Matt Cullen’s “Our Queer Life” started as a creative outlet during the pandemic. Cullen, a documentarian, dreamed of featuring different slices of the queer experience in a YouTube series. In order to get interviews with people like a former gay Jehovah’s Witness and a gay teacher-turned-escort, he had to hustle, and it’s taken him all over the country.
“I went on various Facebook groups to find those initial interviews,” he says. His channel now has more than 80,000 subscribers and over 80 videos that feature people like “Drag Race” contestants Kandy Muse and Eureka O’Hara and “Rent” actor Anthony Rapp.
Cullen, who’d read an article I wrote about my experiences as a gay autistic man, has reached out to interview me through Instagram. Although it has yet to happen, I’ve been a supporter of his, and I’ve been following his channel since before it started taking off at the end of 2021.
Cullen says his interview with street hustler Mousie was a significant moment for the project. “I was working tirelessly for almost 2-3 months, balancing filming/scouting talent/editing/working my side job,” Cullen says. “I decided to upload a little trailer I made for the second episode of Mousie’s onto TikTok, and it randomly exploded. All of a sudden, my full-length episode jumped up in numbers, it was gaining thousands of views.”
Cullen says the video, which has reached close to a million views in nine months, was a turning point. “To me, at that time, that was viral.”
Over the past year and a half, Cullen has learned how beneficial his work has been. “A lot of my audience is privileged,” he says, noting that through interviews they begin to see past their prejudices. “I’m so happy to see representation for not the ‘normal’ run-of-the-mill LGBT members,” one viewer commented on Cullen’s recent video where he interviewed a gay Latino couple raising a daughter.
Cullen has featured a number of transgender people on the show including Dylan Mulvaney, who was recently at the center of a histrionic controversy created by the far right after she did some spon for Bud Light. “I’m fully aware of what’s happening,” Cullen said. “I want to show a human side to [the transgender community]. We are all more similar than we think.”
The response has been encouraging to Cullen. “I hear from people every day that say my videos make them feel seen,” he says. “That maybe they’ve had a similar situation or life as one of my guests, and how much they respect how I handle the stories.”
Cullen isn’t afraid of things that some view as controversial, and if anything, he wants to help destigmatize those subject matter on “Our Queer Life.” Case in point: In a number of interviews, he addresses the topic of sex work, which was a subject he had become curious about after seeing how society those who hold the world’s oldest profession. He embraced that curiosity and has since interviewed sex workers of many different races, genders, and backgrounds. “A platform is to help teach and change the narrative,” he says.
Earlier this year, Our Queer Life was picked up by the streaming platform, WOW Presents Plus, which is sponsored by World of Wonder, and produces shows like “Alyssa’s Secret” with Alyssa Edwards and “UNHhhh” with “Drag Race” alums Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova.
“[World of Wonder] reached out to me after they had been watching for six months,” Cullen says. “My videos were only getting 2k views. You never know who’s watching.”
Despite the growth of his channel, Cullen said he’s still learning. “Having a good thumbnail and video title can make a huge difference. People are more inclined to click on something that engages them.” He regularly posts his videos every Sunday, and said he’s realized it’s important to stick to that schedule. “Be consistent. If you’re inconsistent, you lose trust from the audience, and they’ll go somewhere else.”
Now, Cullen is only thinking more ambitiously about the direction of his channel. As for dream guests? “Kim Petras, Demi Lovato, Andy Cohen… the list goes on,” he says. “But as much as I love having famous people on, I love even more stories of people in our community who haven’t had the platform to share their stories yet. That is truly where the heart of the show lies.”