KATHY: Yes, Tobin.
TOBIN: I'd like to tell you about a little thing I call the Power Rangers Predicament.
KATHY: [LAUGHS] Okay.
TOBIN: Imagine if you will, you're a young gay Asian boy. And you are playing Power Rangers with your friends...
TOBIN: ...and you're trying to figure out which one you are?
KATHY: Hmmm k.
TOBIN: But ya can't! [KATHY LAUGHS] Because the Power Rangers conveniently split up the identities among the different rangers.
TOBIN: So the black ranger was Black...
KATHY: Yep. [LAUGHS]
TOBIN: The yellow ranger was, are you fucking kidding me, Asian...
KATHY: Yep, yes she was.
TOBIN: And then the blue ranger was, even though we didn't know it at the time...
TOBIN: ...the gay ranger.
KATHY: Can I also interject: of the two female rangers, one got a skirt and one didn't.
TOBIN: Oh the pink ranger wore a skirt.
KATHY: The pink ranger wore a skirt!
[MUSIC STARTS AGAIN]
TOBIN: So I remember very explicitly like as a kid when we would play Power Rangers I was like, "I'm just gonna make one up." Cuz there's not one for me! [LAUGHS]
KATHY: Aww. What color ranger were you?
TOBIN: I feel like I had to pick a color that wasn't taken. Maybe I was the gold ranger.
KATHY: This is why I think it's actually much easier to figure out who you are as a ninja turtle.
TOBIN: I was literally just thinking that!
TOBIN: Get the fuck out!
[KATHY CONTINUES LAUGHING]
[THEME MUSIC IN]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios this is Nancy.
VOX 2: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC OUT]
KATHY: Will you explain the YouTube series that you guys have created?
ALLISON: Sure I mean it's... [SIGHS] it's okay. It's um... [ALL LAUGH]
[JUST BETWEEN US (JBU) THEME MUSIC]
[CLIP] ALLISON: Welcome to Just Between Us. I’m Allison Raskin.
GABY: I’m Gaby Dunn.
ALLISON: We have a comedy channel together.
GABY: Cuz we’re best friends and comedians.
ALLISON: And we’re an odd couple.
GABY: That means one of us is different from the other one.
ALLISON: It’s a classic comedy routine.
Tobin: Gaby is bi, with bleach-blonde hair and big glasses.
[CLIP] GABY: We're doing some light cuddling and I showed her the pilot of The L Word, but she already hates Jenny so she's perfect!
Kathy: And Allison is straight, with long, brown hair and a total frankness about mental health stuff.
[CLIP] ALLISON: I sat alone in public, Gaby! You know I start to cry when I see people sitting alone in public!
Tobin: Just Between Us is this zany sketch series that makes comedy out of things totally normal and completely batshit, and it has millions of views.
KATHY: But it all started as just two women becoming friends in maybe the most dude-centric scene of all, the world of Los Angeles comedy.
GABY: We met outside of an open-mic where you had to sign up, because we were both doing stand-up at the time. And I think she was just like, there's not a lot of women in comedy so if another girl is there, usually I'll try to talk to them. But you came up to me and...
ALLISON: Yeah I was very lonely.
GABY: [LAUGHS] And I had just moved to L.A. and you are sort of like more aggressive about trying to be my friend. You would invite me to stuff.
ALLISON: Yeah I wanted a friend!
GABY: Yeah. And then I would, I didn't know what your deal was but most of my life up until that point, straight girls had just sort of turned?
GABY: Well one of the first times we hung out you asked me so much about bisexuality, so I was like she must be it.
ALLISON: I did?
GABY: So I was like she must be whatever, thinking about it or something. But I think you're just a nice person who ask questions. And so there was one time where we hung out and you dropped me off at my house and we were talking in your car for like 40 minutes. And then I came out and went to my roommates in my apartment and was like, "Me and this girl are in love like we're going to date. It's going to be amazing."
KATHY: I would think that too though, I would think that too.
GABY: I know. But then, we started this way before we like were super best friends.
GABY: What, you thought we were best friends?
ALLISON: I dunno...
TOBIN: Oh man!
