When it comes to being his authentic self, Quinn Fontaine is playing for keeps

by | Jun 22, 2024 | ALLFFP, Arts and Entertainment, Events, Fredericksburg

Quinn Fontaine wants to have a heartfelt conversation.

It doesn’t matter if the topic is gender identity, sexuality, addiction or spirituality — all subjects Fontaine knows well — but he seeks to speak from a place of truth and acceptance.

Fontaine spent his school years in Fredericksburg under another identity. Known then as Kathleen, he graduated from James Monroe High School in 1986 and headed to a women’s college in Boston. Eventually, he landed in California. But as he tells it, everywhere he went, “There I was.”

Now an author, artist, comedian and performer, Fontaine has returned to the Fredericksburg area to care for his mother. He’s joined forces with Fredericksburg Area Museum Exhibits Curator Sarah Ernst to share his story of growing up transgender in an era when the word didn’t exist.

“I was born in the Philippines. My dad was in the service. We moved eight times before I was 6 and we landed here,” he said. “Knowing from a young age, in my words, I was a boy in the wrong body who happened to like girls in a state where the motto is: “Virginia is for lovers.”  

Fontaine decided to make a career out of comedy, a skill he used in an attempt to insulate himself from painful bullying and misgendering as a young person.

“There were no images of me. There were no ‘trans’ anything, and the word didn’t come about till way later,” he said. “So, I found comedy early. I had found humor and I realized, ‘Oh my God, if I can make the kids laugh at my jokes, then they won’t laugh at me’ because I already knew how different I was and ‘other’ I was. I used comedy as a defense mechanism for years.”  

Fontaine spent much of his adult life struggling with addiction, preverbal childhood sexual trauma and feeling out of place in society.

“Growing up with that level of pain, and being othered, especially around love, never loving myself—my journey of healing has been very long,” he said.

After spending time in Europe and Washington, Fontaine entered art school in California, living in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles.

“I didn’t know the term ‘doing a geographic’ until I got into recovery,” he explained. “I was constantly running from me. I bottomed out in LA on crack, alcohol, pot, pills, sex addiction. It was dangerous behavior. I did everything but gambling — but I was gambling with my life.”  

Fontaine, 56, eventually entered therapy and rehab and found that sharing his story in words and performance was both therapeutic and unifying. He has written several books, produced and starred in solo stage performances plus an independent film.  

“My body was my prison my whole life,” Fontaine says in a solo show entitled: “Hung Like a Seahorse: A Real-Life Transgender Adventure of Tragedy, Comedy, and Recovery.”

Turning to the power of comedy and play, Fontaine discovered a way to “take me outside of my thinking mind,” he said. “Play brings me to a higher connectedness to myself, to others and to life itself. Without humor, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be on the planet.”  

While living in Santa Fe, he created a workshop for all ages that encourages people to be their authentic selves in a welcome, safe space. Fontaine is bringing that workshop to Fredericksburg as part of its ongoing Out and About: The Walk-In Closet exhibit. On June 23 from 2-4 p.m., all ages are invited to join him in the museum’s third-floor Council Chamber (ages under 14 must have an adult present; RSVP is recommended but not required. To RSVP, email [email protected]).

Unlike a more traditional improv workshop, this event will focus on play and Fontaine’s motto of Play Together Planet.  

“I believe in this level of truth-telling because it’s setting me free, and the feedback I get is it’s setting other people free,” he said. “How many people are opting out of life because of shame, and they never found a place to tell the truth? Any truth?” 

Fontaine wants the interactions to be a way for people to heal and become more fully embodied and in touch with their voice.

“I fully believe and know that genius can flow through every single person,” he said. “If we’re open, mind, body and spirit. If we’re open, genius can flow through,” he said. “You will laugh, you will leave feeling your community like maybe you haven’t before. Yeah, there’ll be a lot of beautiful moments.” 

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