Non-binary representation is still a new thing in mass media, but one Broadway play this summer is making sure to put gender nonconforming characters center stage.
July 30, 2018 in New York City saw the opening of Broadway show Straight White Men, a 90-minute play in which adult, white men come together to celebrate Christmas Eve.
The story of three cis-gendered Caucasian men sharing their plights, hilarities, struggles, and triumphs in a staged production is not unique. However, playwright Young Jean Lee had something different in mind when she cast and finalized the parts.
Considered to be “one of the best experimental playwrights in America” by Time Out New York, Lee specifically wrote in parts for two unlikely actors: Ty Defoe, a gender-fluid Native American artist, and Kate Bornstein, a nonbinary activist.
“I’m from the Oneida and Ojibwe nations,” Defoe, the gender-fluid Native American artist, explained to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “My gender identity is Niizhi Manitouwug, which means ‘transcending gender’ in the Ojibwe language.”
Bornstein is an acclaimed nonbinary activist, performance artist, and author, and uses pronouns they/them.
These actors are but two of many transgender, nonbinary, and gender-fluid actors that take the stage. Although trans acceptance in theatre is still new, it is easier for a trans man or woman to land roles than a non-binary individual. However, Lee made a deliberate point to write in and cast non-binary characters in her Broadway debut.
Undeniably, mainstream media has made tremendous strides to give voice to transgender, gender-fluid, and gender nonbinary individuals. Yet, even with film and television continuing to push the status quo of cis-gendered central characters, how has the inventive and provocative creative theatre industry fallen so far behind?
Perhaps Straight White Men is the foundation of a new trend of non-binary representation.
Photo courtesy of Kate Bornstein on Facebook