Artistic Statement

Artistic Statement

In my senior year of college at a fundamentalist Christian school I lived in a tiny apartment off campus which gave me a modicum of freedom to do illicit things like watch R rated movies. One night I went to Blockbuster and rented “Boys Don’t Cry.” I was nervous as I walked up to the counter, still not used to renting things that could be considered “scandalous”. I took the dvd home and popped it in and then cried through the whole film. 

It was the first time I saw someone like me depicted on a screen and now the only representation I had of myself was someone who was an outcast and then killed. What kind of message did that send to a kid like me? It told me that I needed to hide. That I needed to be afraid. And that I was a freak who would probably end up dead. I remember feeling this potent combination of relief and fear. Relief because maybe I wasn’t the only person on the planet who felt the way that I did. But this film taught me that there was only one future for me and I believed that because this representation was literally the only one that I ever saw. I still rarely see stories on stage that are resonant with my own experience as a transgender man. When I do see stories about transgender people it’s often clear that they were written by people who are not transgender and who have little connection with my community. Because of that the characters are offensive or one-sided or written with cisgender people in mind. They are voyeuristic.

As a transgender man who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church I have been haunted since a young age with questions: Do I belong? Can I find happiness? Is there hope for me? Is religion a force for good or ill? Who’s telling the story and what story are they telling and can I find myself in it? My work centers on telling stories that reflect the community I am a part of. A community that is growing and thriving and enduring. A community that is flawed and beautiful. A community that faces tragedy but also has hope. A community that lives. Stories have the power to change the world. They allow us insight, a chance to create empathy, and transport us to a place where we can allow our hearts to soften and our minds to change. Stories also provide a space for people to see themselves represented, to envision futures that they might not have otherwise been able to dream of. In the times we find ourselves in, this deepening of empathy and cultivation of hope is needed more than ever and so are the amplified voices of marginalized people. And sometimes? Maybe the transgender people get to have a happy ending.

In my plays I put stories and bodies on stage that we don’t normally see. I explore how specificity in focus leads us to empathy and allows us to engage with questions and issues more broadly. I play in the space of “small stories” that shed light on the “big issues”. I aim to reinvent the kitchen sink drama with characters who have never been allowed to be in the kitchen before. My focus is creating characters that are nuanced and accessible and in writing plays where there are no easy answers. I rely on dialogue that is efficient and complex and make arguments that weave and intersect. My characters are multi-faceted and explode stereotypes. My writing will be a part of the canon of transgender art that goes well beyond stories of coming out and transition.

I write to envision new worlds, to be a possibility model, and to envision new futures for myself and my community.