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“I feel like trans women need to be seen for more female roles, and trans men need to be seen for more cis male roles because it creates that comfortability…because, at some point, it can sometimes seem like a spectacle, and it can put us in a place of ‘We’re trending.’ I don’t want that.” As far as Rodriguez’s personal journey, her family and friends have only shown support, her confidence has skyrocketed, her dating life has improved, and she feels it “her duty” to educate those in her life about being transgender. You can’t force anyone to understand anything that they don’t want to understand. “To each his own.” Michael Gioia is the Features Manager at
“I haven’t had any problems,” she says, “but I am scared. I hate the term ‘passing,’ but I would say I’m one of the girls who are lucky enough to ‘pass.’ I don’t get as much problems when I’m walking down the street.
In the 2011 Off-Broadway revival of Rent, MJ Rodriguez was “just living me onstage,” she recalls. I was in character, of course, but I was also living me and telling my story through Angel.” Though typically thought of as a drag queen, Angel Dumott Schunard was more “gender queer” or “gender fluid” in Rodriguez’s eyes.
As the emptiness progressed, “I started to look into [the transition process] more,” she continues, “because I knew deep down inside I’m putting on a smile for these wonderful people who see me backstage… It was me that was holding myself back because I felt like I had to fit into this mold of what people want to see.” Rodriguez got into performing at age seven, the same age she began to pray about becoming a female.It’s a day they feel even more grateful for now, after the devastating events in Orlando.This Pride—in between Case’s performances as Broadway’s most beloved teacher, Miss Honey, in Matilda the Musical—the couple plans to spread the love they’ve received since the start of their relationship.“Fredi Walker-Browne [Rent’s original Joanne Jefferson] came to see the show, and we both found interest in each other,” says Rodriguez. Playing Angel was a dream from the moment she saw the 2005 film adaptation with her father and told him, “Dad, I want to play this role.” To which he replied, “In due time.”At Rent, Rodriguez had friends and fans come who were changed by her performance—one woman, in particular, who just embraced Rodriguez in tears and said, “It was so moving.“She had me do one of her readings, and then she told me, ‘You need to be seen for Angel in the upcoming Off-Broadway production,’ and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I thought that person up there was real.” After Rent closed in September 2012, Rodriguez came to a decision to make it real.