Far too often queer and Trans stories are represented as one homogenous set of images. Images of rainbows and glitter or a coming out story being this grandiose moment of conflict or acceptance. While for some people, these tropes hold true and are integral parts of their stories. However, often these ideas of what it means to be queer and Trans exclude many who haven’t lived those realities. A similar paradigm holds true with how we understand queer and Trans arts and representation in Niagara. For many LGBTQ+ representation happens in June with the Pride month events, or at the Pride Niagara drag shows. While these are certainly a fun time for many, that image of queerness and Trans-identities exclude those who don’t fit those molds.
To shed light on the complexities of variations of people’s experiences, on May 19, 2019, The Coming Out Monologues will be hosted at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines. This creative performance and artistic showcase focuses on folkx across LGBTQQ2SIA+ identities and communities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, Trans, queer, questioning, 2-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual, ‘+’ – identities not represented within the acronym), including two theatre-based performances, a Maker’s Market, a Visual Arts Showcase, an LGBTQ+ organizational info-fair, a raffle (winners selected during the performances), and food, among other activities.
Ari Para, the Coordinator for The Coming Out Monologues explained the necessity of having shows like this: “They are created by and made for the queer and Trans communities in Niagara and will allow for further representation of marginalized communities, especially for folx with intersecting identities,” Para said.
Co-director Kathleen Driscoll elaborates on this point, noting that “so often our stories as LGBTQ+ folks are either not told at all or told from the lense of cis[gender]-het[erosexual] writers/directors”. The Coming Out Monologues aims to move our stories forward from the standardized narratives of coming out, and showcase the multi-layered realities of what it means to be queer and Trans in Niagara.
While the region has been moving in the right direction in terms of bringing in a broader range of artists to showcase, such as Vivek Shraya and the performance of The Team, we are still in need of spaces that purposely prioritize queer and Trans artists.
Para shared his experience: “In the years that I’ve spent at Brock University and in St. Catharines, I found that the queer community in the Niagara region has slowly been finding a voice and expressing our needs and concerns to the community and to each other”.
In speaking to their experiences in Niagara, Driscoll also highlighted that “many of us regularly experience heterosexism and cissexism in our day-to-day interactions. That can manifest in micro-agressions in the form of a snide comment, or bigger things like having a hard time finding employment or being pushed out of areas due to rising housing rates”.
In thinking about the day-to-day realities of many people across LGBTQQ2SIA+ identities and communities, Siqi Wang, the photographer and Visuals Coordinator for The Coming Out Monologues, explained that “it will be an opportunity for people within LGBTQ+ community to share the experiences with a large audience and create a supportive space to have conversations around the differences and issues faced through our communities”.
Another key element of this show is that it is a fundraiser for OPIRG Brock. A long-standing social and environmental justice organization in St. Catharines, in 2018 OPIRG Brock lost it’s funding, putting the potential for the types of programming they offer at risk. Rooted in a mandate of community collaboration and supporting work that amplifies the work of marginalized communities, Para highlighted that this event “is an opportunity for OPIRG Brock to share and help express the importance of queer visibility to the community”. Having run over 80 events at Brock and in St. Catharines over the past year, OPIRG Brock is continually engaged in projects that further the discussion and foster opportunities for connection and growth with other work and groups in Niagara.
Building a show like The Coming Out Monologues takes a broad community effort. In addition to needing a wide range of experiences and perspectives to ensure we are widening our discussions and representation in the show, there are alot of components to organize. By working with organizations like Outniagara for the 2SLGBTQ+ Infofair and queer artisans through the Makers Market OPIRG has showcased the vast range of artistry involved, as well as a consistent passion for building networks and expanding options for queer and Trans folkx in Niagara.This coming together of LGBTQ+ organizing with LGBTQ arts shows the necessary partnership and overlap that we see growing in our community.
Many times queer and Trans lead-events —while open to the public — bring out the same crowd of folkx already existing and engaged this work. The Coming Out Monologues, while aimed to offer that safer space to exist openly for folkx in the community also aims to bring people who maybe have not attended this type of event before. Driscoll directly points to “com[ing] out and support work by and about us is a way to hold space for us”. In supporting LGBTQQ2SIA+ lead arts and supporting the work happening in the community, it expands the narrative coming out from not only acceptance but ensure greater opportunities and growth.
Ticket price options include a variety of prices ranging from $20, $10, Pay what you can and $40 for 5 tickets.
Tickets can be purchased in-person from OPIRG Brock or online at Eventbrite for a small additional fee.