Featured THE NAKED I: SELF-DEFINED Artist: Oliver Schminkey

In what way/s are you involved with THE NAKED I: SELF DEFINED? 

I’m the writer and performer of the piece “Misgendered, by a Friend, June 21st.”  I was also an intern this past summer for 20%, so I was responsible for creating the promo materials for the call for submissions and really getting the word out there about this show.

Why is it important to tell the stories in THE NAKED I?

It’s vital to tell the stories in THE NAKED I because trans and queer people are so often denied the fundamental act of telling our own stories and creating our own representations for ourselves, especially along lines of intersecting marginalized identities.  It’s important that we have spaces for us, by us, and about us; trans justice can only happen when trans people are in control of our movements, our art, and our representations.

What aspects of your identity do you hope to express through your involvement with THE NAKED I?

For this piece, I tried really hard to focus on a really small moment, that of being misgendered.  I think there’s a tendency to feel pressured to talk about murder and homelessness and other “big” issues whenever we talk about oppression facing trans people; and I think all of those things are vitally important.  They need to be said, and I’ve said them many, many times.  However, it was my challenge to myself this time to write a piece that focused on the small things that tend to grind us down, like microaggressions and misgendering, which work in tandem with the same systems of oppression that target and police trans bodies.  This isn’t to say that microaggressions operate on the same scale as hate crimes which disproportionately harm trans women of color; it’s just to say that there are a million moments, small and large, that make up the varied lived experiences of trans people.

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? 

I’m a nationally touring slam poet, and I’ve competed and performed in over 15 states.  I’m also a musician and a visual artist, with numerous years of theatre experience under my belt as well.

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform your work?

This is a huge question.  I’m dedicated to putting out ethical work; this means constantly questioning the ways in which I, as a white person, have a stake in white supremacy (and actively trying to dismantle white supremacist ideology in both myself and others), although I don’t perform much work written explicitly about race.  Like I said before, I believe in letting people tell their own stories, and I would never want to take up space/take space away from people of color in order to whitesplain about race.  I’m also hugely dedicated to trans justice and queer justice, as well as disability justice.  I’m not interested in assimilationist politics; rather, I try to envision and work toward radical spaces in which we can find authenticity.  In shorter, less pretentious words, I don’t care much about “gay” marriage, but I do care about systematic reform that supports those most affected in our communities, largely disabled, working-class trans and queer people of color.  This means that my politics can never be separated from having conversations about interwoven relationships between colonialism, white supremacy, and the gender binary—even as I look toward a world in which non-binary people like myself can live sustainably. This informs my work so much because it informs my life—although I definitely don’t always succeed, in my work and my life, I try to actively fight against oppression.

What other artists or shows have inspired you?

DarkMatter, Venus DeMars, Cam Awkward-Rich, Rosanonymous, Jane Doe and the Misery Loves Co, Danez Smith, Patrick’s Cabaret, The Exchange (and everything they do), Miss Major <3 <3  the list goes on and on.

What’s your favorite hangout spot and why?

The Fox Egg Gallery! A ton of great events are held there, and it’s such a phenomenal 3rd space for me.

What other projects are you working on or hope to work on? 

I’m very busy!!

Right now I’m the guest curator at the Fox Egg; in addition to the show that’s going up in mid-January featuring the Tantrum Art Collective, I’m also curating a show called “Stare Back: Queer and Trans Artists Reclaim the Gayze,” which will open for submissions shortly.  The show is going to be a space for radical redefinition as all types of queer and trans artists represent ourselves visually, fighting against the ways in which largely cis, white, gay people are the face of queer communities in mainstream media.

I’m also finishing up my first full-length book, which will include both my poetry and my visual art.  It’s called “Spoiler: The Trans Kid Dies,” and it’s about my experiences as a specifically non-binary transgender sexual assault survivor.

In addition to those things, I founded and run a weekly poetry workshop on Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. at the Fox Egg Gallery called Well-Placed Commas.  WPC is a 16+ space for writers of all levels to come write together and build community.  We just produced our first chapbook, which is available for purchase on my Etsy page, OllieSchminks.

I also co-host the Twin Cities finest queer open mic, OUTspoken! with my lovely friends Nik Martell and Paul Canada, which happens every second Wednesday at the Fox Egg Gallery.

As one of my other loves, I run the Macalester Poetry Slam and tour nationally with my poetry at colleges and other venues.  You can check out all of this and more at my website.

