Quanah Style on Trans Scripts and Controlling the Narrative

After a number of infectious singles and a feature on Canada’s a Drag, CBC’s docu-series about drag performers from across the country, Indigenous, two-spirit, transgender artist Quanah Style released her self-titled debut album this January. Within the vivacious collection of house dance anthems is standout track, “Love Will Set You Free,” a fierce banger championing the beauty of love in every form.

“We all have an inherent value as human beings,” Style says, about the song. “We’re all worth the same. And with so much going on in the world right now, I think the best thing we can do is love ourselves more and love each other more.”

The liberation at the root of love and acceptance also reflects what is at the heart of Style’s latest project: Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women, a play written by American playwright Paul Lucas that paints an insightful, nuanced portrait of seven transgender women. The dialogue is taken verbatim from interviews with over 75 women from six different countries, ranging widely in age, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. Among the characters are a former small-town mechanic, a sexagenarian doctor, and an ex-dominatrix. The trajectories of their life stories are diverse and distinct, albeit one fundamental truth: that we all have the right to the freedom of being our true self.

Style plays Luna, the youngest character. It is an interesting dynamic, Style says, portraying someone so different to her yet so relatable. “There’s a scene where she’s talking about wanting to be a witch for Halloween as a little boy. And, legit, I have almost the exact same story. I think that the cast can relate to each one of the characters in one way or another, even though [they all have] such different life experiences. Our general feeling of growing up out of place in our own skin, being ostracized by our peers—there’s a general narrative that we can all relate to on some level.”

Trans women are so often typecast in popular media. It is stifling and stereotypical. Style describes being called into multiple auditions to play an escort. “There are other stories that need to be told, that humanize our experience,” she emphasizes. In Trans Scripts, the women are in control of their narratives. The work and its approach are urgently necessary, though something Style is uncertain could have existed in the not-so-distant past. Now, she says, especially with television shows like POSE, the critically acclaimed drama about New York ballroom culture in the 1980s, more honest dissections of the community are finally gaining broader visibility. “It’s showing that people do care about hearing these stories and that they deserve to be told and honoured—like any other story in a mainstream platform.”  

Trans Scripts is a co-presentation between Zee Zee Theatre and The Frank Theatre. The show runs from March 12 to 21 at the Fire Hall Arts Centre (Vancouver) // TICKETS