Love Letters to Nobody, by Maybe Burke

Michaela,

I’m sorry I gave Lands your name. I know it’s something we should have agreed upon first, but Michaela, I didn’t mean to scare him. I didn’t know he would hurt you like that. I had no idea that telling him I was a girl would- I didn’t even know we were going with Michaela. I always thought you would be Nicole. Mom always wanted a Lauren, but I think she wanted to be the one to name her. But I also don’t think I should have such a blatant girl name. I’m not even a girl, I’m just closer to that than any other word you could think to give me. So we’ll call you Michaela, but you’re not the right option for me. You are the woman I never got to be. The person that everyone seems to be scared I’ll become. The girl I can’t commit to becoming. I’ve learned so much from you, but telling him that you exist just proved to me that you don’t. You’re not the final answer. I’m still me, just not the me people think they see. Maybe I’ll find another name, but we can work together to make you a more substantial part of my life. I just need to make sense of all of these people I think I could be and find one concrete person.

 
Hey Cado,

You did the thing. You called me the thing. You said the word .. Uhm. You called me han.. Uh. You called me handsome. And that’s not. Uhm. It’s not like a slip up, it’s not an accident.. it’s your opinion. And I know you think it was a compliment but it’s just ..a thing that I can’t hear. I guess I should have brought this up earlier, but I never know how much is too much too soon. You can’t call me that. Look, when I was in college, having what I was calling my sexual revolution, but what I now refer to as .. “college..” I was lonely and making a lot of mistakes and I had this one night stand. This was the year I went through the rainbow in hair dye, so at this point I was blood red, like Little Mermaid red. Me and some guy were having sex, on my bunk bed, and he like put his hand over my hair so he couldn’t see it anymore and he told me “you’re so handsome.” Like, I know people call Angelica Houston handsome and if I really wanted gender equality words wouldn’t have implications of gender, he tried every kind of retort here. But I asked him not to do that and he just kept telling me I was handsome. I was a handsome man. So I get it. You think that’s a compliment. But I’m telling you it’s not.

 
Dear ..oh I don’t even remember your name.

I’m quite aware that I am the first trans person that a lot of people meet. So, statistically, it makes sense that I’m also the first trans person most of those people date. Which is fine, I don’t mind being different than what you’re used to. What I don’t like is being your training wheels. I like talking about gender and identity, but I’m not a fucking encyclopedia. We sat at lunch for two whole hours talking about my gender. Okay, to be fair you weren’t as bad as the date that literally asked for photo ID. We went over where you work and went to school, but from the second the food came it was Trans 101 and I was Professor Exploited. “When did you know you were different? Do you know Laverne Cox? I heard that hormones are actually really bad for you. Two gay brothers? And you? Ugh, your poor father…” Pretty invasive stuff for someone I just met to be asking me when all I know is that you work in finance. When the check came, I went to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to pretend to try to pay for my meal. When I came back you said “So, I noticed you came out of the Men’s room,” but all I noticed was that you didn’t pay the check.

 

Context: Love Letters to Nobody is a solo piece by Maybe Burke. These are standalone monologues that don’t have character names, and pronouns can be malleable. Please reach out to the playwright at maybeburke.com if you’d like to learn more.

>Donate to the non-binary monologues project here

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Alex, by Jamie Zeske

Alex (any female or gender neutral pronouns):

