As a queer playwright—I identify as transgender (gender fluid/gender nonconforming) and sexually fluid—I appreciate how theatre allows playwrights to explore topics, particularly a myriad of social and cultural commentaries, especially where those topics intersect one another.
Theatre is fearless. It welcomes and embraces this exploration of intersectionality. In that vein, I write work that is not “safe” or mainstream. All of my work explores such areas as the intersections between sex work, age, disability, race, gender, sexual orientation and “normalcy”. I write it in a comical manner that maintains respect for the subject of the story while adding to the poignancy of the topic. I write from my perspective as a queer person who wishes to present her work in the most accessible format possible without sounding preachy or angry. That vehicle, that method of delivery is comedy. It doesn’t matter if people agree with me or not. The goal is to open a dialog about these topics and to do so in the least threatening of ways: through humor.
BOUND BY LOVE
For example, Bound by Love addresses several social/cultural matters. The most prominent are the intersections between transgender life, sex work, sexuality, race, age and kink. The show looks at how we are all, essentially, the same whether we wish to admit it or not. It considers how we all have private and public lives and that our private lives aren’t all that different. The characters are a rainbow of races and ages and sexualities and genders to show how none of these matter in the grandest scheme. We are all a little bit kinky; it’s true.
The dialog I hope people will have after seeing Bound by Love is about the realization that with the obvious exception of sex trafficking, sex workers choose to work in the field. They fully understand the business. There’s nothing wrong with sex work. It’s simply another job. And sex is something nearly every human has. It’s beautiful. It’s not something we should be ashamed of. But at the same time, I want the audience to realize we also need to discuss the horror of sex trafficking.
Another one of my plays, Falling Out, explores age, gender identity and queerness in various ways. Following an older male bodies gender fluid person. The story, based on my life and experiences, addresses the hardships older professionals face coming out. Most older people—40 and up—grew up in a world without the words to describe themselves. “Transgender” is a reasonably old term, but it doesn’t describe everyone. It hasn’t been until the last five or so years that “gender fluid”, “gender nonconforming”, and similar terminology has come to the rescue, allowing older queer people to find the word or words that beside describe them.
What’s often lost in the discussion about the LGBTQ community is how older queer people have a different set of issues than younger queers do. Whereas the youngest generations have significant freedom to express as they wish throughout their life, older persons face bosses they’ve worked with for decades, spouses, kids…lives they’ve built. In other words, those in their 40s and up have a great deal to lose by coming out.
Falling Out addresses the intersection between age and gender and sexual identity by contrasting the protagonists coming out with the lives of their much younger friends, a transwoman, a lesbian, a gay man and a cishet couple. My desire is to open a discussion about the difficulty of not only being “different” but having to admit to the world you’re not who it thinks you are in terms of gender and sexual identity.
Transitions is a story dedicated to Sydney, a transgender woman who also appears in Falling Out. While they are stand-alone plays, together, they make up a genuine work of art that addresses multiple terms under the transgender umbrella. Transitions finds a transgender webcam girl trying to find her way in the world. She is friends with the characters in Falling Out but has her own rich story.
Transitions isn’t about just Sydney’s physical transition, rather it connects to the audience by showing how we are all the same in our lives, we all transition, we all face problems that force us to re-evaluate our lives and make changes, to transition to new ways of thinking, or acting, or doing. It is this intersection of life, whether transgender, cisgender or however we identify, that we all share. Life changes. The death of a child. An accident. A violent crime. All of these examples force us to re-evaluate life and transition. And for Sydney, a former Army Special Forces officer, life is about to be full of a lot more transitions than she ever thought possible.
The topics I write about aren’t safe. But “safe” isn’t a word typically associated with theatre; theatre openly explores controversy and places society and culture under a microscope then analyzes it within the frame of a stage and a couple hours. We see Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Kinky Boots, Fences, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, The Color Purple, Rent, Miss Saigon, and every other stage play ever address some social injustice or injustices. Each address topics that overlap, that intersect other social and cultural issues. That is the beauty of theatre.