Laurène Marx Writer Trans Woman Non Binary Writing Style Creative Process Artistic Evolution Collaboration in Theatre Gender Identity Queer Performance Political Influence Social Commentary Artistic Expression Transgender Representation Performance Art Cultural Critique LGBTQ+ Advocacy Identity Exploration Societal Norms
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December 19, 2023
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Laurène Marx, Provocation and Vulnerability In Writing

During the festival Les Créatives In Geneva, we happened to have a talk with Laurène Marx and Fanny Sintès after a showing of their incredible show "Pour un temps sois peu". With her sharp words, Laurène told us all about her creative process, the sustainability of her work and what an ideal world would be made of.

Dany Niederhauser: Your writing style oscillates between ruthless intensity and tender sweetness. Can you describe your creative process? How do you find balance in your writing?

Laurène Marx: When I write a play or something, I never do any preliminary research, as I have no academic ability. I never seek to address a subject; instead, I spend time with people who live the subject. Generally, I have experienced almost all the subjects I deal with, and I seek out other people who share this experience, and spend time with them. So, the brutality in my writing comes from within me, and the tenderness comes from others.

Dany Niederhauser: Your encounter with Alok on stage seems to have been a turning point in your relationship with writing and politics. Can you tell us about this pivotal moment and its influence on your artistic and personal evolution?

Laurène Marx: There were actually two people who helped me initiate this turning point. First, the person I was living with at the time made me aware of my social class and the precarity I had always been in. She made me aware of reality. For a long time, when I wrote, I never included reality in my texts, perhaps to distance myself from it. Everything I wrote had to be poetic, so, for example, there were no mobile phones or technology.

Around that time, I saw Alok's show, which had this very American thing. Alok is non-binary, Indian, often wearing lipstick and rocks a beard. It was really impressive to see, especially at the beginning of my transition. I thought, 'What is this person doing?'

They didn't match with the transition journey I was taking or had been shown, which involved shaving or removing any hair that stands out, for example. There I was confronted to this hairy person in a mini skirt. To me, it was crazy, but not in a good way. I found it ridiculous for someone to be trans but not look like either a man or a woman. Alok was the first person to make me see the absurdity of the feminine model.

Weirdly, I started writing because of authors who did somewhat bizarre things in their texts, and through them, I realized that anything was possible. However, I was still very conservative and reactionary about gender issues. Alok was someone who allowed themselves everything on stage while remaining very funny and extremely assertive. Without wanting to copy them, I realized I liked that and that it could be a possibility for me as well.

Dany Niederhauser: How did your meeting and collaboration happen? How did you decide 'We want to work together'?

Fanny Sintès: We met at a festival related to the text 'Pour Un Temps Sois Peu'. We became friends and more, and one day Laurène explained to me that the text another person was performing was actually written for herself, that it was her story, and she wanted to perform it. She said, 'Today, I trust only you to accompany this text.' So, we started like that, spontaneously, completely on our own.

The first work we did was when Laurène was invited to do readings in bookstores, including one in Paris, and there was a girl living in Brussels who said, 'If you want, I'd like to introduce you here, come do readings.' So, we went on a week-long bus trip to do readings there. That's how the work began.

With 'Pour Un Temps Sois Peu,' we didn't think about creating and staging the show academically. We wanted to do it. That's something we both learned by working together, to step out of our comfort and knowledge zones in terms of how we work. One day during a reading in Brussels, there was a microphone, and that greatly influenced our future direction. We started having this more stand-up side, interacting directly with the audience.

Dany Niederhauser: This makes it a very Queer show in its production and form.

Laurène Marx: And very precarious as well, ultimately, and it's a method I defend. The way the theater sphere offers to create shows today is incompatible with the urgencies of this world. If you want to do a show about what's happening in Palestine? It'll be in two years, they'll all be dead. There are too many budget problems, bureaucracy, and I find it ridiculous. 

Fanny: The idea was also to say, let's create a show that we can perform anywhere, whether it's in bars, halls, outdoors. Sometimes there's no light, sometimes there is, sometimes it's in a 500-seat hall, sometimes in a bar with 30 people.

