Within the last half decade, shows like Pose and Euphoria have presented relatable, swoon-worthy—even realistic—romances between transgender and cisgender people. But despite those successes, there's still a wealth of ways cis people can accidentally (or intentionally) insult trans people, even when attempting to woo their affections.
Portland playwright Mikki Gillette’s new work, My Perfectly Valid Objections, depicts the minefield trans women navigate, specifically while dating cis men. Seriously, it's like these men haven't even seen Sense8.
“As I wrote [this script]," a program note from Gillette reads, "I wondered sometimes if I was really asking, ‘Can we make this work? Trans people and cis people?’ Deep down, I was always confident the answer was, ‘Sure.’”
Gillette's Objections unfold as a series of dates. Ruby Welch and Juliet Mylan take turns pairing off against Heath Hyun Houghton and R. David Wylie, changing costumes and characters. Between them, they play 14 different subjects meeting at a coffee house, which is also the play's unconventional but appropriate venue. While the available seating of cafe chairs and barstools is uncomfortable, so are the experiences Gillette shares. Over the course of the play's uninterrupted two hour runtime, even the bendiest back begins to ache, but we still found the humor and truths of Gillette's Objections well worth squirming through.
Gillette’s willingness to draw from her lived experiences is a great strength in her scripts. As with last spring’s production of her play The Queers (also directed by Asae Dean), she is more interested in realistic characters and scenes, than showing noble trans characters bent on enlightening cis ones. The performance doesn't coddle cis audience members, but rightfully expects them to keep up with the cultural script Janet Mock flipped over a decade ago.
That said, the knowing laughter her witticisms drew from the audience—on the opening Valentines Day weekend—confirmed Gillette is neither the first nor the last woman to be asked an invasive personal question on a first date.
Within the lively vignettes, Welch and Hyun Houghton delivered the evening’s strongest performances. The scene they shared as a couple on their third anniversary felt like the story's climax, and revealed a poignant portrait of two people navigating the difference between domestic stagnancy and tranquility.
Hyun Houghton’s featherlight between-scene character change from a charming and understanding Will to a skin-crawling Eddie, powerfully demonstrated why Welch and Mylan’s characters share a hypervigilant streak.
My Perfectly Valid Objections gives voice to common romantic experiences and fears. It edifies and educates. But most importantly, it entertains with unflinching humor and honesty.
My Perfectly Valid Objections plays at Oblique Coffee Shop, 3036 SE Stark St., Thurs-Sun through March 5, pay what you will ($15 minimum), tickets here, all ages