A Celebration of Trans Storytelling

A Celebration of Trans Storytelling

A Celebration of Trans Storytelling

May 22 @ 7 PM - 9 PM MT 
Memorial Park Library, 2nd Floor
1221 2nd Street SW

Come and celebrate trans art, words, and lives with us! Wordfest and trans artist Vivek Shraya have partnered to co-curate a glorious night of trans storytelling, featuring noted essayist Kai Cheng Thom, comedian and theatre artist JD Derbyshire. They will be joined by four stellar Calgary-based multi-disciplinary artists: Ceci Chow, Blake McLeod, Rip Em, and Sable Sweetgrass. This unforgettable show begins at 7PM MT and includes book signings with the featured authors. Shelf Life Books will be on site with books and ticket holders can also pre-order copies here for pick-up at the event.

This special event is being presented free of charge in support of Skipping Stone, whose mission is to connect trans and gender diverse youth, adults, and families with comprehensive and low barrier access to the support they need and deserve. Please consider making a donation that will change lives here. (Our generous libations partner, The Dandy Brewing Company, is donating proceeds from sales of their beverages that night.)

We are grateful for the support from Calgary Arts Development for making it possible to connect Calgarians with these amazing storytellers.

About Mercy Gene

A supernova of a book, to read Mercy Gene is to be changed by it.” –Claudia Dey, author of Heartbreaker

Think Maggie Nelson meets Hannah Gadsby. Told in kaleidoscopic bursts of erratic recollections, daydreams, poetry, and lists, Mercy Gene is the powerful, genre-smashing debut work of auto-fiction by acclaimed writer, playwright, and comedian JD Derbyshire. Inspired by Derbyshire’s critically acclaimed and award-winning stage play, Certified, and anchored by protagonist Janice/Jan/JD, Mercy Gene is a beautiful, humorous, and sometimes brutal look at queerness, gender confusion, institutionalization, addiction, and abuse.

Through flashes of memory and imaginings, Derbyshire illustrates the intense and invisible “side effects” of psychiatric treatment and the unreliability of memory. In a stream-of-conscious narrative that provokes and consoles, eliciting tears and laughter at equal pace, Derbyshire re-examines a life of unspoken and repressed trauma. Between devastating bouts of depression, hilarious side-quests into the author’s dryly sardonic inner monologue, helpless moments at the mercy of their own psyche, and tour-de-force appearances by fictional versions of Miriam Toews and the late, great Margot Kidder, Derbyshire leads readers through a non-linear narrative to treatment, forgiveness, and acceptance.

About JD Derbyshire

JD Derbyshire (they/them) is a Vancouver-based comedian, theatre maker, writer, and mad activist whose work examines mental health, neurodiversity, queerness, and gender exploration. Derbyshire has toured Canada as a stand-up comedian and solo performer; has written over twenty plays that have been produced by companies in Victoria, Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver; and co-hosts the mental health podcast Mad Practice. Their play Certified, which served as partial inspiration for Mercy Gene, turns the audience into a mental health review board to determine Derbyshire’s sanity by the end of the show. Certified won two Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in Vancouver and was described by the Georgia Straight as “a testament to a dynamic performance and delicate storytelling. Mercy Gene is Derbyshire’s first novel.

About Falling Back In Love With Being Human

Required reading for the untamed soul... reminded me how to love others and myself.”  –Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed

What happens when we imagine loving the people – and the parts of ourselves – that we do not believe are worthy of love?

Kai Cheng Thom grew up a Chinese Canadian transgender girl in a hostile world. As an activist, counselor, conflict mediator, and spiritual healer, she's always pursued the same deeply personal mission: to embrace the revolutionary belief that every human being, no matter how hateful or horrible, is intrinsically sacred.

But then Thom found herself in a crisis of faith, overwhelmed by the violence with which people treated one another, and barely clinging to the values and dreams she'd built her life around: justice, hope, love, and healing. Rather than succumb to despair and cynicism, she gathered all her rage and grief and took one last leap of faith: she wrote. She wrote letters that were prayers, or maybe poems, or perhaps magic spells. She wrote to the outcasts and runaways she calls her kin. She wrote to flawed but nonetheless lovable men, to people with good intentions who harm their own, to racists and transphobes seemingly beyond saving. What emerged was a blueprint for falling back in love with being human.

