“My vision for my work is that it be powerful, impactful, and create more compassion and acceptance and understanding in the world.” This is how actor, writer, and comic D’Lo describes the mark he wants to leave with his work.
Born in Queens, and raised in the High Desert of Southern California, D’Lo is queer, transgender, and Tamil Sri Lankan-American. Like many of the trans actors who are finally beginning to receive more mainstream attention, D’Lo has been around. The increasing portrayal of trans narratives on screen may be new, but he has been writing and performing his story, and speaking new and nuanced trans realities into existence for years.
D’Lo’s work includes everything from film to music, from solo theater to ensemble plays, from poetry to spoken word. You may recognize him from “Looking” (HBO), “Transparent” (Amazon), and “Sense8” (Netflix), and, GO’s personal favorite, the Emmy nominated mini-doc series “This Is Me” produced by Rhys Ernst and Zackary Drucker.
Whether he’s the star or a fleeting side character, D’Lo brims with a brightness and openness that draws you in, closer to the heart of the story. He is an agile performer on both screen and stage, bringing the same depth and intimacy whether he’s cracking jokes or tackling more emotional material.
It takes a certain kind of fortitude and generosity to share one’s story of publicly and so frequently, especially at a time when increased visibility has brought both acceptance and backlash to trans people’s day to day lives. D’Lo’s latest work promises to be a particularly nuanced and personal exploration of trans identity, community, feminism, and more.
His show “To T, or Not to T,” opening at NYC’s Dixon Place on July 7th, examines his trans experience and his process around deciding (or not) to take testosterone (aka T) through a humorous, intimate lens. Like many transmasculine people who strive to be authentically themselves without perpetuating patriarchy, D’Lo has been on a “quest to embody a beautiful masculinity that upholds his feminist politics.” This show recounts that journey.
GO chatted with D’Lo about what inspires his work, how he envisions LGBTQ community, and what keeps him hopeful during trying times. “To T, or Not to T” opens at New York’s Dixon Place on Friday July 7th.
GO Magazine: What do you do and why? What brought you to do this work? What is your vision for your work?
D’Lo: I entertain and aim to make people laugh and think, but in no particular order. Many mentors/elders/queer women of color brought me into this work. I understand that I am a part of a lineage of queer artists of color who wanted to engage folks in a conversation, address the political climate of queer folks in the States, create community and have fun with one another.
GO: How has your understanding of the LGBTQ community changed over time? What do you consider to be your community now?
D’Lo: Well, I used to have a hunch that most people were queer, but that social constructs forced many of us to shut down desire within ourselves, thus creating homophobia and transphobia towards folks who live freely what we’ve chained up inside. Now I know it’s not a hunch. Everyone has a little gay in ‘em.
GO: What does solidarity and allyship look like between transmasculine and transfeminine people? Between non-trans LGBTQ folks and trans people? Between white queers and POC queers?
D’Lo: Solidarity in general means standing up for others, creating a world where people can walk down the street without fearing being bashed or killed. It’s always the most marginalized groups who legitimately are fighting to live, so I’m asking anyone with any sort of privileges – like white, “passing,” masculine folks or those who are not trans femme black people or other femmes of color or non binary folks of color – to step up in how they show up for others in our queer community.
GO: What do you wish the mainstream LGBTQ community knew?
D’Lo: I think a lot of people know it, but maybe don’t keep it at the forefront of their hearts, but shit hasn’t gotten better for a lot of folks in the queer community.
GO: Do you have hobbies? What do you do with your down time when you have it? What’s one song that gets you going on a hard day?
D’Lo: My work takes up most of my time, but the perfect day off is hanging with my nieces and nephews and drinking in the backyard with my cousins or my queer family.
On a hard day, I will listen to soca music on full blast. When I need to get into a zone where I need to prep for something big and hype myself up as if I don’t care as much about it, I listen to Nas. I listen to Nas a lot when I am feeling unsteady. But soca or R&B every other time.
GO: Where does your work go from here? What projects are you working on right now?
D’Lo: Just finished shooting for a new series, and now I have my show opening next week in NYC at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side, running for 3 weekends, so I’m making sure all my jokes and stories are hella tight. I am shooting for something the week after in NYC and a gig in Boston the week after that. Lots of fun stuff that I’m looking forward to. I also can’t wait to take a break after this is all done.
GO: As we face particularly tenuous and violent conditions under the Trump presidency, what gives you hope? What keeps you going?
D’Lo: People give me hope. Activists and artists give me hope. Those unafraid of speaking up and out not only about Trump, but anything inhumane. Being in a creative community where I can have conversations with folks about this political climate we’re in is what keeps me going. Being witnessed on stage is what keeps me going to.
To learn more about D’Lo’s upcoming show, visit the “To T, or Not to T” Facebook page, and buy tickets here. “To T, or Not to T” is presented by Dixon Place and directed by Adelina Anthony. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, July 7 – 22.