousie at her home to learn about her life as a working girl and intravenous drug user in North Hollywood. A few months later, hundreds of thousands tuned in to a third episode, where Matt announced the sad news that Mousie had passed away.

“Mousie took a chance on me when I had a miniscule viewership,” Matt reflects today. “She really helped me to shape the series.”

In addition to highlighting Mousie’s incredible story, their conversation demonstrated Matt’s uncanny ability to build a circle of trust between himself and his subjects. “I love deep one-on-one conversations where true learning takes place,” Matt says, clarifying how the intention of Our Queer Life is not on sensationalizing stories but on digging below the surface to uncover the true human story. “The series is meant to focus on 2SLGBTQI+ people who have crossed a hurdle in their life, or are in the middle of crossing that hurdle, or still have that hurdle in front of them.”

Through his show, Matt has made it his mission to help destigmatize topics like sex work and to amplify important issues such as the misrepresentation of trans men and women. He also shines the spotlight on those in the community who have lived in the shadows for too long: adult film stars, ballroom queens, gay Orthodox Jews, gay cowboys in rodeos, and even one trans person whose addiction to illegal plastic surgery has left them disabled. 

Matt’s belief is that viewers who identify with the people he spotlights in Our Queer Life may get a better understanding of them and, perhaps, feel a bit of empathy for their plights. “In these divided times, it is more important than ever before that the 2SLGBTQI+ community and its allies make an effort to find common ground with one another. We’re stronger together, so let us stand united.”

New episodes of Our Queer Life are airing weekly on YouTube @OurQueerLife.

PAUL HUTNICK was born and raised in Chicago but now calls sunny Miami home. His entertainment stories have appeared all over the globe in publications including Metrosource MagazineHotspots MagazineBent Magazine and Out Traveler.

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