MJ Rodriguez as Luna, from Instagram @MJRodriguez7
Thanks to a ticket generously offered to me by niobien, I saw "Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women" at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge this week. It was described to me as kind of like the Vagina Monologues, in that it was a series of personal narratives of real people that were turned into dramatic pieces, but in this case from transwomen. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I found it to be a really excellent show, where you literally laugh and cry.
The thing I thought made it so strong was it dealt with a wide diversity of transwomen. They really did demonstrate how personal and individual a gender journey is, even within those who are ultimately exploring the same identity. Some were butch, some were femme; gay, straight; young, old. Some knew that they were women their whole lives, some came to it as a later step of their personal evolution. Some had no problem with sex work, some strongly disapproved. Some cared about the physical reality of their bodies, some felt their truth transcended it. Some wanted to be out and proud as trans, some just wanted to be able to walk down the street without anybody noticing anything about them. These various aspects in various combinations gave each character her own specificity, which conveyed an incredible humanity. That was the best part of it to me-- that everything was so human.
You may be inclined to think that was just because it was drawn from actual people, not made-up characters. But I think it was because the piece seemed to be put together in the interest of telling the stories of THESE WOMEN IN PARTICULAR-- not representing TRANSNESS AS A CONCEPT TO ITS COMPLETE DIGNITY TO THE WORLD. If you know what I mean. There did not seem to be a lot of concern of "Are we taking all the precautions to be as correct as possible for educating the people?" A lot of trans narrative I've read, including personal ones, are very concerned with this, sometimes to the detriment of the story because it turns it into kind of a dry, technical lecture.
Now I totally understand why people end up doing that-- transness is so widely vilified and misunderstood, there is definitely a need to prevent misperceptions, stereotyping, and anything else that could damage the ability of actual trans people to live their lives. But I kind of appreciated that the ladies were not trying to give me a gender studies lesson, but rather to just talk about themselves, their journeys, their feelings, their lives as trans people. The transness informs every part of it, like, trans life in practice rather than just in theory.
Honestly, there were probably a lot individual positions represented that some people would find problematic. Many of them used controversial terms to describe themselves. One woman's first step on her gender journey was becoming a really accomplished drag queen. Another resented the idea of other transwomen who weren't willing to commit to genital surgery. But I kind of liked that the piece didn't judge any of them for it. Not because I necessarily thought all of their positions deserved to be beyond critique, but because their imperfections and vagaries made them that much more human. These were NOT object lessons on gender theory-- these were the stories of real people's real lives.
There also wasn't a huge emphasis on negativity. They DID talk about some of the dangers trans people faced-- they mentioned the murder rate of transwomen of color, for example, but not much other violence, like sexual assault, for example. I wonder if they should have talked about more. But on the other hand, it reminds me a bit of how there are no lesbian date movies because lesbians in film always die, so it's nice to be able to give a lot of time to happy stories of marginalized people. And they did talk about struggle, in a lot of very personal and individual ways.
I believe five out of the seven actors were actual transwomen, while the remaining two were played by men. That kind of surprised me. I wonder if any of the actresses had a problem with that, though from perusing their social media and stuff they all seem to be very proud of the project, and there were also transwomen involved in other aspects of production. In theory, I believe it's basically an actor's job to pretend to be something they're not, but with so few roles for trans actresses, I sincerely hope it was because they just couldn't find enough of them to fill all the roles. For the record, all the actors were great.
Overall, I highly recommend it, and I'd even be open to seeing it again, in case anyone would like me to go with them.