Lea (Lee) Robinson was ecstatic when their manager introduced them to a groundbreaking new project. The 1992 film A League of Their Own was coming back in a completely new way, this time as a TV series focused on fighting racism and homophobia by creating more authentic Black and LGBTQ representation in the media. Lea, a Black, trans, and nonbinary actor themself, plays a Black trans man named Bertie in the new series about the first professional U.S. women’s baseball teams in the 1940s.
“Once I heard Bertie’s name and saw the description of the character, I was so excited,” Lea shared with Wealth of Geeks during a Zoom conversation. “Bertie has been in my heart since after the first audition. Bertie was a part of me, and I was a part of Bertie.”
Lea joined us to discuss the crucial conversations the show promotes. They dive into their experience as a black, queer, trans-masculine actor and why their work on the show is so important. Lea’s incredible performance as Bertie was astounding to watch, not only because of their talent as an actor but also because of Bertie’s character and what Bertie represents.
The portrayal of race, gender, and sexuality in the media has a rocky history, to say the least. But shows like A League of Their Own are changing the game for television in a big way: by increasing visibility and authentic representation of people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.
Why Representation Is Essential — At Every Level
To Lea, representation in the media happens at multiple levels in the creative process. “I believe in hiring or casting folks in those roles who identify with the characteristics of the character and putting in the effort to actually cast trans and nonbinary folks in gender-nonconforming roles.”
But it doesn’t end there. “Representation also means having writers at the table who have that experience and can be authentic and speak about it.” Lea shared. “And behind the scenes, with the crew. I think creating an environment with a lot of diversity on the set is really important. The more visibility and inclusion we have makes for a better experience.”
The impact of representation and visibility is top of mind for Lea in their work. “In this world and this culture, I think we need to hear and see those stories that aren’t being heard and told and seen,” Lea said.
“I think it’s valuable on two spectrums: one, for people who need to see themselves in the media. For little queer, trans, people of color, or however folks identify, to see me on television along with other nonbinary characters or characters who look like them. To be able to relate, connect, to know that you’re not alone. To have that experience.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Lea believes representation is essential for helping change oppressive cultural narratives. “I also think it’s important that culturally, visibility continues to happen. I think visibility can create compassion, curiosity, understanding, and awareness,” Lea told Wealth of Geeks.
“If someone watches the show, sees Bertie, and looks him up because they think, ‘Oh, this character is interesting!’ and realize, ‘Oh, the actor is actually trans and nonbinary!’ And maybe that person is biased against me without even knowing me, right? But now they look at me and say, ‘Oh, this person is into this!’ or, ‘This person has a couple of cats!’ or, ‘This person cooks with their partner!’ It seems really simple, but I think that this type of visibility encourages people to make connections in ways that maybe they haven’t before.”
Visibility Creates Real Change
For Lea, this exploration comes down to self-exploration and fostering connection. “Visibility encourages people to look into their biases and think about where they come from. Every time we create a scenario where we’re not hiding experiences, but putting experiences out there so folks can see them, we’re creating an opportunity for connection, awareness, visibility, and normalization as opposed to dehumanization.”
When people challenge their biases, big changes can happen for marginalized people. Lea touches on the tangible evidence that visibility is critical because it can shape policy and change in our country. “Visibility can show that there are people who are maybe different from you in this world who need rights – human rights, the same rights you have – and maybe someone out there is influenced and has the power to make changes in policy,” Lea said.
The Thin Line Between the Past and the Present
Creating opportunities for authentic representation of the stories and lives of black and queer people is not the only way A League of Their Own broke boundaries after its release in August of 2022. The dialogue in the show is familiar to a modern audience. In general, the actors speak the way people speak today rather than how people talked in the 1940s, which is a refreshing twist for a period piece. And it has a purpose.
“The language that feels very 2022 – I’ve heard that from a lot of people,” Lea shared. “There have also been critiques about that. I love the idea that it’s just one more way to say no — there’s a very thin line between what happened back then and what’s happening today.”
“I think that things have definitely progressed since the 1940s, but I wouldn’t use the language that things have gotten better. Things have changed, and at the same time, I think in this country right now, things are still very hard. Things have been very hard as a black, trans, nonbinary person. I think that we still have a very long way to go.” Lea asserted.
At the same time, Lea recognizes the importance of activism and those who fought for justice and rights before us. “There have been many sacrifices and people who’ve fallen in this race. I always want to acknowledge that. And I always want to acknowledge that because of those sacrifices and because of where we are now. The waves they’ve paved have allowed us to continue this journey. So I always want to acknowledge those who came before us and sacrificed their lives and freedom. Whether we’re talking about race, gender identity, or sexuality, hopefully, we can continue to pave the way for those coming after us. We can only make things better as we move forward,” Lea said.
The Gender Discovery Journey Is Not Linear
With the sacrifices of those who fought in the Civil Rights Movement and at Stonewall, Lea and other black, trans, and queer people have more opportunities to explore their own gender identity and live life as their true selves.
In A League of Their Own, our protagonist Max (Chanté Adams), goes on a journey of exploration to discover her own identity. Max has a few big moments throughout the show that launched her toward self-discovery. Some moments also show her questioning herself and wondering whether or not she should conform to please society by abandoning her dreams and her true self with them.
