Photography: Sam Vaughan

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FELIX MUFTI-WRIGHT (he/him) is a queer trans man who is championing Liverpool’s LGBTQ+ community, breaking boundaries and challenging the mainstream through theatre, poetry and performance.

His creative endeavours started with youth theatre when he was 14. He has since gone on to appear in Cinderella (The Young Vic, R&D); Tin Star (Sky Atlantic); The Uncomfortability of a Made Up Wor(l)d (Unity Theatre).

Felix is also an organiser for Trans Pride Liverpool and Transgender Day of Remembrance. In February he released a video performance of Memories Burnt, a poem about trans history, commissioned by the Museum of Liverpool for LGBTQ+ History Month.

Speaking today, he sits in front of a wall that is as full as his mind with ideas: a collage of photographs, drawings, memories and inspiration. While talking he smiles a lot and underlines the importance of his words with movements and hand gestures.

For a creative trying to thrive in a capitalist context, his work experiences read like the dream CV that can open all the doors: Felix is an actor, writer, performer, facilitator and activist with years of experience under his belt, despite being only in his early twenties.

He wanted to be an actor since he was little, but when he came out as trans at the age of 13, he quickly noticed that it is almost impossible to be an active and successful part of an industry that does not overwhelmingly welcome or support trans people. But he did not let the discriminatory nature of the theatre world dim his passion. “I realised that I could write my own scripts, write my own stories,” he says, smiling proudly. “I enjoyed it and I enjoyed acting and creating roles for the communities, including myself.”

The wisdom his words carry is compelling, but at the same time they arrive with a sadness, bearing the experience of hardships overcome. Felix shares his experiences and knowledge openly and generously; it is clear that he wants to give people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community space and opportunities to grow at their own pace, making them feel understood and give them the strength to reach out for help if they need it. “It’s about the outreach and going into the communities of people my work affects and make sure they see it,” he says, “so they feel heard, they feel seen.”

Felix has been tackling inequality through all his work and was recently able to take a massive step forward when he co-founded Transcend Theatre company, with Ailís Lord (she/her) and Ty Mather (they/them) in February 2020. They are a proudly queer-led, queer-focused and queer-empowering company, pushing the limits of the theatre industry and exploring underrepresented topics that affect the LGBTQ+ community.

"I realised that I could write my own scripts, write my own stories."

Felix says that theatre should be about telling real life stories on stage, but he feels mainstream theatre has moved away from that. “Everything Transcend does is about telling queer stories authentically and I don’t really see many theatre companies that are queer-focused, especially trans-focused like we are. We don’t want it to just be on stage either, we want as much of the team as we can to be queer.”

Last year, Transcend Theatre was part of “QueerCore”, which is Homotopia’s formal artist development programme for early-career artists. This year, they have already received funding from Arts Council England for their current project How To Kill A Rose, written and performed by Felix, as well as being selected as part of Liverpool Unity Theatre’s Open Call Programme.

Transcend aims to break boundaries between Northern theatre and the rest of the country, both in opportunities and perception. Felix describes various situations where he has been seen as “rough” by others because of his Scouse accent, the way he dresses and carries himself. He laughs this off: “I’m the least threatening person ever, I’m literally like a Build a Bear.”

Felix notes how he has faced regular discrimination in his life and career, but he is clear in outlining the supportive atmosphere of Liverpool, which has contrasted to his experience of other places in the UK. He points towards a “great supportive network” and makes it explicitly clear how important it is to make this a common reality for all trans people.

Moments of hardship have also been equally significant in artistic growth. He notes how his school years involved extreme transphobic behaviour from one of the school’s teachers. This, he says, has shaped him. “I remember thinking, in that moment, I will never apologise for being myself again,” he recalls.

He emphasises how he is grateful to have found acting, writing and creating as healthy ways to talk about and deal with the things that have happened to him.

And there are no signs of stopping his creativity. He is currently writing new work, soon to be produced by Transcend Theatre. Be Gay Do Crime is a rap musical that will be about gay drug dealers from Birkenhead. Felix estimates a couple of years until staging. At the same time, he is working on an all trans self-published poetry book which he hopes to release by the end of this year.

It is clear that, no matter which topics and experiences he is challenging and working through, he will pour his heart in, and create opportunities unseen in the mainstream. But most importantly, he is and always will be radically and wonderfully unapologetic.

 

How To Kill A Rose will be performed later this year.

@felixmufti

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