In the shadow of President Trump's alleged memo that seeks to define them out of existence by declaring that gender is immutable from birth and has to do with chromosomes, trans people are under fire in this country as they never have been before.
Most Americans simply don't know any trans people ( that they are aware of ). Paul Lucas's play TransScripts seeks to remedy this issue by bringing to the stage the true stories of seven trans women in their own words. Lucas' work gets a staged reading at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, at Theater Wit. Tickets are free.
Tatiana Nadiya plays Eden in the About Face Theatre staging. "The only narrative I had growing up of trans people was the woman trapped in a man's body. I'm happy that this project tells these various stories in a way that allows experiences to be valid, emotional and reflective of trans women's' lives in the world," Nadiya said.
Mel Blasingame, who plays Zakia in TransScripts, concurred.
"Trans stories are rarely told," they said, "When they are, it usually isn't by trans people. The opportunity to represent the community and tell our stories is one I am excited to be a part of. This show especially, is all about telling our stories."
The play has been years in the making: Lucas interviewed 70 trans women all over the world before culling their stories down to seven. Actor/activist Delia Kropp directs a cast whose stage experience ranged from none to professional, and believes that the play is "as close as you'll get to walking in someone else's shoes, to feel our humanity viscerally and not to merely appreciate it from a social justice or intellectual perspective."
According to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute, approximately 0.6% of the world's population is transgender. While this may seem a minuscule group to be worried about, it still represents over 1.4 million people in America alone, 1.4 million people who are the only minority in America that lacks equal-rights protection from the federal government. Only 20 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws protecting trans rights, while in many of the rest, the law specifically allows discrimination.
Members of the TransScripts cast believe that their show can help make a statement about why transgender people should be protected.
"This is a time when identity is fiercely contested, and there is much fear surrounding it," said Allie Stephens, who plays Dr. Violet. "We are a much richer cultural body when we find the courage to embrace difference, whether trans, cis, black, brown, white, rich, poor, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, etc."
Peyton Robbins, who plays Tatania, has a different take. "I think it is largely part of the 'trans experience,' to struggle with the unknown of what lies ahead for us, personally, emotionally, and politically, and still find the strength and pride in oneself to live as truly to our personal truth as we can," she said.
"Reading into the trials and tribulations of trans women fighting for validation, fulfillment, and survival in different cultures and decades apart from my own experience has constantly enlightened me to the struggles that came before me, and how much progress was paved by the sacrifices and the blood, sweat, and tears of countless trans individuals," Robbins said.
"Looking back, I realize how much privilege I had and still have," Nadiya said. "I want the audience to walk a mile in these women's shoes to understand how difficult, but rewarding, [it is] to live their authentic selves."
Alexia Jasmene, who plays Sandra, feels that the show highlights the incredible variety in the trans community. She wants audiences to understand that "there's not one way to be trans, that we are a newly forming community that disagrees vastly on almost everything, that there are as many ways to be trans as there are ways to be human, that we are human, we are women, men, and folks, and we are beautiful. And that trans is beautiful.
"Due to trans voices finally being heard, people can see just how insanely diverse we are, as well as our struggles, and yet how that very difference is what makes us the same. We just want to be seen and loved just like all of humanity," Jasmene said.
Being "seen" is a necessary ingredient to being loved, and assistant director Iris Sowlat ( the lone cisgender member of the team presenting TransScripts ) believes it is an important element of the play. "With seven trans characters, based on real people, played by trans actors, [the play] kind of says, 'Yes, we're still here,'" she said.
Blasingame added, "In Trump's America, everything that makes us more visible and humanizes us is important. It is my sincere belief that all of this world's problems stem from people failing to see other people as human."
Robbins summarized the importance of telling this tale now: "As the current political atmosphere in the United States has grown more dangerously divisive as ever, the fight for transgender rights and the visibility of transgender people has never felt more important. Our tales must be told. We will not be erased."
Transcripts will be performed at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Admission is free. To RSVP or get more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to therealdelia.com; aboutfacetheatre.com/productions/transscripts/ or www.facebook.com/events/322502258535297/.