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Gender Euphoria, Episode 7: Trans Theatre and the Autobiographical Assumption

With Dr. Jesse D. O'Rear

Nicolas Shannon Savard: Hello, and welcome back to Gender Euphoria, the podcast. I’m your host, Nicolas Shannon Savard. My pronouns are they, them, and theirs. Today’s episode features a conversation with Dr. Jesse O’Rear about his research on and experience working with autobiographical trans narratives in performance. We talked through this problem of audiences habit of falling into what Jesse calls the “autobiographical assumption” when engaging with trans stories.

What happens when audiences and critics conflate the trans actor with the characters they play on stage? When all trans stories are read as intimate, personal narrative? What kinds of cultural expect expectations and available stories about trans people is this dynamic rooted in, and what are the implications? How are trans artists grappling with and resisting the demand to reveal our personal histories in our work? How are artists playing with this expectation, reimagining the power dynamics between performer and audience?

To give a brief introduction, Jesse O’Rear holds a PhD in Theatre from the University of Texas at Austin. His scholarly research focuses on live performance work, using autobiographical material by transgender artists. Dr. O’Rear also leads classes and work in community-based performance as a visiting assistant professor at Texas A and M University. Originally from New Jersey, he now spends his time at home in Brian, Texas, with his two dogs, Juno and Percy, and in Dallas with his partner, Erin.

Rebecca Kling: Gender euphoria is…

Dillon Yruegas: bliss.

Siri Gurudev: Freedom to experience—

Dillon: Yeah, bliss.

Siri: masculinity, femininity, and everything in between—

Azure D. Osborne-Lee: Getting to show up—

Siri: without any other thought than my own pleasure.

Azure: as my full self...

Rebecca: Gender euphoria is opening the door to your body and being home.

Dillon: Mmm. Unabashed bliss.

Joshua Bastian Cole: You can feel it. You can feel the relief.

Azure: Feel safe.

Cole: And the sense of validation—

Azure: Celebrated

Cole: —or actualization.

Azure: Or sometimes it means

Rebecca: being confident in who you are.

Azure: But, also, to see yourself reflected back.

Rebecca: Or maybe not but being excited to find out.

Nicolas Shannon Savard: Let’s talk a little bit about your dissertation research focused on autobiographical trans performance. Let’s start off with… How did you arrive at that specific direction for the research?

Dr. Jesse O’Rear: Yeah. So, what led me to focus on autobiographical performance was my first experience with being in the room with other people that I knew were trans and were very openly trans. So, this is actually the story that opens my dissertation, and I will milk it until it can’t be milked anymore because it was so influential to me.

So, when I was an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to go and see Sean Dorsey perform live at Dixon Place Theatre up in New York City. And his company was performing their piece Uncovered: The Diary Project, which is centered on Lou Sullivan and the archive of his diary entries that is housed in the Archives in San Francisco. And I went there, actually not because I knew who Sean Dorsey was, but because Kate Bornstein was doing an introductory piece before Sean’s performance, and I was brand new to queer theory at that point. I was just going into my sophomore year in college, and I knew Kate's work and I was very excited at the opportunity to go and see Kate perform. So, I went and was in the audience for that. And so I had no idea what to expect when the actual performance began. And I was so moved. I think I may have cried the entire performance. It was the first time that I was in the room with somebody that I knew was a trans man, somebody who had pursued medical transition. For me at that time, I was still figuring out how I wanted to describe my gender identity. I was figuring out what I wanted to do with this body that I had that never felt quite right, but also never felt completely wrong.

And I was learning so much new language and vocabulary through my studies, but none of that language did for me what sitting there in the room with Sean while I watched him dance did for me. I could have read every word in the dictionary, and it would not have had the same effect on me as watching him stand on stage and take his shirt off and show the scars from his top surgery while his voice plays over the speaker, reading the words that Lou Sullivan wrote after he began his medical transition.

And so, it was this incredibly powerful moment of seeing what my future could look like while also learning about what the past had to offer me and what the past had to offer what I now realized was my community. That sent me down the road of wanting to do archival research. That sent me down the road of wanting to read more autobiographical stories. It sent me down a path of wanting to figure out what my autobiography… What was the story of my identity? What was the story of my body? And not just the past of it, but what was the future of that going to look like? And so, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with that ever since.

