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‘Dissemblage’ and ‘Truth Traps’: Creating Methodologies of Resistance in Queer Autobiographical Theatre


After more than thirty years of solo autobiographical theatre created by LGBTQQIA performers throughout the West, the primary focus of shows made by artists of these identities has more or less remained stable since 1980. In 1982, queer performance artist Tim Miller presented the autobiographical solo show Post-War, and he is part of what is now a tradition of presenting out, celebratory, authentic LGBTQQIA stories onstage. As a self-identified trans performance artist and performing researcher, I have taken part in this practice. Performances, extending from Miller in 1982 to J MASE III in 2014, continue to revolve around the necessity of ‘coming out’, presenting the stories of how we came to know and experience the ‘truths’ of our identities. Performance theorist Deirdre Heddon confirms that these autobiographical works have largely been concerned with, and successful in, ‘using the public arena to “speak out”, attempting to make visible denied or marginalized subjects, or to “talk back”, aiming to challenge, contest and problematize dominant representations and assumptions about those subjects'. Works such as Miller's Glory Box (1999), which used his personal history of having a partner who is not a US citizen to discuss gay marriage and legal immigration for same-sex couples, and trans and Tamil performer D’Loco Kid's D’FaQto Life (2013), which presented an intersectionally marginalized trans person of colour's experience and narrative, have been critical in supporting political and personal empowerment for audiences and performers alike.

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1 Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual. The abbreviation has its origins in the 1980s when gay social and/or political groups began consciously adding the word Lesbian to their titles to acknowledge that the community did not only include gay men. Beginning in the 1990s, other non-heteronormative identity groups have also claimed acronym space under this umbrella of communities.

2 Prior to the 1980s, lesbian and gay characters in theatre and film were almost entirely stereotypical, tragic and/or grotesque.

3 ‘Trans’ is an umbrella term for transsexual, transgender, and other gender-non-conforming identities.

4 Heddon, Deirdre, Autobiography and Performance (London: Palgrave, 2008), p. 20.

5 Ibid., p. 157.

6 ‘Crip’ is the queered or radically politicized disability identity.

7 ‘People of colour’.

8 Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: An Introduction (New York: Penguin, 1979), p. 60.

9 Arsenault, Nina, ‘A Manifesto of Living Self-Portraiture (Identity, Transformation, and Performance)’, Canadian Theatre Review, 150, 1 (2012), pp. 64–9.

10 Cabaret artist Rose Wood, also trans, may be an exception as she uses the reveal of her hybrid body as shock tactic: her rock and roll, gothic and gory late-night performances are underpinned by stories of anger and pain which are never spoken, and never identified as her own.

11 Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 89.

12 See de Landa, Manuel, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (London and New York: Continuum, 2006), pp. 1819; also see de Landa's European graduate-school video lecture on Youtube: ‘Manuel DeLanda. Assemblage Theory, Society, and Deleuze. 2011’, at, last accessed 29 May 2014.

13 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus.

14 Foucault, The History of Sexuality, p. 11.

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Theatre Research International
  • ISSN: 0307-8833
  • EISSN: 1474-0672
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-research-international
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