When Musicals Tackle Transgender Equality and Acceptance

Considering the success of the musicals Rent and Avenue Q, it perhaps isn’t surprising for a musical to have gay or transgender themes. What is surprising is when the musical pops up in the middle of Kentucky. The Kentucky Center, in Louisville, is showing a musical about a transgender woman living as a member of a southern Indiana family.

The musical follows the transition of a transgender woman, Miyia O’Bannon. Miyia felt like a woman from an early age and attempted suicide as a teenager. In The Prodigal, Miyia’s family goes through a journey to understand, accept, and love her.

Miyia’s mother, Sheila O’Bannon, is a church music minister. She wrote the music and script and named the musical after the biblical story of the prodigal son. In that story, the son leaves his family and squanders his inheritance, but is still eventually welcomed back into his father’s home. The older brother, of course, gets upset at his father’s quick forgiveness. In the musical, Sheila was much like the older brother in the biblical story. She didn’t understand Miyia’s identity but eventually grew to accept it through love. The O’Bannon family explains that the story of the prodigal son can apply to anyone, and describes that God loves everyone no matter what.

The musical has great potential to help other people in the community, including families with and without LGBT people. Miyia explained that “people need to see those emotions and see that that’s what people like me go through and that’s why you shouldn’t treat anyone disrespectfully.” The Prodigal shows the importance of mending relationships and working through conflicts. Sheila hopes that people will learn from the musical “that family needs to be family, no matter what.”

These highlighted issues are incredibly important in the LGBT community, as families go through a range of experiences once a family member comes out of the closet. If everyone could see and learn from The Prodigal, people would be able to come out without the fear of rejection and hate from within their own family. The O’Bannon family is brave for sharing their story of acceptance of Miyia. Hopefully their story will help other families on their journeys to acceptance.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons