The Naked I: Insides Out – Get to Know Leslie Lagerstrom

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 Leslie Lagerstrom what she had to say about The Naked I: Insides Out.

Leslie Lagerstrom - playwright for Knock On Wood
Leslie Lagerstrom – playwright for Knock On Wood

What attracted you to The Naked I: Insides Out?

Last year, friends of ours invited my husband and me to attend a production of The Naked I: Wide Open, which we loved.  When the lights went up for intermission I remember them looking at us and saying, “Wow, that was so intense, do you want to leave?” because they knew we had a transgender child and thought the content was more than we could handle.  My husband and I looked at each other and then one of us replied with a chuckle, “…NO, this is our life and this show is providing us with total affirmation!”

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

My contribution to this production is as a playwright, which seems strange to say because I never considered myself to be one.  I wrote a story about our experience raising a transgender child and I was honored and thrilled to have it chosen to be part of The Naked I:  Insides Out.

What do you hope/think audiences might take away from seeing your piece Knock on Wood in The Naked I: Insides Out?

I’m hoping my story will leave the audience thinking about two different points-of-view that many might not consider – what it is like for a child that is transgender and the challenges their parents face trying to keep them safe and secure within a society that can still be quite intolerant.

What is your pronoun preference?


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

I’m an advocate for transgender children and their families.  Through my blog, Transparenthood, I have been able to shed light on what transgender children and their families go through on a daily basis – the good, the bad and everything in-between.  The blog has given me a national soapbox, as The Huffington Post, More Magazine Online, and The Good Men Project have all featured my essays that they found on Transparenthood.  I am also a volunteer speaker for Welcoming Schools – an initiative by the Human Rights Campaign to educate K-12 teachers on transgender issues.  And most recently, I have been invited to be on the Board of Directors of TransActive, a national trans youth advocacy group that provides counseling and referrals to those in need all over the world.  And when I am not doing that I love walking around Lake Harriet with our dog, Molly – a black lab/collie mix of a mutt that we love with all of our hearts.

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

My most interesting was the first job I had after college – I was hired by a small advertising firm in the Minneapolis Warehouse District (in 1989 when it was not yet cool to say you worked in that area of the city).  I was given the title ‘Assistant Director of Creative Services,’ which sounded impressive for a new graduate, but truth be told it could have been, ‘Gopher Girl’ because that is what I did for them – ran a lot of errands.  Back then I drove type to the keyliner (that will age me), helped paint sets for commercials we were producing for Daytons and managed the firms accounts payable and receivable.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was probably the best job that I could have ever had because it exposed me to all areas of the advertising field and opened doors for me to be hired to manage an in-house agency of a large manufacturer for the 21 years that followed.

What is your first memory of gender? 

I can’t really recall my first memory of gender.  I believe that our gender is hard wired at birth, and so I have always known I was female and have never questioned other people’s belief as to who they are.

How has your concept of gender changed since raising your children?

I’ve come to understand that gender is a spectrum instead of binary.  Before we had our children I just thought of gender as male or female but have since learned that the concept is more complex and something I wish was more widely understood and talked about within our society.

What has been the most rewarding or difficult part of raising a transgender child?

The most rewarding part of raising a transgender child are the incredible people we have met along the way…people that we would not have had the opportunity to know, respect and love, had we not been given this life experience.  We have been overwhelmed by so many kind souls that we can attest to the fact that good does outweigh the bad – sometimes it just takes a little longer to realize.

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

It would have saved my child and therefore our family a lot of heartache because when he hurts we all hurt.  I envision that without the concept of gender Sam could have avoided a lot of bullying and ostracizing, and his peers would have gotten to know and love him for the wonderful kid he is instead of being influenced by ignorance.

What is your most favorite accessory or article of clothing?

I love my current backpack purse.  It reminds me of a magician’s hat because it can hold hundreds of things and converts to be a cross body handbag that comes in handy when I feel the need to hide some fat rolls (grin).

Leslie, you feel the most naked when…

…we have to share with a stranger that our child is transgender (such as a new doctor, teacher, college recruiter).  I feel naked as I wait to read their reaction…to determine if we are dealing with an ally, someone we need to educate, or a person that is going to be prejudice against my child.

What is your favorite song right now?

‘On Top of the World’ by Imagine Dragons.   I just used the song to accompany a photo montage of trans children from as far away as New Zealand, as close as Mahtomedi and everywhere in between, who are smiling and happy.  Every time I hear the song it makes me smile thinking of all these kids who know their true identity and are brave enough to share it with the world.  We are in good company, indeed!