Daniel Kyri and Bea Cordelia in The T Credit: Image is used with permission from Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri

Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri are the creators, producers, directors, and
stars of The T, a new webseries based on their own lives about the
friendship between Jo, a white trans woman from the north side of Chicago,
and Carter, a black queer man from the south side. The show premiered with
a screening last month at the Chicago Cultural Center, where they filmed
part of The T. The Chicago landmark sits across Randolph Street
from where the two first connected almost a decade ago.

Cordelia and Kyri first met as 17-year-olds in the After School Matters
program at Gallery 37. A mutual friend set them up on a date, but they lost
touch after they went away to college. Five years later, Kyri happened to
be in the audience during one of Cordelia’s performances at Salonathon, the
former home for “underground, emerging, and genre-defying art.” He was
captivated, and invited her to perform at the Dojo, an interdisciplinary
arts space in Pilsen, where she read a poem called “The Future.” At the
time, neither of them was aware they would be working together more closely
in the future.

Cordelia and Kyri both felt limited by the opportunities offered to them as
actors in Chicago. Kyri was sick and tired of being presented with
stereotypical roles that portrayed black men as criminals. After coming out
as a trans woman, Cordelia “stopped the acting classes and I stopped trying
because I was like, Who’s going to cast a trans woman?” Both desired more
out of their artistic careers, and so Cordelia and Kyri decided to build
something new together. They began working on The T with the hope
that a webseries would allow them to reach a larger audience while still
maintaining creative control.

What they wrote is a love letter to queer and trans friendship in Chicago.
Throughout the first season of The T, Jo and Carter demonstrate
the strength of queer community while grappling with their sexual
identities. Jo finds herself in a relationship with a cis man who wants her
to hide her transness. In response, she proclaims, “I am a transgender
woman, I can’t turn that off. I am always going to be a transgender woman.
I can’t hide that part of my history. You can’t ask me to be anything

In Kyri’s favorite scene, Carter comes to terms with how shame impacts his
sexual health. He shares his HIV status with another queer black man named
Teddy, played by Travis Turner. Upon hearing the news, Teddy moves closer
toward Carter and listens attentively. He provides a caring and sensitive
response, rather than fear or rejection, which gives Carter room to be
emotionally vulnerable with him.

“A lot of the impetus for the backstory of the character of Carter comes
from me being a young queer black man growing up on the south side and
floundering,” Kyri says. “Carter’s stepdad is a pastor, which is a
reflection of my own religious upbringing. Being told that our desires are
bad or invalid has an effect. Shame leads to unhealthy decisions. We have
to grow through and grow past that self-hatred.”

One of Cordelia’s favorite scenes depicts the beauty of sisterhood between
trans women. Jo is hanging out with Emerie, a new friend played by Evilyn
Riojas, in her bedroom. They laugh together, imagine a trans commune in the
woods, and vent about ignorant cis people in their lives. The scene
concludes with one of the definitive moments of the show. Emerie confesses
to Jo, “I’m just really tired of having to apologize for the best parts of
me.” This is a rare example of queer and trans people caring for each other
onscreen in an honest and everyday way.

In the final scene of The T, Carter and Jo meet at their spot on
the beach after they have both had particularly rough days. They huddle
together on the shore of Lake Michigan, drinking at dusk with the pink and
blue sky above them. They ask each other if they’re OK. Jo responds,
“Honestly, yeah.” Carter answers, “I think so.” They’re all right because
they have each other. They’ve found love in relationships that affirm
rather than ask them to hide their true selves. This deep love and respect
is also evident in the relationship Cordelia and Kyri share offscreen.

“When you look at it on paper,” Cordelia observes, “we’re opposites of each
other in about every demographic way possible.” Sure, the two of them both
identify as queer and were born in Chicago less than 24 hours apart. But,
she explains, their differing class and racial backgrounds meant “according
to the world and especially according to a city as segregated as Chicago,
we shouldn’t have become friends. There was no reason for us to have met.”

However, they did meet and reconnect, thanks to underground queer art
spaces like Salonathon and the Dojo. Currently, Cordelia and Kyri are
working together on writing pilots for future webseries and continue
performing around the city. Cordelia will be featured in the Fly Honey Show
next month at the Den Theatre and Kyri just finished playing the lead role
in the Gift Theatre’s Hamlet, directed by Monty Cole.

Plans for another season of The T remain uncertain. Two weeks
before they started filming, Cordelia and Kyri lost a large part of their
funding and were forced to cut a significant amount of the show. The T was largely supported through multiple crowdfunding
campaigns and grants. In the future, they hope to receive more financial
support so they can continue telling the story of Carter and Jo’s
friendship. “I want to be able to tell a fuller story,” Kyri said. “I want
to create a more expansive view of queer life in the city of Chicago.”   v