KATHY: Ok fast forward to now: what's your relationship like today?
GABY: I mean I feel as though we are married. We've certainly had the ups and downs of a marriage. I feel like I'm prepared for marriage now cuz of you.
ALLISON: Oh absolutely. It's interesting. I mean we're obviously shipped all the time. I'd say the hardest part is how to not feel like we're queer baiting.
GABY: Yeah but it's also strange because queer baiting I think usually implies that both people are straight, and you know like, usually when shows get accused of queer-baiting both characters are straight and there's not like a character who actually says the word bisexual, identifies as bi. I think like a lot of shows have people who just go, "I don't want to label," or they go, they date you know like Willow on Buffy right? She was dating Oz and then she was dating Tara. And I don't think she ever used the word bisexual. She was just gay now. And so I...
ALLISON: But isn't that how it works?
GABY: My favorite bit is when Allison pretend she's never heard of bisexuality. It's so great. It's been going on for years.
ALLISON: I've heard of it. I just don't believe in it.
TOBIN: Oh no! Allison...
GABY: What a good bit!
[TOBIN & KATHY LAUGH]
ALLISON: I'm just kidding, I've seen it firsthand many times.
TOBIN: Wait, so I'm curious, like do you have fans who call you out on queer baiting and like how do you respond to that?
GABY: I feel like I'm actually queer and also vocal about that so I don't know. Do we skate by? I'm not sure.
TOBIN: [LAUGHS] Yeah.
GABY: Also you're vocal about your sexuality too!
ALLISON: Yeah I mean I think that like we address it head on in a lot of ways, like there's a sketch called "Gay Allison."
[CLIP] ALLISON: I'm just no longer one straight friend. I'm finally queer like everyone else!
ALLISON: And then like it becomes revealed that it's just because I thought a girl was pretty. And Gaby had to be like that's not gay. That's like just appreciating the female form.
GABY: Yeah we sort of do a lot of breaking the fourth wall, winking to the audience type stuff.
TOBIN: Well so Gaby, you identify as queer. Allison, you're straight. How does that shape what you have on the show and the conversations you have?
GABY: One of my favorite episodes is when I, in the show, had been dating primarily women. And then I come to Allison because I started dating a man and I need advice about it. And there's like...Allison sort of like breaks down and is just like "oh my god the straight community has so many rules it's crazy." She's like...
[CLIP] ALLISON: In the straight world you may date another woman's ex if 1) She has died. End of list.
GABY: And I say that like, in the women-loving-women world, you introduce your ex to people, like you're just like assuming that all your friends are dating each other and it doesn't matter. And so at the end of the episode I say "I'm so glad to be queer" and Allison goes"Yeah, it's really a privilege."
[CLIP] ALLISON: Get your head out of your ass, Gaby! This isn't the lovey dovey feel good world of queer dating! This is the cutthroat heteronormative shit the rest of us have to deal with!
GABY: And I think like there's this fun reversal where my thing is, I'm actually like super happy and like great with my life. And Allison, who might seem like she has it easier for being straight, is actually like crumbling.
TOBIN: [LAUGHS] I love that!
GABY: And that's been fun to play with.
KATHY: So something I think you both do really well is, you’re able to talk about difficult things like sexuality and mental illness without stigma or taboo, and like how do you go about doing that?
GABY: We just wanted to normalize a lot of stuff cuz that's how we would talk in real life. I wouldn't like come to you crying about being bi cuz I've known since I was 12.
ALLISON: I mean, you have. You have done that.
[TOBIN & KATHY LAUGH]
ALLISON: But not that often. Yeah I mean I think that like it's just making...And this is different, but like in the way that, when you watch when there's more diverse casts, like it's not acknowledged that there's diversity in the cast, it's just you're just watching a diverse cast in something? That's sort of like how we approach it. We just talk about like it's not, "And now on this very special episode..." it's just like part of our everyday life so it's incorporated into all of the videos.
[CLIP] ALLISON: For those you not in the know, OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder.
GABY: I thought you were gonna say "for those of you not in the know I have OCD" and I was about to be like everyone knows that.
