Archives for posts with tag: trans

I realized I never wrote about directing my  friend’s transgender-vagina-monologues-style play- “The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary” at a local college this past weekend.

I had said before that I wished I weren’t involved – and let me tell you I griped about it right up until I walked into the room with the actors on Friday. It was only a two-day commitment – one rehearsal, and then the reading itself. The cast consisted of three 18 and 19 year old cis-female actors and a 29-yr old actor friend of mine who was free and interested. We rehearsed for about one hour, tops. We didn’t even read the entire cut of the piece through.

But it was incredible. The hall was filled with interested, engaged college kids – male, female, queer, possibly trans – which alone was awesome since this campus is a fairly conservative private school. The audience was incredibly enthusiastic, and loving, even when there were glitches and missed lines. Afterwards folks said they wished this play was performed every year there. It might be, and all the better.

I was reminded of the importance of telling these stories. That there IS an audience for what we queer and trans and butch and other folks have to say, and that only by speaking up to we even hear each other. I was reminded of how I, at 19, was too scared to perform in the original cast of this piece and how now, at 30, I would do it anytime – yes, even in light of all my griping. If I can stop focusing on myself for one moment I might actually get out of my own way. 🙂

And it was amazing to see Toby again. He has become a good, lovely man – he brings all the best qualities of a man to the table, and his talkback was a highlight of the event.  We looked at each other with interest after our ten-year absence, and noted that we’re still living some alternate dimension of each other’s lives. He has his lovely old New England house and partner and dog and job at the Prestigious Women’s College, his church and his soon-to-be graduate degree, and his queer and trans activism changing the world for the better. I have my rented room, my partner, my odd jobs and artistic crises, my constant struggle with putting myself and my queerness out there, my commitment to performing in lieu of security, which has so strongly affected my own queer and butch identity. But we shared our support for each other in these transformations, the weird paths that lives take. It was like an extended hug.

I really needed that.

 

I signed on to direct a workshop of a wonderful play by my friend Tobias K. Davis: The Naked I: Monologues from Beyond the Binary.  It was a really hard decision because I’m a) already directing the queer musical that is making me tear my hair out and b) not really interested in directing much anymore. It’s hard for me to muster the enthusiasm. Ever since I went to ensemble theater school (read: clown school), working live performance in a traditional way is a bit boring to me. But this play needs exposure, and I need  desperately to connect with queer community, so I agreed.

Also, when the play was first written, Toby asked me to play one of the seminal characters, and because I was scared of my life and my gender identity and my butchness being all exposed on stage (not to mention actually nude), I turned it down.

Here’s a little promo from a colleague’s Minneapolis production a few years ago:
In February 2009, 20% Theatre Company took the Twin Cities by storm with its production of The Naked I: Monologues From Beyond the Binary by award-winning, transgender playwright, Tobias K. Davis. Often compared to the Vagina Monologues, The Naked I was made up of monologues and short scenes in which transgender, transsexual, intersex, and a variety of other gender-variant individuals explored their bodies and dissected society’s assumptions. This play was based on interviews conducted in New England by the playwright. Our production sold-out all five performances at Bedlam Theater, and involved over 25 members of the local queer community.

LA really needs this. The college where we’re mounting it really needs this. I’m glad to finally be a part of it.

Location: the Silverlake Reservoir, Sunday strolling

Look: super confident transman, strutting his stuff with a pretty blonde at his side and a pretty pooch on the line.

This guy shared an amazing smile with me and the PGF. Love that.

 

I have to just come out and say it: I’m weirded out that the other FTM character in the play I’m performing in this week is being played by a genetic guy. A guy who is a working, handsome, white, probably straight, and yes -talented- actor in LA. A guy who I’m guessing has never been an outsider, unless it was because he was an actor, which is pretty far from being an outsider because you feel like you’re living in the wrong body. He’s doing a fine job – but in the scenes where his character is talking to his girlfriend, he’s just… a man. A cis-man. A man who is used to being a man, with all the privileges (and stress, and difficulties) that come with that. He’s not a man who chose to be a man. Who used to be a woman. And it bugs me.