When discussing their own self-discovery journey, Lea shared a similar experience. “I think that there were smaller moments like, “this is the time. Let’s go to the march! Let’s hold hands! I’ve got a rainbow flag on the train!” Moments of stepping out like that.” Lea said, “but there were also moments of being afraid and not stepping out.” Lea shared.
“Moments of having to be very visible, like putting a tie on and walking onto a train, regardless of what would happen. But the next day, I may choose not to put that tie on because there’s a big game that night, and I know the train will be crowded. I’ve had all those types of moments where I’ve had to contemplate when to be courageous and when to protect myself,” Lea said.
Lea shared inspiring advice for people struggling with similar journeys: “For anyone reading this who’s navigating their identity, maybe it will look like Max’s experience, and maybe it looks more like mine, but whatever your journey is, that’s okay. Just find your tribe, keep moving, and be a tribe for someone else.”
Advocating for Empathy and Open Dialogue
Lea is dedicated to supporting their community and teaching others to lean on their communities for support. They also advocate for open discussion and conversations between people who may not usually interact with each other. This theme is prevalent throughout A League of Their Own. We asked Lea how it felt to be a part of a project that is so focused on creating compassion and understanding rather than tension and violence.
“It’s really, really amazing. It’s a blessing,” they shared. “I feel like open dialogue is the key. I hope that the show moves people. I hope people can connect and relate to the characters and that they see something new that they didn’t see before. I hope the show encourages them to think and get curious. I hope it encourages folks to talk to each other. To have some dialogue about what they’re seeing.” Lea said.
“Being a part of something that encourages folks to have dialogue and turn towards each other, to talk about some of the stories they may be seeing for the first time, it’s really powerful to be a part of that.”
Lea brought us a bit deeper into the show with some key examples. “There are these moments of compassion and forgiveness between Bertie and Max. Times when Bertie has the opportunity to love Max as Max figures things out. Even though it may hurt a little bit, Bertie understands. Bertie’s been there, and maybe someone showed Bertie that love and compassion when Bertie needed it, so Bertie now gets to show that love and compassion to Max.” Lea shared.
“I think that’s also how I try to exist in the world—just having dialogue about things and meeting people where they are—trying to have compassion and understanding for what they’re experiencing. There is a time to protest; there is a time and place for everything. But compassion and empathy– it’s always led to growth. To be a part of a show where that’s the undercurrent of it all– it’s really, really amazing.”
What Inspires Lea To Keep Fighting
Another theme in the show that stands out is the idea that we must always keep fighting for our passions, rights, life, and love. However, it can be tough to keep fighting when we feel overwhelmed or hopeless. Lea shared with us what inspires them to keep fighting and doing the vital work to create a better world.
“I’m inspired by those who came before me. Those who paved the way. The Berties who came before and had these conversations, they inspire me,” Lea said. “My mother and father inspire me. Their love and support and acceptance and willingness to navigate their own feelings to love me inspire me. Navigating their own fear or worries about me as a trans person and queer kid, navigating that to be there for me. That inspires me.”
“Also, our queer youth inspire me. Queer and trans youth who are out there raising their voices and trying to make an impact and make a change and a culture shift: they deeply inspire me. Lastly, just the importance of visibility inspires me. And I speak specifically about my trans women and siblings. The violence against trans women and the trans women we’ve lost due to violence simply because of who they are in the world inspires me to keep fighting, to stay visible, and to keep talking about things,” Lea said.
“I also want to say that sometimes self-care is really important in this work and in this process,” Lea said. We need to re-frame the idea of ‘giving up.’ “It may look more like taking some time. Having a moment. Doing some self-care. Crying and expressing what you’re feeling in those moments,” Lea explained. “I want to encourage folks that yes, there are things that inspire us, but it is really hard. Sometimes we have to sit down and gather ourselves and do what we need to do to take care of ourselves.”
Lea firmly believes that we’re all in this together. “When one of us sits down, someone else steps into that place and keeps us moving forward. I have people around me who love and support me and who will keep walking, and I’ll do that for others as well,” Lea shared.
Lea Continues To Promote Representation in the Media
As Lea and the show’s fans await news of a potential second season, Lea said, “I’m auditioning and being out there and excited about promoting the show.” They’re also working with Stowe Story Labs to develop a feature film. “I have a piece called Nightguards about two older 40s or 50s trans folks, like myself, who are best friends. They work at this biotech lab, and the zombie apocalypse breaks out one night on the night shift.”
Lea Robinson is an inspiring actor, activist, and overall human being. They are doing important work in the entertainment industry with their groundbreaking role as Bertie in A League of Their Own. Like Max and Bertie, Lea is a powerful role model for anyone on a mission to live a fulfilling life as their authentic self.
All episodes of A League of Their Own are now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Maya (she/they) is a professional freelance writer and editor. Her writing is featured in TransLash News & Narrative, Healthline’s Bezzy Depression, HorrorPress, the Episodes Newsletter, and more. They’re passionate about social justice, history, and entertainment journalism. In her free time, she loves binging horror movies, spending time with her girlfriend, and needle-felting monster sculptures.