GABY: I think people have really responded to Allison's mental health conversation. Like I think, because you're so open about stuff cuz it's been going on for so long for you that I don't think you realize how stigmatized it is because you're so open about it. And then when people comment or write to us, they're like so happy to hear someone talking that way. But I think for you it's just, yeah obviously why wouldn't I? But people love it.
ALLISON: Same with you and you know LGBT polyamory stuff.
GABY: Yeah, but I think people appreciate...I mean I always say like I have the privilege to talk about this stuff because my family doesn't care. None of my friends care. I'm not going to lose my job, like nothing bad is gonna happen to me if I talk about this stuff. And I remember when I was younger and I really thought bad stuff was going to happen. So if I have the privilege now of like I pay for all my shit and I like nothing's going to happen to me then I should be as vocal as possible.
KATHY: It seems like you guys share and talk about basically everything and, are there things that you wouldn't share with each other?
GABY: [LAUGHS] You had one secret from me and you like were exploding.
ALLISON: What was it?
GABY: The thing where the guy at Paramount said I was aggressive or something.
ALLISON: Oh yeah we pitched to Paramount and my manager at the time was like, "Yeah they love you but they hate Gaby."
TOBIN: Oh my god!
GABY: And then Allison kept that from me...
ALLISON: For like a year!
KATHY: I don't think we're there yet.
TOBIN: Yeah I don't think Kathy and I are there yet.
KATHY: No, one day.
ALLISON: Oh that's so sad!
KATHY: Relationship goals.
ALLISON: What are you keeping from each other? Share it! Have a moment!
KATHY: Have a moment, a genuine moment, Tobin. Tell me a thing.
ALLISON: Tell her a secret!
TOBIN: I think that one thing that I am definitely navigating, if I'm being totally honest, is that I wasn't anticipating that there, without us intending it or creating it, that there would be like a competitive aspect to it.
KATHY: Oh yeah that's true!
TOBIN: You know you inevitably have like fans who are like, "Oh Kathy's my jam." And you can't help but read that and be like holy shit [KATHY LAUGHS] there is going to be this divide! And now I have to feel weird about that!
KATHY: Yeah. Did you guys have that?
ALLISON: I mean we had a lot of stuff because you know, there was a point where we kind of weren't really friends anymore.
GABY: But we were still doing the channel.
ALLISON: Yes. So that was rough. And then we bounced back stronger than ever.
GABY: Well both of us, it was very funny cuz when we hashed it out, it was like both of us just wanted the other one to love us, like we were so nervous that the other one...
ALLISON: No I was more just mad.
GABY: No. [ALLISON LAUGHS] You wanted, no we were both like crying. It was like, I was like I'm upset that you don't like me anymore. Like I was so stressed during that time, my hair was falling out, it was horrible.
ALLISON: Yeah it wasn't a great time. I would cry to my manager and he'd be like ugh I don't wanna hear this. But then, you know, if you look, we didn't miss a video. [LAUGHS] You know it's still your job you still have to do the work. Then you come out of it. I think you have to let go of a lot of pettiness and a lot of competition, a lot of jealousy and a lot of like realizing the differences...
GABY: Are okay!
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: Thank you so much for talking to us!
KATHY: Yeah thanks so much for taking the time!
ALLISON: Thank you so much for having us! Go share some secrets.
TOBIN: Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin have a YouTube channel called Just Between Us, and they've got a new YA book out this month called I Hate Everyone But You.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
VOX: Nancy will be back in a minute.
[OUT AT WORK MUSIC PLAYS]
TOBIN: All this fall, we’re looking into what it means to be out at work. How do you navigate how much of who you are you share in the workplace? We’re collecting stories and we really want to hear yours. Like Damon, who works at a grocery store. He says being out is a good thing, but being the token gay is not so great.
DAMON: Coworkers coming up to me all day long going, "Oh look at him, isn’t he cute," or "isn’t he hot?" or "what do you think about the outfit that guy's wearing?" or "do you think he’s gay or not?" And while these are all things that I may be thinking in the back of my head, like they’re not professional.
KATHY: We want to hear about your experience for our Out at Work project so head over to nancypodcast.org/work and answer a couple questions for us. We’ll share what we learn in a few weeks.
