Ever Mainard’s Ottis Is a Love Letter to Family | ccklpl.com

Ever Mainard’s Ottis Is a Love Letter to Family

Coming out can be a stressful, emotional experience for some in the LGBTQ+ community. Ever Mainard, a nonbinary comedian, writer, and actor, had to come out to their parents…twice.

Mainard’s apprehension was understandable after growing up in Little River-Academy, a Central Texas town with a population of fewer than 1,000 people. (It’s the kind of place that emphasizes the “mer” in ‘Merica.) But Mainard is decidedly proud of their family’s blue collar roots. 

“They’re never not working. My dad is a carpenter and my mom used to style hair. She then started her own house cleaning business, and I would help her clean homes,” the comedian says during a phone interview, just a few days after performing their show Ottis at the Netflix Is a Joke Festival in Los Angeles. “You did what you had to do. And I think that’s also where my work ethic—and budgeting [skills]—comes from. It’s a lot of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.”

While Mainard’s parents might have inferred that their child was gay, “I just wasn’t ready to come out,” Mainard says. “I wasn’t proud that I was gay. And I tried to hide it.” It wasn’t until the comedian was newly out in Chicago in the late aughts that one of their local hometown Texas newspapers, the Temple Daily Telegram, was running a profile on Mainard—and the paper was going to disclose their sexual preferences.

“In this interview, this woman asked me if I was gay. And I asked, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Are you going to be gay on stage?’ She had to warn the readers: ‘There’s going to be gay stuff,’ which is appalling. It’s trash. It’s still indicative of Central Texas,” Mainard explains.

“But now when I go home, I’m a butch dyke. I don’t hide it anymore. I have a shaved head. But at the time, I was embarrassed. I wasn’t proud,” they add. Mainard knew that they wanted to get in front of the story before their parents read it: “So I went into the living room and said, ‘I have something to tell you all. I’m…I’m gay.’ And they actually got up off the couch and gave me a really big hug. It was a really beautiful moment. And they said, ‘You don’t have to tell us; we’ve known and for a very long time.’”

The show Ottis, which the comedian has been workshopping and polishing for the past six months, is an hour-long homage to Mainard’s family and small town Texas. It showcases Mainard’s ability to spin stories and mix the tales with crowd work. Although the comedian has been performing the show around L.A., their goal is to get the solo show to Off-Broadway, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and other cities with larger queer populations. 

Ottis includes a hilarious retelling of their second coming out: how Mainard told their parents they were nonbinary over a trash fire in the backyard. “That is 100% true,” they say. “It was December, and I was getting top surgery in January.”

Mainard still wasn’t sure how the family would react to the thought of surgery, preferred prounouns, and what it meant to be nonbinary. “They didn’t really get it,” Mainard recalls. “But also I didn’t clearly tell them what it meant. Because I was afraid.”

They say that the conversation about top surgery was even more difficult and awkward to explain than the first, some of which is included in Ottis. “I really could have handled that better. Instead of saying ‘I’m having an optional double mastectomy, which technically is true, it was jarring,” Mainard tells me. They clarified for the family: “Finally, I just said, ‘Hey, I don’t like my breasts. I want a flat chest. I’m trans masc, and I’m still learning what that means to me.’”

Mainard’s family once again came to support, staying with the comic at an Austin, Texas, Airbnb for two weeks in 2022 before, during, and after the gender-affirming surgery.

While the family’s been there for Mainard, there’s still a lot of learning to do for all of them. “My dad is one of my biggest champions,” Mainard says. “I think both of my parents are still really trying to understand. They’re figuring it out and in their own time. And my dad will say things like, ‘buddy.’ ‘How’s it going, buddy?’ ‘This is my buddy, Ever.’ They’ll still use ‘daughter,’ but that’s how they’ve known me for 35 years.”

“Ultimately, Ottis is a love letter to my dad,” Mainard says. (The show’s title Ottis is their father’s middle name.) Not to be too spoilery, but the show ends on a story where Mainard’s father steps in when the comedian is harassed buying jeans at a JC Penney. He comes off as Mainard’s sweet defender—though he doesn’t quite get the pronouns quite right. 

“He’s trying,” Mainard says. “I think what people don’t realize is, there needs to be grace on both sides, right?”

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