There aren't many actors who can play both a wife and the gruff, cigar-chomping team owner in Damn Yankees. But that's what Darius Stubbs did in his second show in high school. Of course, it helped that Darius himself was on the cusp of a gender change at the time.
Now, as a performing artist with the Cleveland Public Theatre, Stubbs is experiencing life in his true gender and playing the male roles he feels he was always destined to play.
Born female as Erica Loriel Stubbs, Darius had a fairly uneventful early childhood, convinced that either his body or mind would adapt and lead him to some measure of gender peace. But that didn't happen and, after puberty hit, Darius began being tormented by much confusion. That's when he made his first of several suicide attempts, as he had a hard time fitting in anywhere, including with the lesbian community in college.
After his doctor abruptly stopped treating trans patients and ceased giving him testosterone, Darius spiraled down into some serious mental anguish. Fortunately, he's always had theater to fall back on. He first took roles that could be gender-neutral, such as the stage manager in Our Town, before he got back on the male hormones that have helped give him the equilibrium he always sought.
To date, Darius has performed on several stages in the area including Great Lakes Theater, CPT, Huntington Playhouse, Near West Theatre and the Beck Center. And he recently led a stirring conclusion to the Station Hope street celebration on the near westside, performing a piece he wrote with the assistance of CPT executive artistic director Raymond Bobgan.
Off stage, Darius feels strongly about coming out publicly as a transman. "I think those of us who can live relatively easily as transgender individuals owe it to others to be visible and active in the community. This is how we can break down barriers and make it easier for those trans people who are still afraid to live as they would want."
Describing himself as a transgender advocate, Darius now enjoys a close relationship with his father Eric (after whom he was initially named). But like many trans people, he finds some familial relationships remain fraught. Darius and his mother have a distant connection, maintained only through greeting cards at birthdays and holidays.
"Being an open transgender person is shaping my life in new ways," says Darius. "Our existence renders the gender binary null and void, and allows people to talk about the real dynamics of gender in a new way. Hopefully that can lead to more freedom for everyone, wherever they are on the gender continuum."