[OUT AT WORK MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: Do you want to do one word each?
KATHY: Yeah. And...
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
KATHY: So we’ve been talking about how if you don’t see yourself in a book or TV show or whatever, one thing you can do is make it yourself.
TOBIN: And I thought this was the perfect opportunity to talk to Vivek Shraya, a Canadian poet, musician, and writer who just did this.
KATHY: She’s got this children’s book out now called The Boy and The Bindi.
TOBIN: It's a story about a young boy who becomes fascinated by the dot his mother wears on her forehead.
[MUSIC FADES OUT]
VIVEK: Ammi, why do you wear that dot?
What’s so special about that spot?
It’s not a dot, says my Ammi—
It’s not a spot, it’s a bindi!
What’s a bindi, what does it do?
My Bindi keeps me safe and true.
How does it do that, Ammi, how?
Well when I stick it on my brow.
My bindi tells me where I'm from.
And it reminds me of my mom.
And when she gave me my first one.
VIVEK: In my day job I do anti homophobia and transphobia training. And in these trainings I always have like well-intentioned cis or straight people put up their hands and be like, "Well so much has changed the world is getting so much better don't you think? Have you seen children's books lately?" And children's books are always conjured as this example or evidence of change and I've always taken the word of well-intentioned straight cisgender people all at face value. But then I started looking into it. So this children's co-operative center basically looked at all the children's books made in 2015 and looked at the diversity of them. And so like 1% featured Indigenous children, 3% featured Latinx, 5% was Asian, as in like Pan-Asian, like all kinds of Asian were just lumped together. And then I think Black was 8% of all children's books. And my favorite stat is 12% of all children's books made in 2015 featured trucks and vegetables.
KATHY: Oh my god.
VIVEK: And so there are actually were more children's books that featured trucks and vegetables in 2015 than children of color. And you know of course these are American stats and Canadians love to get like morally superior. But like we're not we're not better up here. We really aren't. And I ended up having a J.K. Rowling moment and just like I was so frustrated that I like wrote The Boy in the Bindi on a napkin. I wish I kept it. For me, I was really trying to think about like brown gender creative kids and like wanting, and not specifically South Asian not specifically Hindu you know, like just brown like you know gender creative kids or LGTBQ kids to have a book that they could pick up and feel comforted by.
TOBIN: What's the experience like when you get to read it to kids?
VIVEK: I've been really fortunate enough to be invited into like elementary schools which I mean if you can close your eyes and imagine like a gymnasium of like you know little Grade Two-ers you know, 50 of them waiting for you to read your story it's like, it's the sweetest, sweetest thing in the world. And so you get invited which is really lovely. But then as the students are asking questions in the Q&A like, [IN KID VOICE] "what makes a boy a boy?”
VIVEK: Suddenly like you know the principal and the teachers, they get so tense, like I was getting the you know the finger rolling wrap up signal from the back so I was just caught off guard. But then there's also the ways in which children find their own cultural references through the book or feel supported through the book or their own sort of cultural identification. So, for example, there was this boy who put up his hand and talked about how his turban made him feel safe and true. And to me that was so exciting because I thought about my grade school experience and some of the kids that got picked on the most were like, little Sikh kids who had turbans. And I think that's one of the things about quote unquote diverse books is it's not just about you know this book isn't specifically so that you know kids who want to wear bindis can see themselves reflected. But it's also just like a way to create room for people to celebrate difference across the board. You know like the idea that a boy with a turban could sort of see himself reflected in a story about a boy with a bindi to me was like really exciting.
KATHY: In Indian culture is there any flexibility on who gets to wear a bindi?
VIVEK: I have found that there is a room for gender creativity. So I mean certainly men in India will wear like different forms of bindi even if it's just like red powder or like some kind of like sacred powder on their forehead in the shape of a dot. So like me wearing a bindi in India would be like nothing. But here it was definitely a thing.
TOBIN: So it sounds like being Hindu helped you understand yourself. Did it also help your family?
