It’s coming up on sunset and Twiz Rimer, 35, and I are facing each other over a giant platter of dollar oysters. Twiz has recently come into the media spotlight as one part of Twiz and Tuck, a new reality series airing on Viceland. Twiz and Tuck follows a bachelor party/road trip for Tuck Mayo, a trans man known for his roles in pornographic films that Twiz, a gender-variant artist with Tourette’s syndrome, has orchestrated. I interviewed Twiz here about their experience filming and what that means for them in terms of gender and disability visibility.
Julie Vick: It’s rare to see a trans character on TV who doesn’t seem inserted for dramatic effect.
Twiz Rimer: Where it’s all talk about surgeries…or some bearded woman.
J: Or Jared fucking Leto. I really appreciate how the show is kind of like…Jackass, but also very intimate.
T: A bromance.
J: Yes. So how did the show come about? Is it something you pitched or did someone come to you?
T: Basically four years ago I was hired by our director, Elvira Lind, to work on a film, and I ended up being seen by her producers film-bombing in the background with Tuck, and those producers told her she needed to put something together with Tuck and I…”you need to get that guy and that guy to pitch something”…so we put it together and pitched it out. It was my idea to take Tuck on a road trip, but Elvira was the one to say, “Hey let’s film it,” and she pitched it. Originally it was supposed to be a web series for Pulse, but then Vice and Pulse merged…so it never aired on the internet. It got picked up a year later when Vice decided they wanted to make a TV show.
J: Before this did you ever think you wanted to be on TV?
T: I don’t think I ever thought about it as being something that would be able to happen. I’ve never worked in film or TV, and this was supposed to just be a web series. I didn’t know it was going to be on TV. That’s why my ass is all over it. If I’d known it was going to be on national television maybe my ass wouldn’t be all over it! Or my vagina!
J: The media can be pretty tricky to navigate, especially for members of marginalized communities. Did that concern you at all? Were you worried about how you’d be represented?
T: I didn’t really wrap my head around what was going on right away. Tuck and I did discuss what was going to happen, and we were expecting to be hated. We were expecting hate from straight people and gay people alike. And it’s true I’ve seen some pretty messed up comments on social media: everything from “that dude has the most fucked-up body I’ve ever seen” to “god hates fags.”
J: So I guess you really trusted your producer not to make you into a storyline that doesn’t represent who you are?
T: Elvira was hellbent on making sure that they weren’t going to make us look like shit shows. They can re-edit and make a whole new story out of the footage. They can make you a certain character. Tuck was a little more nervous…I wasn’t the one getting married; I didn’t have anyone to protect besides myself and some family members. With Elvira, I 100% trusted her and she told me “you can work with these guys and you can can trust them,” so I wasn’t scared of that at all. But at the same time if they had done something and tried to make me look like a person I’m not, that would have been fucked up.
“Tuck and I did discuss what was going to happen, and we were expecting to be hated. We were expecting hate from straight people and gay people alike.”
J: Yeah, a scary thing about the world we live in right now is how easily a taken out of context thing can probably ruin your life. You grew up in Florida?
T: Stuart, Florida. Its like two hours north of Miami. I went to high school in Jersey and then college in Boston. I moved to San Francisco in June of 2004, and that’s where I met Tuck.
J: Did your family move to Jersey?
T: No I went to boarding school. A lot of kids don’t like boarding school but I did. A lot of kids get sent there because they’re bad or whatever, so there were a lot of weirdos there. There are some funny stories. I could write a whole movie about the shit that went down in my high school. They were not supportive of me being a queer person. Apparently there was a bunch of shit going on, students’ parents threatening to sue the school…
J: Because of you?
J: So you’ve been out for a long time.
T: Yeah, I told my mom when I was about nine years old. I said, “Mom I love my friends.” And she was like, “I know, honey,” and I was like “no, no, no, mom…I love my friends” and she was like, ‘I know.”
J: She was like, no I get it.
T: Yeah. I had so many crushes. I liked all the girls at the barn where I had a horse. I liked all the girls on my public summer softball league. I liked all the girls that my twin brother ever dated. Actually, I probably had a crush on them first. It’s so fucked up when you have a twin brother and all the girls you have crushes on are straight and they end up dating him. And you look like him! There’s just one difference. It’s so unfair….Also I have a short tongue: also unfair.
T: I guess I never really came out came out, but I always just thought it was known. I guess my dad didn’t know until I was 18, which is ridiculous.
J: That fits into something I know about you, just from knowing you a long time: you don’t seem like the person who needs to declare who they are all the time. That’s really fascinating to me, because I feel like especially in New York and amongst people who’ve dealt with childhood bullying or adversity surrounding our identity, seeing that is rare. You’re very comfortable in your own skin.