Nicolas: Sean Dorsey’s work is incredible. Just amazing. I see you’re wearing the Fresh Meat Festival sweatshirt. I got to go see that in 2019. Fresh Meat, got to meet Sean Dorsey and just sat in that festival in San Francisco for 3 nights in a row. I did not realize that it was going to be the same performance 3 nights in a row, but that was great for doing research. I got lots of notes, met lots of people, people who were like, “Why are you here from Ohio? What are you doing?” I was like, “I came to see you.” And they were like, “I’m honored. And also, are you okay coming from Ohio?”

Jesse: I got the same response when I went to Fresh Meat. I think I went in 2018, and I got the same response. “We’re so glad that you’re here. You’re from Texas? Why?”

Nicolas: Grad school offered health insurance, that’s why.

Jesse: Yeah. Grad school is always the answer.

Nicolas: But yeah, I think similarly that was the first time theatrically that I’d been in a room with so many trans people and felt like the performance was actually meaning to speak to people like me. In not a generic, “This is for everybody” way. No. This is meant for you. Cried a lot.

Jesse: Yeah.

Nicolas: By myself in San Francisco for the first time.

Jesse: Yeah, me too. Yep. Been there.

Nicolas: You know…

Jesse: Fresh Meat. It’s great.

Nicolas: Fresh Meat [Festival]. It’s wonderful. It’s the longest running trans, queer performance festival in the country. It’s been going for over twenty years now and they’re incredible. Check them out. There will be links in the show notes. I think I was going to segue us into this idea of the autobiographical in trans narrative, and obviously it is very powerful and has these very positive elements of connection and feeling reflected and being able to see people like you on the stage.

And yet there’s also this expectation that all trans performance and art must be autobiographical to the point where in my dissertation research, I was reading reviews of Paul Lucas’s Trans Scripts, which he interviewed 75 trans women and then condensed those interviews into 6 characters to do a verbatim theatre-type thing. But in the reviews for this, it was very well reviewed. So, Paul Lucas is congratulated for his brilliance. The actors are congratulated for their bravery in sharing their stories. And they’re very rarely mentioned by name who these actors are. And the thing is: it’s not their stories. It is explicitly not.

Jesse: Mmhmm. Yep.

Nicolas: But it’s just automatically assumed that like, “Oh, this trans woman is telling her personal story to me.” Like, no, these are very talented actresses. Professionals. And I need to write this into a paper somewhere. I have so much rage about it.

Jesse: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I got a lot to say about that if you’re ready to open that floodgate.

Nicolas: I think just the double standard is so glaring that we have this cis white man who’s compiled these interviews, which good job. Did good research. Connected them. And he’s getting all of the accolades and multiple productions, and it tours and goes up at all sorts of places. Like I can collect 45 pages of reviews from a couple of productions, and the actresses just get no credit. I think it was maybe a quarter of the time their names were mentioned at all.

Okay. Quick aside here: when Trans Scripts premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015, the cast included incredible trans talent, including Calpurnia Adams and Princess Jay Knowles. In addition to Bianca Leigh and Rebecca Root, who both continued with the show in its US premier at American Repertory Theater in 2017, alongside Marlo Bernier and MJ Rodriguez. Back to my point.

Jesse: Mm-hmm.

Nicolas: And like half of those times still, it was just like Calpurnia Adams and some of the most famous trans actresses just like sharing their stories. “How brave of them. Wow, how vulnerable.” And I’m like, “It’s not her story.” And the fact that you think it is, it’s a testament to her acting ability.

Jesse: Exactly.

Nicolas: Even more impressive that you thought it was hers. It’s his work that gets picked up and taken other places. And it was his first play. And I know so many actual trans people who have been working for decades and struggle to get a production, lucky if they get a review, and it kind of brings up questions of like, “What are cis audiences ready to hear? What are cis producers willing to take a chance on?”

Jesse: Yep.

Nicolas: And, I mean, there’s a bunch of other problematic things in the reviews of like, “What are cis audiences able to currently pull out of trans narratives?”

Jesse: Yep.

Nicolas: Trauma mostly.

Jesse: Yep.

Nicolas: And we’re trapped in the wrong body.

Jesse: Right.

Nicolas: And that’s where we’re at. And everything must be this person’s story because trans people can’t possibly also be talented actors.

Jesse: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Nicolas: So, anyway, that was a long rant, which was I wanted to talk about this expectation that all of our work must be autobiographical. I think I want to know your thoughts on what kind of tension does that end up creating. There is this assumption that obviously for the actors working in transcripts that their work as actors gets erased. So, what are some of those tensions that you find that folks are kind of pushing up against, pushing back against, grappling with? Because a lot of us do work autobiographically. Again, myself included, but there’s kind of a complicated relationship with doing so.