The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Andrea Jenkins

This winter, 20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present the world premiere of The Naked I: Insides Out – the 3rd in a series of Naked I plays that explore queer and trans* experiences through monologues, short scenes, and spoken word poems. The show was created over the past year by selecting 25 of 119 stories submitted by community members. This newest installment of The Naked I will involve over 75 LGBTQ artists and allies – including contributing writers, directors, performers, designers, technicians and supporting staff.

You can see The Naked I: Insides Out February 13-23, 2014 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. Purchase tickets now!

Over the next eight weeks, we will be featuring interviews from a variety of The Naked I: Insides Out artists.  We recently asked Andrea Jenkins what she had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.

Andrea Jenkins

What attracted you to The Naked I: Insides Out?

I saw the first show The Naked I, and was deeply moved by the honesty shared on the stage. It featured trans and queer performers, and the audience was amazing. Coming from a transgender experience myself it was a beautiful thing to watch our collective voice take the stage.

What type of role will you have in the production of The Naked I: Insides Out

I wrote the piece called “A Requiem for the Queers: or why we wear the color purple.” I will also perform the piece.

In the last show, The Naked I: Wide Open, you wrote a piece but did not perform it. How do you anticipate performing your own piece (this time) will change your experience?

The piece I wrote for The Naked I: Wide Open, “Pink and Blue, a (short) Love Story” was deeply personal, I really wanted to see a director and actors take the words and make them their own. I received a lot of positive feedback from the piece. This time I want to take a larger role in the production and challenge myself in a new way by learning lines and interacting with the cast and the audience.

What do you hope/think audiences might take away from your piece in particular? 

“A Requiem for the Queers: or why we wear the color purple” is really a piece about empowerment, it also highlights some events and people that have been very instrumental in the beginning of the Queer Movement in American life. I hope that audiences are informed and inspired to live their lives openly and authentically in a way that takes the movement to a new level focused on Transgender rights and equality.

Now, a little more about Andrea, the person…

What is your pronoun preference?

That is an interesting question, when I first came out as Transgender a little over 20 years ago, I was very sensitive to being mis-gendered and no one was asking this question on a regular basis. Now that it is rapidly becoming more common to pose this question I have become less concerned about the perceived slights and micro-aggressions that come with being mis-gendered. I am more comfortable with being a little ambiguous , that being said, I prefer female pronouns, she, her, etc.

What do you do in the world, outside of working on this production?  

First and foremost I am a Poet, I try to find the beauty and complexity in everything that I do and bring that perspective to the surface. In my day job I work as a Senior Policy for a Minneapolis City Council-member, I have been doing this job for 12 years, it brings me in close contact with other Elected Officials and Policy-makers, as well as direct contact with the community. I am also a teaching artist /activist. I write poetry and prose, plays and performance pieces. I perform throughout the local community and around the country.

One of favorite hobbies is playing Tennis, I’ve played since I was about 14 years old. I like to take long walks and read a good book. Whenever I travel, I try to go a museum or art gallery, or even just take in the public art and architecture of a place.

What is the strangest or most interesting job you have ever had?  

One of the most interesting and I guess some might say strange was that I was a Program Manager for the All Gender Health Program at the Program for Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota. It was the only job that I ever had that required me to watch porn. I had to do outreach to users on porn sites to invite them to participate in the research projects.

If your gender identity was a food, what would it be? 

Tofu- it would take on the identity of whatever the situation called for.

What is your first memory of gender? 

I remember when I was about six years old I saw these two drag queens on the bus. I was with my mother and sister and I was just fascinated by these men in makeup with blonde wigs. For some reason I was trans-fixed by them, and I remember thinking they’re like me? I was confused.

What if the concept of gender didn’t exist? How would that change your life? 

Hmmm…that’s tough, I think that life would be complicated, I think a better idea would be if gender didn’t matter.

What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing? 

I guess I would say a hat, I wear them year around and really feel comfortable with something on my head.

Andrea, you feel the most naked when… 

As an African American Transgender woman I feel vulnerable and naked everyday, as I walk through the world. I feel like people know my identity and can use that information as a weapon against me.

What animal best describes the concept of gender you have for yourself?

I have a tattoo of a Scarab on my right arm. A scarab is a dung beetle and was revered in ancient Egypt and prominent in their visual art. They were fascinated with the little bug because it was the only life form that could reproduce itself without a partner, in other words, it is dual gendered. It would lay eggs, rolled it in their dung and leave it in the sun to fertilized.