Hearing Trans Voices Read My Trans Role

If you had asked me, prior to my personal coming out, if I understood myself, I would’ve tried not to smile smugly as I said yes. I knew my core values, after all. I was following the dreams I’d carefully outlined in comprehensive artistic statements! Self-knowledge, check.

Coming out to myself as trans changed all that. I didn’t really know myself at all. At first it was dizzying, but soon that humility also felt liberating. Since I didn’t really know myself, I could surprise myself. Now every day I learn something new: where pain hides in my body, new pathways to joy.

So I had no real idea what it would feel like, hearing trans actors read the first trans role I’d ever written. I had no idea how badly I needed to hear their voices giving breath to my own. I didn’t know how our trans bodies would vibrate in the room together like some kind of healing music.

How could this be the first trans role I’d ever written? I’d written so many queer women that my Flux Creative Partners joked my two great themes were lesbians and death. But I’d never written a queer trans woman or any kind of trans or non-binary character, and when there was gender fluidity in my plays, it was magical or supernatural in some way.

Until I wrote Dani, the narrator of Operating Systems, a role I both wanted and feared to write. Of the five characters in the play, they were the only one not written for a specific actor in mind and whose part remains the most unfinished. With this role, I feel again that dizzying, liberating humility. I am ready to be surprised.

And I understand in a new way what the fight for representation means. It’s not just the symbolic power of seeing yourself represented on stage. It’s not just the economic justice of opportunities going to marginalized voices. In an embodied art like the theatre, there is a deeper magic at work. The way a creative process can hold our bodies together in a shared purpose is a kind of communion, a healing of the rupture made in our beloved community by violence and exclusion.  It is sacred.

Then I think about all the trans roles I will write in the future and an electric purpose fills my body, and I am ready to be surprised again, over and over, until the purpose of my body is done.

Published by CorinnaSchulenburg

Artist and Activist

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