Q & Arts: Madeleine Hardy
The Coming Out Monologues YYC has a stage for your story and a community to stand behind you as you tell it
Madeleine Hardy, director of Coming Out Monologues YYC, has been working with the project for four years and is part of the team that continually works to bring otherwise hidden stories to light. Hardy talked with The Reflector about what to expect this year, what inspires her and what is coming next for The Coming Out Monologues.
The Reflector: Tell us about the Coming Out Monologues?
Madeleine Hardy: The Coming Out Monologues have been in Calgary for six years and was first started as a program with the University of Calgary, and as of 2014 we have separated from the university to become more of a Calgary community event. Each night shows different performers and it is with different LGBTQA performers sharing their story of coming out. Most of our performers have never been on stage nor have any stage experience, so we work with them to get them ready. We don’t have just queer identified stories; this year we actually have an ally which is an important part of the process too.
TR: How old are the performers?
MH: There is a huge range, from our youngest I would say is 18 to our oldest, I don’t want to guess, but I would say 60+. Some are coming out early on in life, some are coming out very late in life, and some of them are exploring different parts of their coming out story because, of course, you don’t come out once, it is a continuous process.
TR: How are the stories presented?
MH: Not everyone is comfortable with words, so we really open it up to their strengths. A lot of people come out with spoken word pieces, we also have song, last year we had a dance piece, this year we have some musical dance acts. This year we have an ACAD artist who is queer identified and explores that through art so she will be showcasing her pieces on Thursday night. We are an organization that wants to facilitate people coming out in different forms.
TR: What inspires you to do this?
MH: I think identity is such an interesting topic, I love being a part of an organization that stands by people wherever they are at. One of our mottos is “to meet you wherever you’re at” so we tell our performers that we are not working to get their piece to our standards, we will work with them to get their piece to their standards. There is never any pressure to memorize a piece; there is never any pressure to perform. If you go through the entire process and right before you are supposed to go on stage you can’t we say, ‘of course that’s okay’ it is really about the people. There is a sense of community building just from being able to share their story. It is just so powerful. It just inspires me: the people that come out and are willing to be vulnerable on stage. That is not always easy, stories are often riddled with emotion and are a form of healing.
TR: What advice can you offer people struggling with LGBTQ+ issues?
MH: My first piece of advice is reach out, there are so many amazing resources in this city. If you are someone who is being reached out to, reach out as well. There are places like the Distress Centre, which has 24 hour calls line, places like Outlink, and Pride centres are all great places. You are seeing more and more acceptance with people talking about it. Recognize when it is not safe to come out, and unfortunately those places where it is unsafe do exist.
TR: What is next for TCOM?
MH: We are working on year-round programming. So we are working at an Out at the Office event and it is geared toward young professionals just starting their career, and we are going to have five panelists from non-queer dominated industries come and speak about their experiences of coming out at work. It is going to be audience driven questions followed by a networking event.
TR: What is your advice for university students?
MH: Get involved! You are just going to get so much more out of your university experience if you just start getting involved. Whether that means becoming a peer-helper or volunteering or studying abroad, the experiences you are going to remember for years are going to be the other things that you choose to engage in. It might allow you to explore your passions, and that is where you will find satisfaction in your life.
The event is highly accessible and student pricing is just $12 dollars, the goal of the team is to bring people out to the event. Hardy says that if costs are prohibitive, reach out to the Coming Out Monologues and they can help you out. Hardy wants the community to remember that you do have a story, and it does matter. This year’s event runs from March 18-20 at the John Dutton Theatre.