Jesse: Mm-hmm. Complicated is definitely the word that I will use and have used to describe our relationship as trans people to the autobiographical. So, I think as maddening and frustrating as this—and in my dissertation, I call it the “autobiographical assumption.” As frustrating as that is, I think I understand where it comes from. So why I use the phrase “autobiographical assumption” (in quotation marks) is in response to a theory by Viviane Namaste, which is the autobiographical imperative. In the autobiographical imperative, Namaste describes as the way in which trans people, when we are invited to or asked to or given a platform, particularly in the media or in any kind of public sphere; when we are given space to speak, it’s expected that we will use that space to discuss the intimate details of our experiences. So, no matter what you intend to talk about, you’re going to end up talking about your body. What you do with your body. How you feel about your body. How you have felt in the past about your body, and not about whatever other thing you may have been actually brought there to talk about.

So, that the most, I think, prominent example of that I always call to is the interview with Katie Couric, that Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera did in 2015 where they’re on the show to discuss their work as performers and as models. And Katie Couric begins a line of questioning with Carmen Carrera about surgery, and Carrera tries really hard to steer the conversation to be about her work as a model, which is what she’s there to discuss. And there’s a point at which Katie Couric just point-blank asks Carmen Carrera what her genitals look like. And that is exactly what Namaste is talking about. It’s this expectation that we will talk about it. It’s not just that we’re going to get asked about it. It’s that we are going to be willing and able to talk about it because the assumption there is that the audience to which we are speaking is a curious, unfamiliar cisgender audience.

And we are always expected to be of service to that curiosity. So that imperative, I think, is constant and pervasive. And I think that is what leads then to the “autobiographical assumption.” Even trans people, I know as a person who has grown up in the US that if I see that a trans person is going to be on some kind of talk show, with dread, I do assume that’s what’s going to happen. So, I think that we are just so used to and inundated with that autobiographical imperative, that then when we witness something that involves trans people speaking, we do assume that that’s where we’re going to get because that is historically what we get, whether the person speaking wanted to do that or not.

Nicolas: I think I end up pleasantly surprised when we don’t go that way, particularly in mainstream settings.

Jesse: Exactly. Now here’s where the complication comes. Is then also... And I’ve already attested to this and speaking about Sean’s work. Sometimes those autobiographies or those autobiographical moments are the key moment for particularly young trans people or trans people who are still figuring out their identity—who are not necessarily always young, but people who are early on in their understanding of their transness—those autobiographical stories are integral to understanding who you are. And Sandy Stone actually writes very specifically about what she calls the obligatory trans archive. And when she talks about this, she’s talking specifically about trans women who are early on in their transition, usually prior to pursuing any kind of medical transition, who will collect the stories from trans women who have been through those experiences in order to not just learn about what it’s going to be like and to find that resonance of yourself, but also because of the way that the medical industry is set up. They’re learning how to present their own autobiographies in a way that doctors will recognize so that they can get the treatment that they need.

So there’s this web, I mean, it’s in certain ways like a... I always think of it as kind of like a DNA helix or something like that of we are seeking a doctor’s prescription to create a story for our body that resonates with us. But in order to do that, we have to tell that story in a way that may not be authentic to us, but that instead speaks to the expectations of that person who is in that position of power to grant us that access. Complicated relationship. Yes. So, I was thinking about this when you were talking about being at Fresh Meat. And what that experience was like to witness something that you knew was not only speaking to your experience but knew it was speaking to you as a trans person. And my discussion of the autobiographical assumption in my dissertation was related to a piece of theatre that I worked on in August 2019 that I was working on, starting in August 2018, which was a devised performance called TRANSom that I worked on with Ground Floor Theatre in Austin, Texas.

Nicolas: And Siri Gurudev. Another previous guest on this podcast.

Jesse: Yes.

Nicolas: It is a small world.

Jesse: And also Dillon Yruegas.

Nicolas: Yes.

Jesse: Was part of that devising group as well.

Nicolas: Another previous guest.

Jesse: Mm-hmm. The two of them…what a privilege it is to get to work with them. Was just incredible artists and thinkers. They’re so wonderful, the both of them! But our intention with TRANSom was to do just that, was to devise a piece of theatre with an entirely trans and non-binary cast that depicted characters that were also trans and non-binary and that were also not ourselves. So in our devising process, where we started was we did start from personal experiences. Actually, we shared some old diary entries that we all had. We shared some of the things that we had been through as trans people from different walks of life. But, then, we took elements of those stories and used them to create fictional characters that were not ourselves. Now, of course, you write what you know, so we did incorporate some elements, but the elements that we incorporated were not always incorporated into the character that we played. So, elements of my story were incorporated into a character that somebody else was portraying.

