Monday, November 17, 2014

FOR TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE




Last week I posted a showreeel.

Nothing special about that, really: there must be hundreds and thousands of them out there on the internet.

Hundreds and thousands of young hopefuls compiling film clips to show off their acting skills.

it’s true that, being in my mid sixties, i am a little bit old to be a young hopeful…

But that’s not the main reason why my showreel seems special to me. it’s special because for most of my life the idea of putting such a thing on display was literally unthinkable.

Unthinkable because i absolutely knew for sure i could not act and never would.

Just as for an absolutely horrible few years of my life I thought i would never be able to have a relationship with anybody or have children. Never even have sex with anybody, in fact. 

All these terrible, false and destructive ideas were put into my head my the intensity and power and universality of the prejudice I suffered when i was still a child.

Lately I’ve recovered a memory of somehow being in my boarding house at school wearing the purple trouser suit i wore as Lizzie in “Next Time I’ll Sing To you” and feeling happy and confident and gay in every sense of the word and someone saying “You really enjoy wearing that”.

Not in an unkind way,actually, but as a simple matter of fact. i did feel just so effortlessly more like myself, somehow, and for the first time feeling like there really was a place for me in the world.

But at the same time I understood that i was giving myself away: that I was making it clear to everybody - including myself - that deep down I wanted to be a girl.

Which was, at that time and in that place, the very worst and most shameful thing a boy could ever want to be.

And at that time and in that place there was no help anywhere.

And that was the main reason I stopped acting.

I’ve put off writing those words because they still hurt.

I try not to think of what might have happened if I’d been able to live my full vocation from the beginning instead of having to struggle with all my strength to remove the obstacles that stood between me and fulfilling it.

I’m grateful instead that after twenty years trying I finally did find my voice as a playwright; grateful for the inner voice fed by my instincts as a performer that still keeps right as a writer; and for the ferocity of the inner need that drove me, even if despite of myself, to write for the theatre.

Now I have learnt to live openly as a woman, it must be those instincts, I think, that have guided me back to where I started all those years ago, when I was still a boy: that I love acting, when I do it I feel such a deep connection with my fellow human beings and my own deep self and feel so at home in the world.

I’ve done with the help of my amazing family and my colleagues and my friends, and it’s only taken fifty years.

And here i am: bloodies and bowed. Bruised and a bit arthritic… but still here.

And that’s something to celebrate, i think.

This is when we remember all those who did not make it. This is when we read out the names. The names of those murdered for simply being who they are.

Those shot or stabbed or strangled or tortured or beaten or otherwise done to death. 

Those whose murderers have not just been content to end their lives but have been impelled to go on and on destroying our brothers and our sisters bodies in countless cruel and vicious ways.

It’s important these people are named and honoured and remembered.

But I also think of those whose lives prejudice still continues to blight. Those who are still struggling. Those who have given up.

I think of my sisters and my brothers in lonely rooms. Nursing their lonely dreams.

Or those who have been forced to work the streets because they were forced early out of school or home

Or because the discrimination they suffer at work leaves them no other realistic option.

I think of all the scientists, managers, statespeople, artisans and srtists; all the teachers and parents: all those whose talents have been blocked by prejudice and discrimination and may never be fulfilled.

There are just too many names.

Because in the end it is not just those whose gifts are frustrated by the prejudice and hatred suffered by those of us who are trans*: but also those who suffer discrimination because of their race of their sexuality. Those who suffer because of their disability; those who suffer because of their sexuality. Those who suffer because they are woman. Those who suffer because they are poor.

In its current crisis, the world so needs these talents and cannot afford to lose them.

Prejudice, discrimination, injustice damage us all: ending them is the business of everyone. 

Otherwise the suffering is just too great to bear.

I find it so easy to be possessed by rage or overwhelmed by grief. So easy to be driven by terror or self hatred or the need for revenger.

I try to remember what my trans* Jesus says. Says as she lights the candles:

“They might try to put out your light.
They might throw stones at you for allowing to shine.
They might spit on you or shout after you:
“Faggot! Pervert! Maricón!”
Or maybe they’ll laugh and shout: “Look! It’s a geezer!”
Or call you a pervert or an open sewer.
They might do worse: they might beat you
Or torture you and kill you
And throw your body into a skip.
Because these things happen.
But I say to you: 
Bless you if people abuse you or persecute you because it means you are bringing about change.
And bless those who persecute you too because hatred is the only talent that they have
And it really doesn’t amount to much.
They will lose it in the end.
because whatever they say or do they cannot stop the change that is coming.

And one day we will all be free.”


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