T: A lot of it comes from having Tourette’s syndrome. The more agitated I am — stressed, tense, or bothered, even excited — makes it hard for me to control my body. So then you add in the bullying, being a gay kid, being eight feet taller than the other kids, and it is a lot. My mom told me when I was about nine years old that I was going to be brutally made fun of. She was like, “You are going to get your ass ripped up.” And it helped. It saved my life.
J: That seems like good parenting. This is going to happen and it’s not about you, so fuck ‘em.
T: She didn’t say fuck em, she was like “It’s up to you with how you want to deal with it.”
J: How is your relationship with your family?
T: My brothers and I are all really close. I have an older half brother who lives in Poland who I’m not the best at keeping up with. I’d like to be a little more in touch with him.
J: Has your whole family seen the show?
T: I don’t know. I think my father’s watching, but my father and I are not very close.
J: Does your mom like the show?
T: My mom loves it and wishes it would never end. She wishes it had gotten a little more psychological and a little bit deeper, but there are so many different angles that the show covers. We’re not just trying to show you that we’re just like everybody else, you know? That is part of it but it’s nice to just be able to be…
J: Human beings?
J: Without an asterisk.
T: We talk about things, we talk about Tuck’s porn past, his psychological and military issues, about growing up trans…but it’s very personable and relatable. Same with me. I have a disability that I’ve had to deal with that I think has made me stronger. That doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying. My favorite part about it so far is stuff I didn’t even think about before we were filming. At first I was just like “Yayyy somebody wants to put me on TV!”
“My mom told me when I was about nine years old that I was going to be brutally made fun of…And it helped. It saved my life.”
J: Do you get recognized on the street now?
T: Yes, it’s usually cis straight men of color. I think it’s because the show was right before and then right after Desus and Mero.
J: I love them.
T: Yeah. Yesterday this guy in Bushwick was like ‘Yo bro, you got that show on Viceland?”
J: Did he like it?
T: Yeah, he said he watches. He was like, “You guys are funny.”
J: That’s cool.
T: Yeah I’ve been getting a lot of cool messages. One kid from the Midwest wrote that they want to transition but they’ve stopped due to bullying because they don’t feel safe. They said that just seeing me has helped them get through their depression. I don’t want to be like I help people or whatever…
J: But this stuff matters!
T: It does. Stuff I didn’t think about at first: my normal is trans visibility. I didn’t realize that the entire country apparently needed to see this. I didn’t get it. That’s why Tuck and I were like “why do they want to film us?” I think that’s what’s been the most epic realization for me, and I didn’t even realize it the entire time.
J: But maybe that’s what made it so organic, and if you’d been thinking about the whole time it could have felt more message-y.
T: Right, we would have been going to like every single LGBTQ youth center in the Midwest and asking “What’s it like being gay here?”
J: So…let’s talk about gender.
T: Through my life I’ve never…I mean I struggled the most when I was younger, when I was trying to figure out an identification or words. Then I realized I just don’t care. I’m trying to be me. It started to become really stressful. I was getting a lot of heat, even from the trans community, to transition. But at the same time I get it. I actually have a hard time with they/them pronouns just because I’ll trip over my words but 100 million percent if you go by them/them you bet your sweet ass I’m gonna call you they/them.
J: I’ve had trans friends since I was a teen, but I never had gender neutral friends until more recently, and it was really shocking how hard using they/them pronouns was for me at first. Like, I was okay slotting someone into a box, but…I think it’s been really good for me to get over that.
T: If people want to call me they/them they’re welcome to: I don’t have a preference. My fiancee calls me she and I like it. I like that sometimes. I also like being called he sometimes. I know what I look like, I get it, and what society teaches us is I look like a man.
J: You look like Twiz to me.
T: Well yeah, me too! I’m not on any hormones. I’ve never taken them. I’m not intersex, my hormone levels are normal. This is my genetics. Yes, I did have top surgery years ago, but I had DDs and my clothes didn’t fit right. My life with tits flashed before my eyes and I was like, “Yeah, fuck it I don’t need these.” So I got top surgery and I’m happy I did it, but that’s the only alteration I’ve made. It’s like when you buy a motorcycle or a car or something and you do a couple little changes to make it yours. I customized my body.
“…my normal is trans visibility. I didn’t realize that the entire country apparently needed to see this. I didn’t get it…I think that’s what’s been the most epic realization for me, and I didn’t even realize it the entire time.”