Our other guiding idea behind the devising process was, “What are stories about trans people that resonate with our experiences, but that we don’t get to see very often or that we feel haven’t been reflected?” We were trying to stay away from stereotype or cliche and this was a delightful part of the process. It was a little bit of wish fulfillment. For us, it was like, “What do we want to do? What kind of character do you want to play? What’s a character you’ve never played before that you would like to perform? Okay, we’ll make your character that thing.” It was this opportunity for trans actors to get to play a role that maybe they wouldn’t necessarily be cast as in another production.

Nicolas: Or that isn’t written and published somewhere.

Jesse: Exactly. Exactly. We worked on that piece for a year. Some of our original devising company members were involved in the performance of the piece. That was Siri. Dillon was part of the devising process, but then he moved to Boston to work at HowlRound. So, he wasn’t in the performing group. Adrian Lancaster was part of that original devising group. And then, we cast a couple of people from the local community to then fill in some as other roles. That was Alyssa Thompson, Osma Darling, and then our stage management group.

Anyway, what then happened after the performances, audience members were coming up to us in the lobby after the show, all of us in our plain clothes, and talking to us as if we were our characters. Asking us about things that our characters had gone through in ways that it implied that it happened to us. For example, I played a character who had a YouTube channel and was a YouTube like personality and content creator. I had people come up to me after this show and ask what my username on YouTube was so that they could follow me.

I was like, “I don’t do that. I’m a grad student. I don’t do—It’s not what I do.” I know that other cast members had similar experiences of people coming up and saying to them, “Oh, your character is really into crystals and magic. So am I, and I’d really love to talk with you more about that.” That actor was like, “I don’t actually know anything about that.”

Nicolas: So sorry.

Jesse: Right!

Nicolas: My knowledge ends with the lines I said on stage, what I needed to know, just to inform those.

Jesse: Exactly. It was such a bizarre experience. I mean, it makes sense to me. As I’m explaining that, I understand why people assume this about trans people, but we just worked so hard to create a show that we, and I don’t feel at all that we failed. I’m going to be very clear about that. It was just interesting because there were things in the show that we put in specifically to make it very clear that this was a fictional story. We had these very beautiful, fantasy moments where things were happening outside of the… beyond the fourth wall, clearly beyond the realm of reality.

Lisa Scheps, who is the founder and artistic director of Ground Floor Theatre, who co-directed the show with me and then she and I had to also fill in roles in the show. Her character dies at the end of the show, and clearly Lisa is still alive.

Nicolas: And she stood up and took her bow.

Jesse: Right, so it was just this moment of being… The power that the auto biographical imperative has over people’s understanding of trans people and what we’re here to do, which is just to be people in the world and live a human existence the way that everybody else does. That was the key for us in that piece as well was we wanted to create something that wasn’t for a cis audience. We wanted to be something that a cis audience could enjoy as a piece of theatre, but it was not meant to be something that would fulfill that role of teaching you something about trans people.

One of my favorite anecdotes about the show is our metric every night for what kind of audience we had was, in one of the very early scenes, two of the characters are discussing… This show is based around a woman who opens her home up to trans youth who need a place to stay. They’re discussing how to organize all the mail that comes to all the different people who live in the house. One of them suggests a labeled cubby system, and she says, “We could call it assigned mail.” Then we would all sit backstage and wait to see what the audience reaction to that line was going to be. Some nights it was dead silence because nobody understood the joke. Some nights there were a couple of little chuckles, and then some nights you knew it was going to be a good night if that got uproarious laughter. You knew what the level of comfort and understanding the audience had based on their response to that line.

Nicolas: I think I had a similar experience touring my first solo show to fringe festivals. It’s called Five and a Half Feet of Fearsome. I start out. I’m at this recruitment meeting; I’m running it. It is the annual meeting of the gender deviants and other queer folk of whatever state I’m performing in. Item number one on this agenda is to welcome the new recruits. I just try and pick the straightest looking row of the audience and have them stand up and we applaud them, and I tell them they’re very brave.

Jesse: Yes.

Nicolas: Then, I let them know that their uniforms are on back order. They’re come in the mail. I would know how queer the audience was on any given night based on my explanations of the lesbian uniform, which is your standard issue, red plaid men’s cut flannel. In the right breast pocket, you will find a tube of chapstick and a pair of nail clippers.