I know what you want me to say, about coming out: the secret shame, the “It Gets Better,” the well-adjusted gay adult embracing marriage equality, but that’s not me. That’s not how it happened. My coming out wasn’t this all-in-one, family dinner, Facebook post I could just get it over with all at once, it’s a lifelong process. Starting back in elementary school with jerks (“You’re a faggot”) and my friends (“Everyone thinks I’m gay just cuz I’m friends with you”) and my Junior High boyfriend (“Everyone knows about you, and if everyone knows about you they’ll know about me, and if they know about me I’ll never talk to you again, I’ll hate you, I’ll hurt you.”) And then in High School, my Drama teachers (“Bisexuality is a lie! It’s a phase, pick a lane!”) I never felt shame for who I was or who I wanted to be with, but shame was planted inside of me. All I knew is I liked people, and hugging and laughing, and sharing secrets at sleepovers. But shame was planted in me and so I carried it around. I carried it through trying out for cheer leading and, “Why are you friends with only girls?” and getting my head slammed into tile and knocking out my two front teeth on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. And so I carried it. And then I started to find words that made a bit more sense to me, like “transgender” and “genderqueer” and “woman trapped in a man’s body,” except I’m not trapped in a man’s body, I’m trapped in a man’s role. So I came out, again in 2012 to my family, my friends, my co-workers. They all know I’m a girl. Everyone knows I’m a girl but still all day, every day, I have to come out. To gas station clerks, to customers, to Lyft drivers, to therapists, to Grindr hookups, to the lawyer for my DWI case. Everyone knows I’m a girl, or “that I think I’m a girl,” but still, all day, every day, I get a lot of “sir”s and “bro”s…being treated as a man even though I’m a woman, even I begin to question it, it gets in my head. The shame and doubt are planted too. So I have to look at myself, and come out to myself: as a queer, as a woman, of someone worthy of love, as someone with a lot of love to give. And when I do that, it gets better.

Context about the monologue: This is an original stand-alone monologue from a video project.

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Cam, from Women March on Washington by Christine Kallman

Spring 2016. Early morning. We are in a hilly and wooded area in Northeast Iowa.
CAM (they/them) is dressed in outdoor wear with a backpack. They hear a low drumming sound.

 

CAM. Do you hear that?
Pause. CAM hears the low drumming sound again.
Ruffed Grouse. [beat] You won’t see them. They’re hiding in the deep brush. This tract — this hardwood forest— was saved from tilling because of the steep slopes and rocky soil. Perfect for grouse. And probably forty other species of birds.
Look! See the hawk? Red-tailed hawk. And those over there— turkey vultures.
This is what I love about my job.
Out here I always feel totally content.
I suppose I should be afraid, although I’ve never had anyone follow me out here.
I’ve been threatened, you know. Followed at night.
More times than you can imagine.
Pause. CAM listens and hears the grouse again.
We hear it in springtime. The male grouse make the sound by rotating their wings.
In some species, behavior is not so gender-specific. Birds, butterflies, a lot of insects
have both male and female characteristics. But I’m not going to try to make a lot of arguments comparing human and animal behavior. I used to do that.
Used to have detailed arguments. But you know,
people are just going to believe what they want to believe.

I don’t bring people here, generally.
I don’t want to expose this delicate environment to a lot of traffic.
I do bring my students here. This summer we sampled twelve streams
to measure aquatic diversity. Here’s what we found:
Streams like the one here— that have more diversity of life—
they’re healthier and better able to overcome stressors, like drought.
CAM starts down the hill.
Watch your step. I’ll take you down now. Down to the spring.
CAM walks down, then stops next to a stream. The gentle rush of water.
Always, when I’m out in nature, the— agony—
about who other people think I am—
just—
disappears.
Am I a woman? Am I a man?
On the street, in the grocery store, with a student. At a party. They’re looking at me funny.
They want to categorize me. It makes them so uncomfortable not to know.
What to do with me?
And I could say, well, I was designated female at birth.
But I don’t feel like a woman. Never have.
On the other hand, I don’t feel like a man either. It doesn’t fit for me.
Since it’s closer, I do generally present more like a man.
But I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want surgery
and I don’t want to give up the feminine parts of myself.
It’s funny. As a scientist, I’m always placing things in categories.
And I could tell you all about the way scientists are looking at gender
on a spectrum now— not just two choices.

But mainly, I want to make the point that
we are too quick to categorize people. Not just on gender,
but on a whole gamut
of characteristics. There is something really screwed up
about the way we put people in boxes.
Listen. People are not who you think they are.
Not a single one.
You think you’ve got someone pegged?
You don’t.
People are not what they seem.
And even if you could figure them out,
they’re like this stream. They’re always changing.
Being fed by something deep underground.
Pause. CAM puts their hand in the stream.
Personally, I find that refreshing.

 

More info: Character name is Cam (they/them). The scene is roughly in the middle of a full-length play (in development) entitled Women March on Washington. It received a reading this spring in Northfield, MN, with actors of diverse age, race and gender.

Playwright: Christine Kallman. I can be reached at my website, christinekallman.com.

>>Donate to the non-binary monologues project here