Name as you’d like it to appear:
Quenby H
Gender as you’d like it to appear:
City you live in and/or improvise in most:
Personal website or another project that you’d like to link to:
I blog about queerness, sex, mental health, and whatever else takes my interest at https://queerdoconfusion.wordpress.com/. I am currently working on Trans Joy, a weekly blog series celebrating the positive side of trans experiences, in an attempt to bring some balance to contemporary trans discourses.
Impro(v) Bio: I’ve been doing improv with The Improfessionals in Leeds for almost 2 years now. I also regularly incorporate improv into other forms of performance.
How does being trans*/NB influence your impro(v)?
Gender is confusing to me, I only believe it is real because other people tell me they experience it. Having such a nebulously chaotic relationship with gender can be quite liberating, I often won’t come in with any fixed ideas about a character’s gender and that leaves me with more options. Of course, people project their own expectations on a character, but that can be fun to play around with. I enjoy subverting expectations and presenting different ideas on the improv stage.
How do you feel about cisgender actors playing trans*/NB characters in impro(v)?
Errrr I don’t see much of that in improv? I sometimes see men playing women (or vice versa) but it doesn’t feel like they’re playing the character as trans, they’re just playing a different gender. Cis people playing trans characters is generally uncomfortable for me. In particular, I hate when cis men play trans women (or vice versa) because it feeds into a dangerous narrative that trans women are men playing make-believe.
Does your local impro(v) community know/understand your gender? If so, how has that been in terms of acceptance/understanding?
I’m really lucky, my improv group has a lot of queer performers and a general ethos of not punching down either on or off stage. I’ve been really supported and accepted as an enby, and when I started using Quenby as my new name I think some of them tried harder to get it right than I did!
What are some things that teachers/directors/other performers can do to make sure trans*/NB improvisers feel safe and welcome?
Asking pronouns at the start is a really simple way to include people. Other than that calling out exclusionary or transphobic jokes (and not perpetuating them) goes a long way to building an inclusive culture. Also, listen to trans people if they have a complaint or concern!
Thinking about examples of trans*/NB characters across all media (Impro(v), TV, Movies, Plays etc), what are the best trans*/NB characters or stories you’ve seen depicted? The worst?
I’m currently adoring Theo (the trans boy in Sabrina reboot), he’s a precious baby queer and it feels incredibly affirming to see positive, 3-dimensional representation on a large platform. There’s also Travis Alabanza, a fucking incredible NB performance artist who deserves broader recognition. I’m gonna pass on the worst because frankly there’s too many to choose from.
Who do you look up to/admire as a trans*/NB person in impro(v) or the world generally?
My friend Leo is a phenomenal improv performer and around queer icon. In the broader world, the trans community is so filled with strong, inspiring, incredible people that I genuinely can’t pick without listing half the trans people I know.
What’s something special that you and/or trans*/NB performers have to offer?
Gender chaos, fierce strength, and a particular marginalised perspective on the world.
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