Scene from a Trans Life
This is a story that really has no ending, no firm resolution, no summation, but that very characteristic is what makes it worth telling.
Our story begins in the small, rural, southern town in which I live. It is, in many ways, a town in decline as the industrial base has dwindled over the years and the only new retail outlets are restaurants, most of which fail within the first year or two as restaurants do. It is also a town soaked in a Southern Baptist worldview, albeit shot through with a healthy streak of both Fundamentalist and Charismatic types Also it’s sprinkled with a smattering of Presbyterians and Methodists who may go by different names but see the world pretty much the same as the Baptists do. To be fair, there’s a decent minority of folks who, in their personal relationships, veer from the judgmental Traditionalist attitude characteristic of the Bible Belt stereotype, but a distinct minority.
One of the places where a few folks in this town strive to bring a little more character to our existence beyond Walmart, McDonald’s, and the furniture factory is the local Theater group. In a renovated storefront building which is named in honor of the huge historic movie theater that was lost to fire some 30+ years ago, a hardy band of locals – including a core of people who are associated in some way with virtually every production – stage productions of well known plays like “And Then There Were None” or “Annie” about once a quarter. In a previous life I appeared in two of those productions, must be almost 10 years ago now for the last one, which was a great experience and in both case was directed by a woman who’s been a dear friend most of my adult life.
I found myself, over the last 6 months or so thinking perhaps the time was right to try again, even in spite of the radically different circumstances. I looked over the announced schedule and concluded their was only one role in any of the four productions scheduled for 2016 that was even remotely suited to me, but I thought I had a pretty good shot. Auditions were last week and during the time I was there, fewer people auditioned than there were parts in the play though, of course, they were there some time after I left. We did a table reading which I felt limited my range in what was a broad character but I felt that being more outlandish by far than anyone else present would be frowned upon.
I was not surprised when the cast list was posted and I wasn’t on it. A good friend of mine who’s producing the play assured me that the person who got “my” part came in and read later and was wonderful. The same director that had cast me twice before was in charge here, but things are different now. Perhaps, indeed, the other lady blew her away and I have nothing to do in response but curtsy and step aside.
Still though, the doubt remains. Had our potential been roughly even, would my friend the director have felt comfortable casting me? When I was preparing to come out full time, I selected 10-12 people who were so important to me that I wanted to tell them face to face – she was on that list. This woman, who’s a passionate Christian but also a tremendously kind and loving individual – embodying the best traits of people of that faith – struggled with it. She said, in summary “I’m not sure you should do that here, people won’t understand. I love you and I don’t understand.” That was in 2009. We’re not as close as we once were. I don’t know whether she understands still. What I do believe to be true is that she’d still fear that this little churchified town wouldn’t.
And so i sit here writing this wondering. Was I not the best person for the role? I can live with that. Was it that my friend still is not very comfortable with me? That would hurt some but I can accept it from her because I know her heart. Or was it that she knew that casting me would turn a substantial portion of her potential audience against the play and possibly against the theater group altogether – and she could not take the risk? That – THAT is what grinds on me. Even if it’s not what happened this time, I cannot in any sense not be certain that if I HAD been the best audition, that I’d have ever had a chance.
Such is life in the South when you’re trans.
Photo by: Jason W.