Dany Niederhauser: Since its first publication in 2021, how has the text 'Pour Un Temps Sois Peu' evolved? What are the major changes it has undergone?

Laurène Marx: Humor! More jokes and improvisation. I'm sure there hasn't been a single show that resembled another. It changes all the time, there are always new things. In terms of duration, this show sometimes lasted 1 hour 30 minutes, it went up to 2 hours 45 minutes, then down to 2 hours 15 minutes. I removed a lot of texts, added improvisations based on what's happening in the world.

Publishing is no longer my obsession at all. Publication freezes things, and for me, it's a problem. A publication becomes an untouchable monolith. That's what happened when other people staged 'Pour Un Temps Sois Peu.' First, these people weren't trans, and second, they had no idea what it means to live in precarity. It's not a text meant to be performed, it's a text that allows things. You can read it and have a good time, yes, but you also need to come see me perform it to hear what I have to tell you.

I've been writing for 20 years, that's my job, but it's just a tool that allows me to create a foundation to then create a moment with people. It's not more sacred than that. If we can't touch authors' words anymore, we’ll get constantly bored constantly.

Dany Niederhauser: The title of your work is 'Pour Un Temps Sois Peu,' which is very evocative. What does this title mean to you, and why did you choose it?

Laurène Marx: It's an imperative. I believe it sounded in a way that said, 'for a given time, accept being little' and in the book, it leads to 'accept being nothing, when you're little, everything will be better.' That’s what transitioning is, realizing that you went a bit carelessly, and that you have lost everything, no access to employment, nothing left. That's truly how society treats transgender people; we're not much in the eyes of others, rather despised, and there's not much in place to protect us, especially in France. Anti-trans hatred is quite prevalent, as is anti-trans mockery, which is equally destructive. In the eyes of the world, we're not much.

Dany Niederhauser: In the text, you mention JK Rowling and her TERF ideology that claims gender is a biological reality. You say, I quote: 'The woman invented Political Sciences for wizards, but a woman with a penis is impossible.' What can one respond to such hate?

Laurène Marx: I know what I do. Jokes, and extremely precise phrases, actually. I don't just want to throw shade. Among Queers, we've adopted a very direct language. We shouldn't overstep; we should be safe, and hence, we're a bit below in terms of the ability to respond. We don't have the weapons to fight against the extreme right, since they have no issue with brutality, while we do.

We want to protect ourselves by creating circles and spaces, but with that, we create even more victims because as soon as we step out of these spaces, the world is atrocious towards us. I'm not saying we should harm others, but I find that the general language in poems, in slam, isn't an adequate and proportionate response to the violence of the world.

The only response is great intelligence and precision, a constant effort to find the formula that works. The punchline doesn't forgive; it's precise, it either works or it doesn't. Give me five minutes alone with J.K. Rowling and I'll destroy her with jokes because that's the culture of oppressed people that has been instilled in me. It comes from the streets, where people around me talk roughly, with a great force of language, a lot of precision in jokes and comebacks.

Many will argue against hate with actions, activism, and signs. But my signs are my punchlines. Because when your punchline works, you've won. Rowling gets destroyed within five minutes in the show. She's a powerful billionaire, but when I see other people making jokes about her, I find it extremely humiliating for her. And these people, the Bernard Arnaults, the Martin Bouygues, all these billionaires, since we can't buy them, we can always humiliate them.

Dany Niederhauser: You've performed in various venues, festivals, cities... How does the reception of your work differ from one audience to another, depending on the place, the context?

Laurène Marx: The response doesn't differ, it never differs. I'm compelled to say, it's complete, total validation. Even people who don't like me – and believe me, I can be quite unpleasant and I don't make concessions – appreciate the show. I'm not here to argue; it would be ridiculous. When facing people of power who have everything, there's no point in compromising. At the end of the show, when you walk out of the room, they still have power, but you have to walk out with your dignity.

