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‘My Queer Diary’ and why trans representation matters in theatre

As both a Drama student and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m a strong believer in the concept of politicised theatre. I believe that when the government is silencing your voice, theatre is there to listen. Theatre often provides a platform to social movements and brings issues facing minority communities to the attention of a wider audience, thus spreading awareness and creating momentum towards social change. This was a driving force for me in a lot of my writing.  A characteristic which I hope is evident in My Queer Diary, especially since 2018 saw a huge rise in transitivism in Ireland.

For those of you who haven’t seen the creative force of My Queer Diary spreading its way across Instagram in the past month, the play was written by myself, under the name A.E Quinn with the help of my partner in crime, Hayleigh McGowan. It is a story of a young trans man named Blake and the adversity and discrimination he faces on his journey to transition. The story focuses on how this journey not only impacted his life but the life of his close friend, Amelia. Having only two characters, the narrative is quite intimate and at times heartbreaking. For me, writing the story of Blake into existence was about creating a didactic way for a cis-heteronormative audience to understand what trans and non-binary people face as part of their everyday life.

Ultimately, the play is placed in what would appear a dystopian reality, but is laced with the harsh truth that many LGBTQ+ youths, and especially trans youths, are still facing intense levels of homophobia and transphobia, despite popular belief. The piece creates a space were issues such as the strain on resources created by the lack of efficient trans health care causes, to the already weakened mental health services in Ireland. The lack of education surrounding LGBTQ+ issues, history and identities establish casualised phobias that are damaging to vulnerable members of the community. Our intent in creating Blake’s story is allowing an atmosphere where members of the trans community, and by extension of the LGBTQ+ community, can grieve over some of the hardships they’ve had to face while educating others on the issues by tossing them straight into the depths of these issues. This will allow audiences to experience Blake’s daily life even if only for the course of the play.

For me, it was imperative that we create a narrative where these issues can be discussed and processed through an accessible medium, particularly given that we had a very small pool of work to draw inspiration from. While writing the script over a year ago, it proved very difficult to find any work discussing trans identity or the hardships faced by the community.  After weeks of research, we stumbled across two Irish plays which focused on or featured trans characters: Amy Conroy’s Luck Just Kissed You Hello and Una McKevitt’s The Big Deal. Last year I saw the Civic Theatre stage a piece called Transition, Family and Me by Michele Ann Kelly, which tells the story of real members of the Irish transgender community. This production accounted for the third play depicting a trans narrative, meaning My Queer Diary will only be the fourth staged production in Ireland to focus on trans Identity. The production will also only be the second time a trans actor was cast in the trans role.

The amazing Sam Brophy will be playing Blake. Sam brings an added layer of authenticity and personal experience to the character that really brings to life the story of Blake’s social transition. We felt with the amount of podcasting faced by the trans community under Hollywood productions, it was important to allow that added layer of authenticity to bring out the harshness of reality faced by many trans youths.

In the modern world, representation is so important for how we see ourselves. Being able to see yourself and your experiences represented on stage or on television is imperative for self acceptance. This was a strong motivator for both myself and Hayleigh when writing the piece. We felt it was important to create authentic reactions and scenarios, while highlighting just how much casualised and internalized transphobia can impact your life. A lot of Blake’s story is drawn on personal experience and the experiences of those closest to me. From the smallest reaction to coming out, to hate crimes he’s experienced. It was important to showcase a range of experiences in order to create a discussion surround these issues that are often overlooked.

With the backdrop of last years gender identity and inclusion policy launched by UCD, I feel like it’s the perfect time to debut My Queer Diary. It allows a space for those outside the community to learn what not to do and how much personal development can positively impact trans people on their journey to transition. This play becomes even more important given the misinformation being spread about Trans identity in light of the Primetime debate on the 22nd January, and the rise of trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). The play will allow taboos surrounding trans identities to be deconstructed in a positive manner, giving an understanding on the issues faced by the community through conversation and self-growth and overall, allowing for positive movements of change. Paired with the launch of last year’s policy, this hopes to aid in helping trans and non-binary students feel more comfortable in who they are and the growth that can be achieved through highlighting the hardships they face.

My Queer Diary will run from the 11th to the 15th of February in the Dramsoc Theatre at 1pm. We hope to see you there.