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ALOTO's Lea Robinson on Queer Family and What Connects Us

Lea Robinson

By playing Max Chapman's trans uncle in A League of Their Own, Lea Robinson shows a Black trans man thriving.

A League of Their Own is all about people finding their team, and for Max Chapman (Chante Adams), a Black woman who dreams of being a professional pitcher, that journey involves a surprising family member: the trans uncle she never knew she had.

Early in the series, the audience hears about Max's estranged "Auntie" Bertie, but when Max finally gets to meet Bertie for the first time since she was little, she finds out he's a trans man and he's living his best life.

Bertie -- played by trans actor Lea (pronounced "Lee") Robinson (he/they) -- is happily married, owns a home, and hosts queer parties with his friends from around the country. Contrast that with Max, who is closeted, afraid of people seeing the real her, and unsure of what she wants. When she meets Bertie, she sees that there are more possibilities than she ever dreamed of. That's exactly what Robinson is hoping viewers feel as well.

"I pray and manifest every morning that Bertie and all the other folks in the show, that it impacts someone, it moves someone," Robinson says. "Because that feels like, to me, success. If you can use this vehicle to tell a story, to move someone, to encourage someone, that's what I hope for."

Something that was important for the show's creators and writers was to not only show the period's homophobia and transphobia but to also show that there have always been and always will be queer people thriving. Even rarer, it shows an example of a Black trans man thriving.

"Yeah, there's challenges and there are things that are hard [about being queer], but there's also joy and moments that we get to celebrate each other and ourselves and our lives and have gratitude for what we have and the love that we have for each other," Robinson says. "So I think that it was really just one more way that this show was doing something different. It was holding all things because we can exist in both of the places. We can have the challenges and we can also have the joy."

Bertie serves as a queer mentor for Max, not only giving her permission to explore her identity but giving her the resources as well. After they get to know each other a little, Bertie gives Max -- whose mother owns a hair salon and is always begging her to go in and get her hair styled in more feminine ways -- her first short and queer haircut.

Haircuts hold a lot of power and symbolism in both Black and LGBTQ+ communities, and the scene shows exactly why. This is when Bertie and Max truly connect as queer family.

"It's a family, right, they are reconnecting this family connection, and where hair is something that's sacred. It was just such a powerful scene that we were connecting in that moment," Robinson says. "Max was trusting me with this transformation, and I was, Bertie was, in a way, welcoming Max into their life with this gift that they were giving in that moment."

In a show full of wonderful and complex relationships between queer people, the one between Max and her Uncle Bertie is a true standout. It's rare to see depictions of queer people from this era, let alone Black queer and trans people, but with A League of Their Own, audiences are finally getting that chance.

This story is part of The Advocate's 2022 History issue, which is out on newsstands August 30. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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