J: That’s another cool thing about the show, you have two people who aren’t gender-conforming to societal norms, but in very different ways. Because it is a spectrum ::makes rainbow hand gesture::…I’d like for society to ultimately get there.
T: That’s never going to happen: it’s just going to be fighting and fighting and fighting until we all die.
J: Amen, the blessed relief of death.
T: My gender, though, I don’t identify. People ask me, “How do you identify,” and every time I’d get that question in my younger years I’d just feel pressured. Like oh my god I gotta figure this out. So: Gender variant. Genderqueer. Gender nonconforming. Masculine-presenting. Butch. Boyish. Whatever you need to call me. If that’s what’s going to make you feel comfortable then I can feel comfortable, and I can stop twitching and we can all get along. It’s not my problem to deal with how you need me to identify. You can identify me and I’ll know who you’re talking about. You cannot offend me by calling me trans, or a girl, or whatever. I’ve had people call me ‘Elizabeth’ trying to piss me off, trying to get me upset because they’re calling me by my birth name, but it’s a beautiful name. I just go by Twiz because it was easier for me to go into a men’s bathroom without having to worry about someone being like, “Hey Elizabeth are you taking a shit in there?” I just want to be able to pee in peace. Having Tourette’s is like living with a passive aggressive, critical roommate who lives inside me. The bully lives inside me, so I can deal with whatever you deal me.
J: What doesn’t the average person know about making a TV show?
T: It was really cool when I realized why the PAs are there.
J: Why are the PAs there?
T: To get me a Red Bull. And Taco Bell. I didn’t mean to make them run around but before I could even finish saying “bean and cheese burrito” it would already be in my hand.
J: They assist the production.
T: Without them nothing would happen and I think they need to be paid more. But I also learned I’m pretty natural in front of cameras, maybe because I’m a Leo. Tuck is obviously even more comfortable in front of cameras than I am: naked, and with a strap on.
J: But nobody ever saw his genitals!
T: Yeah that’s his claim to fame.
J: I think that’s cool.
T: I think it’s amazing! What is hard is long days. You’re sitting in a hot tub for eight hours. They’re only going to use twenty seconds of it, but it’s eight hours of freezing cold hot tubbing in December. Getting into it, getting out of it…Our show was a lot of fun, but there are a lot of people involved and they all need to be on time. And nobody is on time. You can’t move forward until everyone is there. I’m super on-time; I’m always early. We’d be 30 minutes past call and I’m knocking on producers’ doors. When we were in Vegas? Forget about it. We were in Vegas for 8 days. They asked me to drink the whole time which I thought was hilarious because I had to be the one driving (Tuck doesn’t have a license).
J: What do you most hope the audience took home with them?
T: Obviously I want people to like me. And the trans visibility and the genderqueer introduction, whatever you want to call it: gender variant, spectrum — I really want that to spread awareness. Tourette’s awareness is really important to me. Because that is one jillion percent misread in media constantly. It’s made fun of all the time. I’m genuinely excited about Tourette’s visibility, even if it only reached two people, the fact that I have a neurological disorder. Even more than gender shit, the Tourette’s thing was huge for me.
J: And it shows you have a really full life. That you have friends and lovers and you drive and you’re funny. Things you never see in how the media usually presents Tourette’s.
T: Right, not just some kid shouting “bitch!” and a punchline that he might have Tourette’s…Thanks, Adam Sandler! Thanks Deuce Bigelow, Male Gigolo! Being able to spread trans/genderqueer visibility on the show has been incredible, more then I could have even imagined. I have received such positive feed back in regards to my existence and how great it is to be myself on TV. I hope that I have also piqued people’s interest towards Tourette’s Disorder (TD). Living with Tourette’s is not an easy life, even if we seem to make it look easy. It is often painful, misunderstood, and cannot be controlled. TD is extremely misrepresented in main stream media/film and I am always looking for ways to spread awareness because the more people know about TD, the easier it is for us to be accepted in everyday life and society. This means a less stressful existence, and let’s be real: less stress equals less twitches. TD is exhausting, it’s impossible to walk outside without people staring at you. Rarely have I ever not been followed by security in stores because they think I’m a tweaker, and if you can believe this, I have even been spit on by people (numerous times) who think I am spreading H1N1 on the subway or coughing on them while waiting in line (it’s easier to travel in packs). I have been refused service, I have had the police try to arrest me, I mean…my gender is is the last thing on my mind…kinda. I’m just trying to live here! It’s impossible not to stand out like a sore thumb… so with that said I am so stoked that it got to be seen in it true form and all its glory, and I hope that I get to keep spreading awareness.
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