Transgender comedian and author Quinn Fontaine is chock full of advice.
“We’re never stuck where we think we might be,” the Fredericksburg-born entertainer, who now lives in Santa Fe, says during a phone call ahead of his appearance at Riverviews Artspace on Nov. 13, which is being hosted by the Lynchburg Diversity Center. Fontaine’s appearance in Lynchburg is part of the LDC’s month of events commemorating Transgender Awareness Month.
The events, which are held on various dates throughout November, also include a talk by Lynchburg fashion designer India Laposh this Friday, a health and wellness rally on Nov. 17 and a documentary screening on Nov. 20.
“We try to offer something for everyone,” says Isaac Zralii, the organization’s director of transgender programs. “…We understand that not everyone wants to be an activist or advocate. Some just need a space where they can exist freely as their identity.”
Fontaine, 51, says he knew from an early age that he was — as he puts it — “a boy in the wrong body.”
“There’s a picture of me at age 4 and I’m rockin’ some sideburns and I look like the cutest little boy,” he says. “When I look at that photograph, I see an embodied little boy, but I didn’t have the word for that yet, obviously.”
In fact, for a huge part of Fontaine’s life there was no word to describe him, he says.
“When I was growing up there was no hotline. There was no LGBTQ,” says Fontaine, who discussed his experience in his book “Hung Like a Seahorse: A Real-Life Transgender Adventure of Tragedy, Comedy, and Recovery,” which came out last year.
Feeling confused, ashamed and lonely, Fontaine says he turned to comedy.
“All through school I was the class clown,” he says. “I was able to deflect with humor by realizing if I could make the other kids ... laugh with me, they wouldn’t be laughing at me.”
After starting his transition in 2014, Fontaine, who has continued practicing comedy in various forms throughout his life, no longer uses humor as a mask.
Instead, he says he hopes to inspire others to be more embodied, authentic and transparent through his own openness.
That makes Fontaine and his show a great fit for the LDC, says Zralii.
“We see a lot of activists and advocates [in the transgender community]. Future lawyers, future doctors, that kind of thing.” he says. “We don’t see them as music performers, comedians, theater performers.
“... [Some] people think when they come out as trans, or non-binary, gender nonconforming — that whole spectrum — that they have to give up everything they were passionate about or they love because there’s no space for them in the [arts] community. And that’s not true. [There’s] a lot of the opportunities to have your voice heard as your authentic self.”
More than anything, that is the message Fontaine says he most wants people to take away from both his show and his life.
“It’s never too late to be your authentic self,” he says. “We can always begin again right where we are.”