Founder of Let It Out Productions performance company, Kristi Dean, was in a relationship training workshop where the instructor asked the class to separate into masculine and feminine groups. A few lesbians who were taking the course tried to join the masculine group before the instructor stopped them and told them to join the other women.
If a person who was trained in sensitivity didn’t understand this, what did the average Joe think, Dean wondered.
Dean started Let It Out Productions as a way to challenge social norms through storytelling and performance. The first show, “Living The Rainbow: True Stories of Coming Out and Transitioning,” will debut Friday and Saturday at Durango Arts Center.
The performance will showcase 11 performers from the LGBTQ community who will share their personal journeys through various art forms such as singing and satire.
“Maybe if people knew more about us and hear our stories, they’ll be like, ‘Well, they’re just normal people,’” Dean said.
Patrick Valentine will serve as the magical narrator for the show, Genie Pander-een. The genie from the open closet will guide the audience and weave his personal story into the performance. He can cast spells, too.
“The audience will leave as healers once they are enchanted by me,” Valentine said. They will stand up for anyone who is being treated poorly or called slurs. Valentine became familiar with gay slurs as a young child who was born in the ’50s.
“From 5 years old, I knew I liked men, but there was no language for it,” Valentine said. “I heard all the insults, so I never wanted to let anybody know.”
Valentine hid his sexual identity, awkwardly dated girls, married one and had kids. He now has five grandchildren. He didn’t come out until he was 50 years old. Despite hiding his sexual identity, Valentine has lived a vibrant, exciting life in places such as Morocco, San Francisco and Hawaii, where he worked as a baker and had an astrology show. He remarried 18 years ago to a man with whom he had instant chemistry.
Kay Coombs, a Durango fifth-grader, will also participate in Saturday’s show. Kay identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they/their/them. Kay, who loves to perform, will sing Meghan Trainor’s “More Than a Friend” to represent a personal experience.
“I asked two little girls who I liked to be more than friends, and they said no,” Kay said.
Kay talked to Kay’s mother, who said she prepared Kay for the rejection, knowing that Kay is still young. Kay’s mom, Lacey, encouraged them to be honest about their feelings anyway. Kay is still in the process of letting their friends and family know about being non-binary. Only a few close family members know.
“I told my homeroom teacher, and she was super chill about it,” Kay said. This weekend will be an opportunity for Kay to spread more understanding.
“(The show) is basically letting people state their mind and state their opinions about the world and how we are today,” Kay said. “There are some people who are not very comfortable with it, which is fine by me. I don’t judge their opinion.”
Dean plans to take the “Living the Rainbow” show to Boulder and Columbus, Ohio, and is currently in the process of securing dates in other cities.