So, I know I'm not universally liked, but the show, the text, my work, is. What's ironic is that they want me and my work; I'm fairly recognized, I think, but I don't get commissioned for texts, for example. I've been experiencing a quite rapid rise for two years, but I'm only invited around the show, and very rarely outside of that context. Since people are uncomfortable with transgender individuals, I evolve without adversity with a show that works very well because it's both funny and sad, and in the end, you can both laugh and cry.

The show is not entirely woke, often a bit borderline, it talks about feminism, and it criticizes it too. In the end, all the contradictions are in it, and it's very complicated to attack it. From the start, I didn't want to be categorized as The Trans, The Feminist, or anything because I would've been devoured, discredited. If you mock yourself better than anyone else, nobody can do it in your place.

Dany Niederhauser: What's crazy for me in the text is that you can't criticize it, because you feel like you're inside someone's head, and you can't criticize and invalidate someone's feelings.

Laurène Marx: It's funny you say that because I've always said, when I write, I invite you into my head. I spend a moment with you, and I find that fabulous. It took me a very long time to reconcile with spaces like this, and the show is a phenomenal political platform.

You're there in front of 100, 200, 300 people, and it's incredible to see that you can convert, convince, make sure that someone from the audience will be less horrible towards a trans person the next time. But for that, you need great proximity, you need to invite them into our world without making them feel guilty. So, ultimately, it's my vision of the world, and I'm quite assertive, but strangely, people don't really fight against personal visions. It might be due to the closeness, the tenderness, the intimacy we share for a moment. If someone doesn't want to share, they just shouldn't come. However, once you've shared, there's a friendship, a unique relationship that has been created.

Dany Niederhauser: As Minister of Health, what would be your priority measures?

Laurène Marx: I'd legalize cocaine [laughs]. No, really, I'd overhaul the psychiatric system. There'll always be a correlation between trans safety and public health. If you ensure that the psychiatric system is better, trans individuals will be treated better. I'd ban psychoanalysis and ensure better access to healthcare and hormones because currently, it's catastrophic.

Afterward, we can't forget that we face a paradox. We come from minorities, there aren’t that many of us. So, if we die, ultimately it doesn't affect a lot of people. But then why ? If we aren’t that many and it’s actually pretty cheap, why don’t they give us the civil rights we ask for? It wouldn't cost much to allow us to easily change our civil status, even if it's more a matter of justice than health (make me the minister of everything!).

It wouldn't be difficult to make our lives easier. All it would take is better access to healthcare and a better understanding of gender fluidity. We live in a society that's evolving, moving towards more fluidity. Maybe that'll be the norm in 100 or 150 years, and that's okay. We're here to bring that out, to ask for the training of health workers, doctors, general practitioners to understand this fluidity. Today, except in marketing, the upper middle class, or the far right, nobody really benefits from the binary system. The binary system is marketing; it's what we need to create men's perfumes and women's shoes. 

And facing these stupid narrative, we simply commit suicide. We commit suicide for facing rejections, hitting walls. I could have many friends still alive with just a few things, even just easier access to hormone treatments. A little bit of money invested in research, in treatments, could bring about so many beautiful things. It's not exactly the same fight, but it would also help avoid the mutilation of intersex people; we could reduce the amount of obstetric violence, reimburse contraceptives. But when you look at all this, you realize that the state has an interest in preventing it from happening.

There's hate and control over minorities, over trans individuals, and the corollary is that there's hate and control exerted over women because they are an underpaid workforce and need to be kept under control. If we free trans individuals from the constraints of society, it'll inevitably require freeing women. And within trans individuals, there are women, there are people with the same issues as women, people with vaginas. In my opinion, they're very afraid to see how much it would cost to liberate everyone. So, for now, it's more beneficial if we commit suicide, and for that, there's already a system in place.

Dany Niederhauser: I want to bounce off something from the show because I want to end on a somewhat funny but sad note. What do lesbians do?

Laurène Marx: Lesbians? They have sex, they lick their armpits. But it's funny because when we talk about lesbians, I always flinch a bit because I know we never talk about me and the person I live with. So, what do lesbians do? I know what I do. I have a free built-in sex toy!

Special thanks to Elo for the help during this interview!