If the audience was just sitting there nodding along, I was just like, “Okay, I’m performing for straight people. I see. You are taking me very seriously and trying to learn my story. I’m supposed to be telling you story, and I am not. I am just this weirdo in eyeliner and lipstick and combat boots, and you’re very confused.” I would also immediately find all the queer people in the audience because those were the people who knew what I was talking about in that line.

Jesse: Yes.

Nicolas: They didn’t have to think through, “Why do lesbians need nail clippers? Why does this teen boy know that?”

Jesse: They have the comfort to laugh at it too.

Nicolas: Yeah.

Jesse: That’s the other thing. Sometimes you get the dead silence of not understanding. Then sometimes you get the stilted laughter of, “Oh that was a joke. Am I allowed to laugh at that? Oh shit, is it…is it rude if I laugh at that? I’m just—I’m going to quietly chuckle to show that—”

Nicolas: It’s not okay to laugh at trans people anymore I’ve heard.

Jesse: — “I’m cool with it.” Right, right. Exactly. Somebody’s—

Nicolas: I’m like, this is going to be so awkward if you don’t laugh.

Jesse: Somebody’s state mandated diversity training was like, “Don’t laugh at them.” They were like, “But what if they make a funny joke? Am I allowed to laugh then?”

Nicolas: Trans people can be funny. We have to be.

Jesse: We often are.

Nicolas: Yeah. It’s my theory. It is a survival technique.

Jesse: 100 percent.

Nicolas: Being funny. I did have one girl in one of the back rows that I had stand up was really excited because she was already wearing a flannel.

Jesse: Yes.

Nicolas: She’s like, “I’m so ready.” I’m like, “Yes, come down. Model it.”

Jesse: That reminds me one of my favorite moments from a show ever, not a show that I was a part of, but Annie Danger’s Fully Functional Cabaret where they have one of the performers, who is a trans woman, is in the audience as a plant in boy drag and comes up to the stage. Then the other trans women who are part of the cast are trying to help this person…basically help her to pass. They turn to the audience for suggestions. It is the most deliciously uncomfortable thing in the world because everyone in the audience is like, “Oh no. We’re not supposed to do that. We’re not supposed to… No, we’re not supposed to do that.” They won’t move forward until somebody says something, and it’s just that… Oh, that wonderful moment of really…going back to the beginning of our conversation, right? It’s asking you to do something.

Nicolas: Yeah.

Jesse: In this case, it’s asking you to do something that in any other context would be so damaging and so harmful but facing it in this context of the people who would be harmed by it are entirely in control of it.

Nicolas: There’s a different episode of the podcast I talked to Rebecca Kling and she’s a solo performer and pre-surgery after her shows she would do a talk back type thing. She called it a Strip Q and A. For each question the audience asked, she would take off an article of clothing. I wrote about that one in my dissertation because it just makes this such an interesting conflict, which is like, “How badly do I want to know this information? How vulnerable am I making you be?”

Jesse: Yes.

Nicolas: “Is my question worth it?”

Jesse: Totally. Ah! And again, the way that that uses the body to show this actual, this literal vulnerability of getting naked or removing your clothing, but also the, just that physical manifestation of the ways that those questions do absolutely attempt to strip you bare metaphorically, but also sometimes, literally.

Nicolas: Yeah.

Jesse: Ah, it’s so brilliant.

Nicolas: But like also she gets to be empowered. We’ll just continue like carrying herself as she would, and as she has been for the forty-five-minute performance. Just now completely naked.

Jesse: Oh, that’s so good.

Nicolas: I get to talk to so many great people who are brilliant, and I love it. Let’s see, I saw that you talked to Shakina Nayfack for your dissertation. I also got to talk with her about her One Woman Show. And we also talked a bit about this idea of autobiography, and she used your term, the “autobiographical assumption.” And she said something that really stuck with me in that, when she was specifically performing for an audience of large majority cis people within the Broadway community, she felt so much pressure to just like really kind of exploit her own story and her own trauma. And I think she’s not alone in that kind of pressure in telling your own story and in the kind of trans narratives that are kind of, I guess, legible culturally. I think that’s something that I run into in my own work is walking that line of, “How vulnerable do I be? Yes, this is part of my story, but do I want to repeat it?”

Jesse: Yeah.

