On Your Island, from Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed, adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos

Letter Writer #3. Dear Sugar,

I’m thirty-four years old and I’m transgender.

I was born female, but I knew I was meant to be male for as long as I can remember. I had the usual painful childhood and adolescence in a smallish town because I was different-picked on by other kids, misunderstood by my family.

Seven years ago I told my mom and dad I intended to have gender confirmation surgery.** They were furious. They said the worst things you can imagine anyone saying to another human being, especially if that human being is your child. In response, I cut off ties with them, moved away, and made a new life living as a man. I have friends and romance in my life. I love my job. I’m happy with who I’ve become and the life I’ve made.

After years of no contact, I got an email from my parents that blew my mind. They apologized. They were sorry they never understood and now they do. They said they miss me and they love me. Sugar, they want me back.

I cried like crazy and that surprised me. I believed I didn’t love my parents anymore.

I have made it without them. I’ve created an island far away and safe from my past. I made it because I’m tough. Do I forgive them and get back in touch, or do I ignore their email and stay safe on my island? What do I do?

Signed,

Orphan

**The original letter read “a sex change.” The language has been updated in this post to reflect how the current vocabulary surrounding medical transition has evolved.**

Dylan, from I Think I Like Girls, by Leigh Fondakowski

DYLAN. (trans man, trans masculine)

I. There’s this – Home-Ec teacher that I had. And we’re having to create these – you know, I wanted to be in Industrial Arts, you know, I wanted to be building things, you know, but instead, they’re trying to teach me to sew and cook, and – I’m just not interested. And so, one of projects were – we had to make these little initial pillows, you know. So, of course, I’m supposed to make a “D,” you know, for Daphne. (He giggles) But my Father, you know, is totally not around, and he’s supposed to be taking me to the store to get all my fabric, and my thread, and my, uh, thimble, or whatever it is that you need. And uh, (pause) my friends and very – you know there’s something about the suburbs, especially, I think in the Midwest. Just kids really kind of stuck together, you know. And you understood, just different problems in different homes. And so, you know, my friends, or even people that weren’t my friends, were – just giving me their scraps, like you know, “It’s cool, you know, don’t let it bother you that your Father’s not getting it, we’ll just give you this stuff – and it’s like fine.” But every single day this teacher would be like, “When are you going to get your stuff, when are you going to get your stuff?” And I’m like, “Listen, I’m not going to get my stuff. Look, I have all this stuff – so it’s going to be a patch work “D” – isn’t that more cool?” You know? But it wasn’t good enough for her. She just kept up – like she was just nagging me everyday.

II.

Finally, one day, I was like, “Forget this.” And I started like throwing my stuff across the room. Like, you know, I threw my thimble to the one girl, you know, who gave me the thimble, I threw my thread back to the one person – so I’m like whipping my stuff all over the place. Not in a – thoroughly violent sort of way – it was pretty casual. But, you know, I’m getting my point across anyway. And um, the teacher walks up to me and says you know, Are you ready to go to the principal’s office?” And uh, (he exhales – “phew.”) And I remember just looking at her, and I don’t – I don’t really know where the idea came from, but I slapped her SO hard across the face. And um, and just looked at her and said, “Now, I’m ready.” And then I walked out – without a pass, okay. It wasn’t like I – I wasn’t just this out of control person that, um, (pause) you know haphazardly would just like (pause) run around and, you know, like – do stuff to people, you know. It was always – I always felt like I only responded when people pushed me.

III.

I firmly believe that there are only two reasons that a child gets gets targeted for the system. It’s either they are responding very sanely to being sexually, physically, or emotionally abused. Or, they’re not acting appropriate for their gender. There’s really no other reason. And um, in both those situations, we make this huge mistake of blaming the child, you know. When they’re acting very sanely, you know, they’re having a totally appropriate reaction to being mistreated.

Context: Dylan used to be called Daphne. He reflects on the Home Ec class he was forced to take in middle school.

More information: https://newplayexchange.org/users/2967/leigh-fondakowski

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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.

More information: https://newplayexchange.org/users/10285/azure-osborne-lee

Donate! Your donations keep The Non-Binary Monologues Project going. We are pleased to announce that we have been selected as an Incubated Artist through Headlong. This means that your donations are now tax-deductible!

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Gavin, from God Herself Could Not Sink This Ship, by Leanna Keyes

GAVIN. (trans man) Look: when you’re young and trans, you harbor this secret hope that there’s a cure. That you can take something or feel something and then you won’t be trans. For me and for her, that thing was love. If we could just fall in love and be a man and a woman, we’d be cured. We never said that to each other in words. But I was her girlfriend and she was my boyfriend. I was the first person she ever came out to. We’d been out at the mall all day and I jokingly suggested that she try on some girl clothes. She did. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone look so terrified with a grin on their face. That night she broke down into tears in my arms. She told me that she was trans and there was nothing she could do to change and she understood if I never wanted to see her again. And it was just so absurd. I came out to her too. The thing is, when you’re transitioning, you’re so wrapped up in your gender that you don’t even have time to think about an orientation. So I told her, “Amber, I’m bisexual, so wherever you end up is fine with me.” And I got her hormones through hell and high water. And here’s the thing they don’t tell you about hormones. Hormones make your gender shut up long enough to let you have an orientation more complicated than “somebody love me, please!” And somehow I ended up as a gay man she ended up as a lesbian woman. We stuck it out through high school, because what else were two closeted trans people going to do? But eventually we had to admit that our orientations and genders just didn’t match up anymore. No… that’s not right. We needed to prove that our genders didn’t match up. I needed to prove it. Because who’s ever heard a gay man that’s dating a woman? A real gay man? So I broke up with her. A year later, we’re both in college and we’re thick as thieves. We told ourselves that we were just bros. Just the two musketeers. And that’s what we were… all we were! Until we weren’t.

Context: This is spoken by a young trans man named Gavin. He and Amber grew up together and both ended up coming out as trans while in a relationship with each other. They have since broken up, and Gavin now identifies as gay and Amber now identifies as a lesbian. But Gavin has some complicated feelings left for her. This monologue is him speaking to Amber’s current girlfriend, trying to explain what it was like to be trans and in love.

More information: http://www.leannakeyes.com/god-herself-could-not-sink-this-ship.html

Donate! Your donations keep The Non-Binary Monologues Project going. We are pleased to announce that we have been selected as an Incubated Artist through Headlong. This means that your donations are now tax-deductible!

Donating is easy. >>Visit this link. Make sure to mention The Non-Binary Monologues Project in the notes section of the form, and you’re all set!