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‘Monica’ Star Trace Lysette Says Screening at New York’s LGBT Community Center Was ‘Heavy’: ‘I Got My Gender Identity Therapy There 20 Years Ago’

Trace Lysette is in a hotel room on 8th Street in New York City when she jumps on a Zoom video call with Variety to talk about her new movie, “Monica.”

In just a couple of hours, she’s set to walk the red carpet at the indie drama’s premiere at the IFC Center.

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“I used to turn tricks a few blocks from there,” Lysette says.

Like so many trans women, Lysette once turned to sex work as a means of survival. “I was a young person alone in New York doing God knows what to survive,” says Lysette, who was raised in Ohio. “Last night we had a screening at The [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community] Center here. That was so heavy for me because I got my gender identity therapy there 20 years ago.”

Over the last few years, Lysette has been building a career in Hollywood. She is most known for her work on “Transparent” and as one of Jennifer Lopez’s fellow strippers in “Hustlers,” but “Monica” is being applauded as her breakout. She stars in the titular role as a transgender woman who reunites with her estranged family when she gets word that her mother (Patricia Clarkson) is dying.

Lysette first auditioned for the movie in 2016. When she eventually landed the part, she also joined as a producer. Director Andrea Pallaoro co-wrote “Monica” with Orlando Tirado. The film, in theaters now, had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September. The cast also includes Emily Browning, Joshua Close and Adriana Barraza.

The dialogue is sparce but in one scene, Lysette delivers an emotional monologue when Monica chastises a man for treating her like an “experiment” when he stands her up at at bar after initially meeting online. “It was so beautiful and gut-wrenching and very, very vulnerable because I’ve been that girl,” Lysette says.

But that was then. Lysette says she always believed – no matter how tough it is for a trans actor to make it in the industry – that she would eventually be given the spotlight. “I think that at certain times in my life I held onto the dream in order to just keep going. Something inside me told me that I shouldn’t let go of that crazy dream,” she says. “I don’t even know statistically if I should still be here, but If I am indeed arriving — because I’m just going with the flow here — but if it’s time to feel safe, if it is time for abundance, then I just want to always remember that young trans girl on her own in New York and remember the journey because I don’t ever want to take any of it for granted.”

Lysette is looking for new projects. “I love drama, so I’m not going to shy away from that,” she says. “But I have dreams of a rom-com. I have dreams of action, Marvel. I’ve played sports my whole life, I shoot hoops, I hit the track, I did MMA for a while.”

Her dream Marvel role? X-Men’s Rogue. “I grew up watching the ‘X-Men’ cartoon,” Lysette says. “That would be another full circle moment for me.”

But then she cracks, “My dream role would one that allows me to buy a house – one that gets me a guest house for my mom in the back.”

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