About Kai Cheng Thom 

Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performance artist, and community healer. She is the author of the novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, which was chosen by Emma Watson for her online feminist book club and shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award. Her poetry collection a place called No Homeland was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book, and her essay collection, I Hope We Choose Love, received a Publishing Triangle Award. She writes the advice column Ask Kai: Advice for the Apocalypse for Xtra. Follow her on Instagram @kaichengthom

About Cece Chow 

Cece Chow is a Calgary born Chinese trans model, advocate, visual artist, poet, and public speaker. She firmly believes that positive representation is a key factor in creating equity for the trans community and especially for queer trans people of the global majority. She connects with audiences and readers with deeply personal vulnerability and authenticity to bring people together in our shared humanity. Whether she is being art, creating art, or speaking out with her voice, she hopes to lift-up the marginalized, fill in the gaps, and instigate journeys of discovery. Follow her on Instagram @thetransplanter

About Blake McLeod

Blake McLeod (they/them) is the Creative Director & Founder of CINIC Studio, a multidisciplinary artist, and an award-winning radio host of Woodland Cree & Euro descent from Fort St. John, BC in Treaty 8 currently living and working in Moh’kinst’sis, Treaty 7. Fueled by an avid desire to dismantle the scarcity mindset surrounding professional creative projects, McLeod centers the importance of listening and learning from each other to build trust, relationships, and a catalog of visually engaging work. They are determined to have folks know they are not alone. Follow them on Instagram @cinicstudio and on Bandcamp at blakemcleod.bandcamp.com

About Rip Em

Rip Em is a trans non-binary drag performer, visual artist, and musician residing from Moh’kinstsis. They can be frequently seen hosting, singing, crafting, scheming, they-bossing, and proving that campy drag and glamour go hand in hand. With energy bursting out of every fibre of their being, Rip Em brings a performance full of passion, emotion, and a whole lot of laughs! Follow them on Instagram @ripem13

About Sable Sweetgrass 

Sable Sweetgrass is an Awowakii/transgender writer, storyteller and filmmaker, and a member of the Kainai Nation in Southern Alberta. Born and raised in Calgary/Mohkinstsis, Sable got her BA in English from the University of Calgary and MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. Follow them on Instagram @sweetgrasss

About Host Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, TV, film, and fashion. A Canadian Screen Award winner, Shraya is the creator and writer of the CBC Gem Original Series How to Fail as a Popstar. She has collaborated with musical icons Jann Arden, Peaches, and Jully Black, and was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. Her best-selling book I’m Afraid of Men was heralded by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel”; other books include The Subtweet and God Loves Hair. Shraya is the founder of the award-winning publishing imprint VS. Books, which supports emerging BIPOC writers. She has been a brand ambassador for MAC Cosmetics and Pantene and is a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation. Follow her on Instagram @vivekshraya

About How to Fail as a Pop Star

“The work of radical self-acceptance is so challenging I never want to do it. In this piece of art, Vivek's fearless vulnerability, steady gaze, and sure hand creates another way in, an opening, and all I have to do is show up. Now it's your turn." -comedy legend Elvira Kurt

Described as "cultural rocket fuel" by Vanity Fair, Vivek Shraya is a multi-media artist whose art, music, novels, and poetry and children's books explore the beauty and the power of personal and cultural transformation. How to Fail as a Popstar is Shraya’s debut theatrical work, a one-person show that chronicles her journey from singing in shopping malls to "not quite" pop music superstardom with beguiling humor and insight. A reflection on the power of pop culture, dreams, disappointments, and self-determination, this astonishing work is a raw, honest, and hopeful depiction of the search to find one's authentic voice. The book includes colour photographs from the show's 2020 production in Toronto, and a foreword by its director Brendan Healy.


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