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I went off to the play audition for the FTM character last Thursday dressed in my college-years best: baggy khakis, full binding, gray t shirt with blue plaid button down and a black skater jacket. Incidentally, my college gf was in town visiting – her comment when I came out to leave for the audition was: “Whoa, does somebody have a cappella rehearsal or what?”  because I had basically regressed ten years. (Not that I consider keeping in touch with my trans identity regressing, it’s simply a style thing. I don’t wear a lot of khaki these days, much less full binding.)

I was, as is usual when I go out for LGBT parts, worried that I didn’t look butch or trans (or old or young) enough.  I needn’t have worried.

How do I say this? Friends, I was the ONLY women they saw for the part. Everyone else there was a cis-man. Straight up Male. And unless the two guys who came in right as I was leaving were fully transitioned FTMs who passed so well I couldn’t read them at all, there were no other queer or otherwise trans identified folks there, save for one excellent and flamboyant drag queen (isn’t there always one excellent and flamboyant drag queen?). I was the only butch in a button down.

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i still have the keychain.

Back in my veritable youth, at the Prestigious Women’s College, I came out (quietly) as trans.  Most people on campus didn’t know this, even though my senior year I lived with two of the most prominent trans guys at the school. Even they didn’t necessarily know how I felt. Only one member of my family was in the loop, but probably didn’t know that it was something official, even if declared only privately.

Truth be told today, even though I use the word “queer” most often, when it comes down to it I still identify as transgendered.  I still carry the transgendered keychain my erstwhile college gf bought me. I still cringe a bit when folks try to peg me with a pronoun, or tell me that I’m a (shudder) “beautiful woman.”  That freaks me out, but many of my lesbian-queer friends would freak out themselves if I reminded them that this is a label I  feel comfortable with – not the only label, but one of several that make up my umbrella. When a (slightly older) friend of mine from college heard I was calling myself trans, she lamented to me that the world was losing another good butch. At the time I thought she was outmoded and, basking in the righteous morning of my new identity, I thought she couldn’t ever possibly know what I was going  through, how my own body felt, and what it meant to finally accept myself this way.

I straddle the line between butch and trans everyday, and have found solace on both sides.  As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve developed more conflicting feelings about being transgendered, specifically about the body modification many folks undergo to change into their true selves.  I personally don’t trust allopathic medicine with any of my parts, even after undergoing a breast-reduction surgery at the age of 21 – right smack in the midst of my trans adolescence. (Much good it did me, as I’m still at least a C/D cup.) These days I’m hard pressed to find reasons to take ibuprofen, let alone inject myself with all kinds of prescribed chemical compounds.

Which is why I’m so fascinated hearing the stories of transmen that go through hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries. Because I, too, can relate to not feeling at peace with the disconnect between my brain-gender and my body-gender.  But in my case, I realize that my brain-gender isn’t any more male than my body-gender is. It’ s just… a lack of female. I know many FTMs who don’t feel the same as I do, and that’s ok by me – gender identity is a personal journey if ever there was one.

Chaz Bono is on the press junket for the movie chronicling his gender transformation.  Each time I read another interview I can’t help but feeling a little like my friend from the PWC – like we’ve somehow lost another butch, although I admit that the world needs more good men too.  But there’s something uniquely strong and sexy about being a masculine-identified woman, a quality of sitting-in-your-otherness that my FTM friends eschew. They want to be guys. They want to pass.  A large part of why I’ve tried not to dwell on my own trans identity is because I know I will never pass – I had to accept that fact, that even if I went through all the hormones and medical factory work, there are certain attributes to my physical appearance that mark me as female.  Accepting that allowed me to accept myself even more than the original label did – it allowed me to accept that I will always live in a grey area. I remain trans in the way that trans as a prefix means “across,” “beyond,” or “on the opposite side.” Not exactly male or female, nor entirely butch or femme, in the traditional sense. I’m the little pointy cross section of the Venn diagram.  And that’s also why I’m here, as the Pretty Butch. Trying to figure out my own circumference and area.

 

 

 

 

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