Nicolas: Or “If I’m going to repeat it, do I do it in the way that you’re expecting me to? And how do I kind of do it in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m performing my trauma for these kinds of voyeuristic cis onlookers?”

Jesse: Right.

Nicolas: I was wondering if you’d come across that additional tension.

Jesse: I always do. And so how do we do that, but also “How do we make sure that we’re also not sugarcoating and asking you to smile and say that everything is great, right? How do we acknowledge the different facets of experience? The experience of being queer or being trans in these contexts?” And I think it’s complicated. I think it’s complicated. And I think I personally have more of a tendency not to sugarcoat, but I do have more of a tendency to be like, “I just want joy! I just want trans joy!” And I’ve had creative collaborators and colleagues very gently remind me, right, to not compartmentalize in that way, and I appreciate those reminders. So yeah, I think that that’s why I tend to really lean on this terminology of thriving in an attempt to hold that balance in a way that feels healthy.

Nicolas: That seems like a lovely note to end this section of their conversation on. So I have a couple of questions before we wrap up. The overall thesis of this entire series is that trans people are everywhere, and we have always been here. So, you have mentioned a whole bunch of different folks throughout our conversation today, but I’m wondering if there is a member or members of your queer, trans artistic family tree that you’d like to give us a shout out to who has kind of helped show you the way, get you to where you are today.

Jesse: Yeah. Oh, I’m sure every guest has had this experience of being like, “I could tell you so many people.”

Nicolas: Oh yeah.

Jesse: I think that one, this is not going to be my only answer because this is an absolute cop-out answer, but I think that every single trans person I’ve ever met in my life has been influential and integral to my experience. And I consider every one of them to be a part of my extended family tree, whether they know it or not.

Nicolas: We’ve also talked about this is that sometimes the people who are part of our artistic and queer, trans lineages don’t even know we exist

Jesse: Mm-hmm.

Nicolas: But that doesn’t mean they haven’t impacted us.

Jesse: Exactly. So with that very broad response to that being said, I think that who I have to make particular mention of are Dillon and Siri and the entire cast and creative group of TRANSom. Being a part of a creative process that centered, not only centered trans and non-binary people, but also was a majority trans and non-binary people, really makes it hard to step into any other type of space because it was just so nourishing. And major person who’s a part of that I have to mention is Lisa Schepps, who is just doing an absolutely incredible job at Ground Floor Theatre. The work that they do is just… I mean, it’s high-quality theatre, and it’s also centering the experiences of historically marginalized people, not just trans people, but queer people, people of color. It’s just really, really groundbreaking work. And working with Lisa, alongside Lisa as a co-director and advisor in that process, was one of the most, I think, educational and fun and honestly healing experiences that I’ve ever had. And I’m very, very grateful to her for the work that she’s doing.

Nicolas: Fantastic. And finally, could you leave us with an image of what gender euphoria looks like for you in performance or in everyday life?

Jesse: Hmm. Gender euphoria in performance to me, I think, looks like getting to be on stage, whatever that means, whether it’s literally on stage or on a Zoom reading or something. But getting to play a character that gives you the opportunity to show that you are more than your assumed autobiography, I think. I have to also credit Dr. Cáel Keegan with this sense of reclaiming the bad transgender object, so I think gender euphoria to me would look like getting to play just a mean horrible but, like, delicious villain and also still being trans in doing that, right. And being able to do that without fear of what kind of “representation.” I’m using air quotes. On this audio format, I am gesticulating importantly.

Nicolas: Theatre people, what can you do?

Jesse: I know. I think that’s what that is for me. Like just getting to play somebody that is really juicy and not worry about how it’s going to reflect on your audience’s understanding of your gender for whom you clearly speak.

Nicolas: Yes. Thank you so much for chatting with me.

Jesse: Thank you. I’m so glad that you’re doing this series.

Nicolas: Yeah, me too.

Gender Euphoria, the podcast, is hosted and edited by me, Nicolas Shannon Savard. The voices you heard in the opening poem were Rebecca Kling, Dillon Yruegas, Azure D. Osborne-Lee and Joshua Bastian Cole. Gender Euphoria, the podcast is sponsored by HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide.

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Thoughts from the curator

Hosted by Nicolas Savard, the Gender Euphoria podcast aims to amplify the voices of trans and gender nonconforming theater artists in the United States and creates an opportunity for trans artists to be in conversation with one another about their experiences working in a field that has a tendency to tokenize them. Each of these conversations will offer a space to share and explore the kinds of cultural work that trans/queer art is doing in the world from an intersectional perspective.

Gender Euphoria


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