This week on Howlround there is going to be a transgender series which will include discussion and pieces from multiple trans artists. This was kicked off by an article by MJ Kaufman, a trans-identified genderqueer playwright who was brought on as a playwriting fellow at the Huntington Theatre in 2010. His article points out the difficulties of the rising presence of trans characters in plays and film. While they appreciated the fact that trans-characters were beginning to have more of a presence, but it comes with some downfalls. Primarily, that most mediums still only know how to use stereotypes of transgender people.
So instead of having transgender characters that have story lines beyond their gender identity. This can manifest in the form of the big “reveal” that they are the opposite gender that they appear to be or by having the plot line based on the person feeling trapped in the gender they were born as. This is only a small portion of the trans-community and does not touch on people that do not live in the binary of male female gender. It also does not touch on the fact that, like nearly any person, someone who is transgender’s whole life does not revolve around the fact that they are transgender.
Kaufman continues to talk about how most of these plots are being written and directed by cisgender folk. This is not to say that it is bad that they are writing these stories, but it is bad when they are mis-informed or continue stereotypes. I know, as a cisgendered man, that there are stories I still cannot be writing, but need to be learning about. I want to be able to write stories about many lives, and create roles for a more diverse casting pool, but know I currently am not educated well enough to write all voices.
This is why Kaufman’s approach excites me, because it is not about writing for your own voice, but getting people involved with groups and collaborators so they can become more educated. He believes that through research, relationships and critical dialogue about power we might be able to write outside of our experience.
So why should this Transgender Series be knocking your socks off? A better question is why shouldn’t it be? This is an amazing opportunity to be hearing the voices of artists that are not getting the attention they deserve. This is a chance for us to get educated. This is a chance to hear about some bomb stories. So get excited and get educated!