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Talented Trans And Gender Non-Conforming Chicagoans

By Ester Alegria in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 29, 2014 8:00PM


In mid-November, the nation came together to commemorate Transgender Awareness Week—a time to help increase trans visibility. We also looked back and reflected upon the lives of those who have fought for their own agency and the agency of others to become whole—inside and out.

Too often, transgender people are affected by hate crimes, or their lives end in tragedy. Many do not even live to see great changes such as healthcare law reform, and other laws prohibiting harassment and discrimination based on gender identity.

To help increase visibility for transgender people, Laverne Cox—an undeniable force of nature whose work extends far beyond the big screen—hosted LOGO's explorative show,Laverne Cox Presents:The T Word with a follow-up TransFORUM between herself and the cast of the documentary.

Logo TV

Cox is making great strides within the trans community. She is educating, engaging, and showing the world that it is OK to be comfortable in the skin that they feel comfortable in. She's not the only one, however.

So, now, let's take a moment and appreciate some of Chicago's own transgender and gender non-conforming people who are making waves in the creative community. Cox, and others before her, has paved the way, but there is a great need for gender non-conforming folks to be represented and tell their stories in ways in which others can identify.

Or, perhaps the world would just like to see a trans woman play a cis woman in a major production for once! Film producers, ponder that. With that in mind, here are some of Chicago's trans performers who are putting themselves out there.

Photo Credit: Mateo

PRECIOUS DAVIS is an outspoken human rights advocate who raises awareness through mentoring, performance art, and photography. A Columbia College alum, Precious tells her story of personal growth, identity, and resilience through Transevangelism. Her work as Youth Outreach Coordinator at the Midwest's largest LGBT community center; Center on Halsted focused on HIV prevention, advocacy, and cultural awareness for LGBT youth.

Precious works with Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, About Face Youth Theatre, and is also the board president for TransTeach Social Enterprises. Precious was featured as one of Chicago's 30 under 30 and was noted as one of this year's Trans 100. She is currently working as Assistant Director of Diversity Recruitment Initiatives at Columbia College Chicago.

Photo Credit: Peter McCollough

REBECCA KLING, a creatively diverse writer, solo performance artist, and educator, shares knowledge and understanding of the queer community through her work.

Rebecca has spoken at multiple Fringe Festivals, and her work has been lauded in various media publications, including the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago's Chances Dances awarded her the Critical Fierceness grant. She also received an Illinois Arts Council Grant, and funding from the Chicago Community Artists Assistance Program.

In 2013, she was featured as one of the inaugural Trans 100 for her work within the trans community. The Guild Literary Complex named her as one of 2014's 25 Writers to Watch.

She wrote an empathetic and informative open letter posted on Jezebel, to a young girl scout who started a protest against the inclusion of transgender people in the organization. Chicago IRL, Bodies of Work, and the Center for Classic Theatre have also published her writing.

Rebecca teaches at the Piven Theatre Workshop, and currently sits on Pride Films and Plays board of directors.

Photo Credit: Sara Ingram

ARIEL ZETINA is a playwright, DJ, curator, and performance artist. She’s currently working on a new play, “British Honduras Fantasy,” with the Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists, and Precious Monster Operas, with Feast Productions. Ariel recently celebrated the West Coast debut of her play, Pink Milk. Her vibrant and queer-focused talent also shines through in the hilariously gritty, and sexually driven WITCH HAZEL, for which she writes, produces music, and performs. Ariel just finished a stint as the literary assistant for Thomas Bradshaw's new play Carlyle at the Goodman Theater.

WITCH HAZEL joined La Lune De Femme—produced by The Good Night Ladies—at the New Orleans Fringe Festival this November, and WITCH HAZEL is one of the featured artists for REVIVAL 2015 at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, January 2015.

Ariel's love for music can be seen through her reviews as a contributor at Tiny Mix Tapes, a music review site.

Need a DJ for your queer focused event? Contact Ariel . She's got skills ya'll!

Photo Credit: Mitch Mittlestedt

KIAM MARCELO JUNIO, a brilliant multimedia artist, focuses on photography, video, printmaking, installation, and performance art. Kiam's work is heavily inspired by their Filipino heritage and U.S. Naval background. They express their creativity trough a unique, queer perspective. Kiam's performance personas, Jerry Blossom, and her darker twin, Jerry Withers, add a sparkling twinge to Kiam's expressive artforms.

Photo Credit: Kiam Junio

DARLING SHEAR , a classically trained dancer, displays the cathartic nature of self acceptance with each invigorating performance. Darling's work focuses mainly on healing of the mind and body. She is finishing a performance piece, White Man Sleeps, to be debuted Summer 2015, and has scheduled previews in March and April. I spoke with Darling earlier this year about her work and experience as a post-gender woman.

Darling hosts Social Club Sundays, monthly, at Public Hotel's Library Bar.

Photo Credit: Oomphotography

MISS MISTER JUNIOR is a Mexican-American performer, based in Chicago and Santa Fe, who establishes pride in their heritage through vibrant and colorful burlesque. Using this sexy, playful platform, they incite introspection—challenging societal norms with stereotypical Hispanic tropes like the "Bull and Bullfighter", and adding extra sensuality as the "lover". MsMrJr is a long-time member of Vaudezilla Burlesque.

And I'd like to introduce a notable cisgender drag performer who bends their pieces into something grand that transcends proposed gender roles.

Photo Credit: Jana Blue

CHIC FILET attended DePaul's Theater School with a concentration in directing. It was there that they discovered their interest in drag performance, utilizing their makeup artistry skills. CHIC FILET shows their respect for feminine beauty with experimental and humorous acts. For six years, they have been a part of Cock and Bull theater company, and is the Associate Director for the theater's upcoming production, Voyage, opening next Spring.