Roland/Laureline, from Cercle Hermaphroditos, by Shualee Cook

Roland/Laureline: Tell me something first.  Before tonight, did you know there were others like Ambrose? Then, so far as you knew, he was a complete anomaly. And back when you supported him, you quickly found out you were alone too? I spent most of my youth that way. Only child. Only one I knew who couldn’t take their body for an answer. I did my best to hide that difference. Tried for a while to fight it. But then I discovered that it gave me special powers. My tongue could explain men and women to one another in a way each understood. My eyes could detect an invisible burden on someone’s back, or a secret in their heart. And most importantly, my face was etched with an openness to outcasts that only they could see. People felt safe in my presence. Would reveal themselves to me. Tell me things they’d never whispered to another soul. It’s then I saw that Loneliness, this monster hovering over my whole life, was a horrible liar. There is no such thing as aloneness. Only isolation caused by fear. There will always be someone who feels on the outside too, and understands. The trick is to find them. So that became my mission. I made connections, quiet introductions, weaving misfits together into one great colorful tapestry. You wanted to listen to who I am? Well, here it is, far more precise than man or woman or androgyne.  I am a knight in the war against Loneliness. Wherever I find it, I push back and make a family. I am a recruiter in the campaign for the meek to inherit the earth. I am a warrior of the unity of God. What is or isn’t beneath my skirts will always be secondary to that.  So you’re welcome here, Bertram. And free to be whatever version of yourself you wish.

Context: Cercle Hermaphroditos tells the story of a real-life social club for gender misfits in New York City in 1895. Roland/Laureline, the founder of the club confides to Bertram, who has just discovered that the gender-bending games he used to play with his younger sibling Violet/Ambrose were more serious than he thought, and is trying to understand this new world he finds himself in.

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Freddy, from Crooked Parts, by Azure Osborne-Lee

FREDDY. (black queer trans man) I had an idea before then, I guess. But this trip…something shifted for me. We were on the BART, Terrence and me, after this long-ass flight from New York to San Francisco. I get on the train, and it’s like I’m in shock. Like I couldn’t trust my senses. There were trees and mountains and this super fresh air, and my body just couldn’t take it all in. Spending too long in New York City will do that to you, I guess. So we were there on that train and when I finally started to relax, I had a vision. I saw two paths open up before me, two possibilities of the future. One was Winifred and the other was Freddy. I saw her, Winifred, 20 years in the future, working hard as ever and making a real difference healing her community. But she looked so serious, so full of responsibility. There was no joy in her face or in her body, at least not that I saw. She was in her home all alone. After all her clients left at the end of the day, there was nobody there with her. No lovers. No children. Nobody. Just her sitting in silence. Then I saw him. Freddy. I saw him 20 years in the future, wearing vibrant colors and smiling brightly. He was laughing! And I knew that he, too, had community. And he was doing the work. Of course he was! But he was joyful. He was at ease. And he was having great sex. I could just tell from the way he held his shoulders. He had opened up and he had somebody waiting for him. So I decided that that’s what I wanted for myself. I decided it was worth the risk. I guess…that’s when I knew for sure.

Context: Crooked Parts is a family dramedy set in yesterday and today. Freddy, a black queer trans man, returns to his family home in the South after his fiancé breaks up with him. Once there, Freddy must navigate the tension created by his transition and his brother’s serial incarceration. Meanwhile, in his past, 13 year-old Winifred struggles to balance her relationship with her mother with her desire to better fit in with her peers. Crooked Parts is poignant, queer, funny, and definitely definitely black.

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