VIVEK: Absolutely. So I mean I came out as trans a year ago and I've been trying to like massage that conversation with my parents. And you know we actually have this deity like this God in Hinduism where it's split in two. So if you looked at it, it's literally right down in the middle is, one side is a male god and one side is female. So within the mythology and the iconography there's already this understanding or framework of like a bi-gendered God. And so I think, Hinduism gives my mom a framework to see me and to understand me I think, which is really handy.
KATHY: What is your relationship right now with your parents like?
VIVEK: It's such a bizarre thing like I feel like my obsession with my parents just like amplifies the older I get. Like our Prime Minister that I know Americans love to celebrate especially because of your president...
VIVEK: ...and ours looks like a Disney prince which you know...
TOBIN: He really does. [LAUGHS]
KATHY: I mean...
VIVEK: Don't be fooled, don't be fooled by it.
VIVEK: He went to Halifax Pride and so Halifax is like a small city too, it's not one of the major cities or a smaller city I should say. And it was a really big deal for like an acting Prime Minister to do that. But my mom sent me this article and she was like, "This is so beautiful" like it was photos of Trudeau at Pride and you know of course I have such complicated feelings about Pride and Trudeau and rainbows and all that. But it was one of those moments where like even though these things don't mean as much to me, it's become a way for my mom to talk to me and to see my queerness.
TOBIN: That's so funny. I feel the exact same way I went with my mom. She maybe struggled for a little while with with me coming out as gay and then now we're at a place where I feel like she sends me every article she reads where it's like “gay such and such does something” or “gay something has happened.”
VIVEK: [LAUGHS] Right.
TOBIN: And it's like it is that thing where you just want to be like, "Yes, thank you, I appreciate it, I see you."
VIVEK: Yeah, I feel like my mom in those moments, perhaps your mom too, is saying like I see you, you know? Like I see you, I love you, you know. And that's what I mean to by like immigrant parents like or like racialized parents of queer kids I think that they end up being not maybe as outward with their support. And you know a Trudeau article ends up meaning so much more to me than anything because I know the intentions behind it.
TOBIN: Does your mom wear a bindi and does she have thoughts when she sees you wear one?
VIVEK: Yeah. So I mean like first of all she does wear a bindi and now when she goes to India she'll like buy me bindis or I've gone bindi shopping with her. And again that feels like such a lovely thing because words like “trans” or “queer,” “LGBTQ” are never used and they don't need to be, right? Like, one of the things I found so frustrating last year when I came out was like I constantly was being asked like "have you told your parents, have you told your parents about coming out as trans" and I was like but I was just bindi shopping with my mom like how important is it for me to say the words. And I think it's a kind of white thing where you need to like name absolutely everything and if you're not saying everything using English in very specific ways then you're somehow being dishonest. And I would rather go bindi shopping with my mom than like sit and be like, "Mom I'm a transgender person," you know? [LAUGHS] And not from shame, not from shame but mostly because I think that like the gesture of her shopping for what's a feminine, historically a feminine accessory, with me feels like everything.
[MUSIC FADES IN]
TOBIN: Vivek Shraya is a Toronto-based artist, writer, and poet. Go to our website for pictures from The Boy in the Bindi. And I’ve got to tell you, the illustrations by Rajni Perera are adorable.
[THEME MUSIC IN]
TOBIN: Alright, credits time!
KATHY: You can find us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. We're @nancypodcast in all of those places.
TOBIN: Also don’t forget to join our Out at Work project at nancypodcast.org/work.
KATHY: Our producer...
TOBIN: Matt Collette!
KATHY: Sound designer...
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom!
TOBIN: Jenny Lawton!
KATHY: Executive producer...
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman!
KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.
KATHY: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
KATHY: The only joke I can ever always remember is the two muffins in the oven joke.
TOBIN: What's the two muffins in an oven joke?
KATHY: There's two muffins in an oven and one says to the other, "Man it's hot in here"
KATHY: And the other one is like "Oh my god a talking muffin!" [LAUGHS]
TOBIN: You're laughing at it now!
TOBIN: Oh my god you're really laughing at it!
KATHY: [LAUGHING] It's so funny!
TOBIN: You're still laughing about it...
KATHY: [STILL LAUGHING] It's such a good joke! [SIGHS]
[STARTS LAUGHING AGAIN]