Jill Soloway spoke with the Windy City Times ahead of the release of their new book, She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy. Soloway celebrates the book's launch during a sold-out event Oct. 18 at the Chicago Waldorf School in a conversation with Hannah Gadsby. Also joining Soloway for the event are Elaine Soloway, their mother; Faith Soloway, their sister; and Pidgeon Pagonis.
WCT: Congrats on the release of She Wants It and on your return to Chicago on October 18th. When did you start to get the idea for this book?
Jill Soloway: /Thank you! I think this book has been on my mind in some iteration for a long time. I started with a lot of material about feminist storytellingthinking about what a "female gaze" or "intersectional gaze" might look like, and how necessary it is. Then I went through a series of really transformative personal revelations and experiences, starting with learning my parent was trans. That's when the memoir element really started to take shape. I wanted to exploredo a little spelunking of my own soulthese changes I was experiencing.
WCT: The event will feature a conversation between you and Hannah Gadsby, in addition to Pidgeon Pagonis, Elaine Soloway, and Faith Soloway. What can fans expect?
JS: I'm so excited to share stages with all these heroes of mine. I wanted the tour to be a place to hold space and have community in the midst of everything going on in the world. I had this vision of a feminist tent revival, or a radical variety show. Audiences should expect laughter, debate, provocative notions, music, etc. We're in such an extraordinary moment, and I wanted the tour to engage with that.
WCT: Like so many successful people in the industry, you got your start through the Chicago comedy scene. Is there an improv instructor who has had a meaningful impact on your career?
JS: The Annoyance Theater was such an essential part of my coming into being as an artist. Everyone theremy teachers and collaboratorsshaped me from the very beginning. Mick Napier and Susan Messing deserve special credit.
WCT: Can you talk about 5050by2020 and its importance?
JS: 5050by2020 is a strategic initiative I founded within Time's Up, with a mission to activate and empower artists. We realized there really was no infrastructure for bringing working artists and entry- or mid-level artists into the Time's Up fold. The Hollywood elite are well-represented, but we all knew the movement had to be more than that. So we provide that infrastructure, and do so with an emphasis on intersectionality. We're convening cohorts among disabled artists, sex workers, Latinx writers, MENA [Middle East and North Africa] and Muslim artists, tech and more, to shake things up and change the face of Hollywood. This summer we also launched our TRANSform Hollywood guide, including an open letter signed by 50-plus industry partners promising concrete ways they would improve the representation of trans people in their content.
WCT: Speaking for myself, I can say that the education and awareness from the success of Transparent helped in my coming out as transgender in late-2015. How often do you hear from fans about how much this show has helped with coming out?
JS: I can't tell you what it means to me to hear that. It is a very kind thing I will hear now and again from viewers. When I started with Transparent, my goal was just to make the world a safer place for my parent. I like to say that protagonism is propaganda for privilege. Film and television are empathy machines, and if we put authentic stories of authentic people in front of the camera, I believe it can slowly but surely change the world. If Transparent has helped viewers understand themselves or others better in terms of gender and sexuality, that's the dream.
WCT: As far as the state of transgender representation in TV/Film is concerned, do you feel that things are better or worse than when Transparent started?
JS: Better. Certainly better. Just recently we saw the conversation around cis actors playing trans roles get attention in a big way. Like I said earlier about the TRANSform Hollywood guide and open letter, the entertainment industry is starting to get on board with what trans people need from representation. We can't keep giving trans roles to cis people. We can't keep telling trans stories without trans voices. This isn't to say that we're there yetwe're not. Both the quality and quantity of trans representation have a long way to go.