Turning Coming Out Into Performance Art

Turning Coming Out Into Performance Art|Turning Coming Out Into Performance Art

When Dubbs Weinblatt started a new show featuring discussions about coming out, the idea was partly inspired by their own coming out story.

It’s just one of the many ways Weinblatt, who identifies as trans, genderqueer, queer, and gay, has come to suffuse their life with queer-focused themes: During the day, they work at Keshet, a non-profit organization dedicated to LGBTQ Jewish folks; in their free time, they use performance art to take on queer topics.

But it was not always this easy for Weinblatt to explore LGBTQ issues in the public light — or at all. Weinblatt grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s in a small, predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, where they “always knew inside that I felt different… but I didn’t know how to describe it.”

“As I got older, into high school, it started to really become obvious,” Weinblatt told Gay City News. “I always knew I was gay, but as I got older, it didn’t go away; it just got more intense.”

It took some time for Weinblatt to navigate their own identity. They felt out of place, and during their early years at Ohio State alcohol and drugs helped them numb that feeling. Those feelings were compounded because Weinblatt did not feel they could turn to anyone to discuss how they felt.

“I didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t confide in anyone, and didn’t even write it in a journal because I was terrified somebody would find it,” they recalled. “The only time I would do it is when I practiced one day in my car and had to pull over because I was crying.”

That loneliness lingered, and so did the drinking — so much so that Weinblatt’s peers in college started to take notice and express their concerns. Their roommate confronted the drinking habits, explaining she couldn’t constantly keep taking care of them during bouts of inebriation.

That was the moment when Weinblatt finally felt compelled to come out, but the accompanying feelings about their sexuality were so heavy, so intense, so intimate, and so personal that it was just too much to actually say it out loud. They jotted down on a post-it note, “I’m bi,” and handed it to their roommate.

Their roommate was fine with that, and it was then that Weinblatt realized they had cleared a hurdle — except it wouldn’t be the final one.

Years passed by, the drinking continued, and something still wasn’t quite right. A decade later, however, they went to a Lipstick Lesbian Awareness party alongside that same roommate and there was a new light bulb moment. But unlike the previous time — when they knew they were gay but were afraid to say it — this time it was different. They came to an entirely new understanding that their life still was not quite what they thought it was.

They came to the realization that they did not, in fact, identify with their name, their pronouns, or their body. They soon were able to lay out their feelings to family and friends and, over time, became more comfortable with their gender identity. They underwent top surgery a few years ago and now are embracing the intersections of being trans, genderqueer, queer, and gay. Notably, Weinblatt also become re-acclimated with their Jewish identity after grappling with it when they were not feeling comfortable with their sexuality and gender identity.

Weinblatt has since channeled their own coming out experience into their work. They created an onstage show, which they recently turned into a podcast hosted by Gay City News, called “Thank You For Coming Out,” in which LGBTQ folks come on and discuss their own coming out story.

“Thank You For Coming Out” — available at gaycitynews.com and on iTunes and other podcast platforms — has so far featured stand-up comic Jessica Henderson, comedian/ writer/ director Lou Gonzalez, theater teacher and comedian Scott Austin, and “Orange Is The New Black” star Alice Kremelberg, among others.

“What’s special about ‘Thank You For Coming Out’ is that because we’re an all-LGBTQ cast, our queer identities aren’t the butt of the joke, but instead the beauty of the scene,” Weinblatt explained.

That unique appeal gives LGBTQ folks an opportunity to enjoy entertainment that caters to them. The host and guests of the podcasts are able to feed off a common, unifying sense of community that is not always seen or even present in day-to-day life.

In a way, Weinblatt has always longed for that kind of a show. When recalling their isolated younger years, they acknowledged that they felt “like a part of” the community on the rare occasion when they saw public representation of LGBTQ life in the media.

On October 11, National Coming Out Day 2019, however, Weinblatt is the one making others feel “like a part of” the community by producing a show and podcast that relates to them.

“We all have similar, shared experiences and can use that to build empathy and support each other in a really special way,” they said.

New episodes of “Thank You For Coming Out” are available every Thursday at gaycitynews.com and on iTunes and other podcast platforms.