Just over a year ago, in a post called Reconciling Regret, I wrote about the conversations I used to have between myself and “Rebecca,” my mental construct of the female version of myself:
My conversations would usually start when I was feeling particularly stupid, or sad, or masculine. She’d start, this Rebecca that I imagined myself as in some alternate universe, speaking to me across the barrier which separated our realities: “You’re never going to be happy if you keep on like this.”
“Rebecca” would often continue to berate me and, when I didn’t talk to my parents (or talk to my therapist, find a doctor, find hormones, or whatever standards I/she set for myself) she’d turn the talk to suicide:
“Then why don’t you just kill yourself?” This line was always particularly seductive. Why not kill myself? Clearly, nothing was ever going to change. Friends would be happy, family would be happy, I wouldn’t. Maybe for brief moments, sunlight shining through the clouds, but never for long.
“Just do it. Kill yourself, and it’ll be over. You’re never going to be me.”
A version of one of these conversations is in the script for Trans Form, and today at rehearsal Kristen (my director) and I worked on it. It was hard to do. Really hard.
In one sense, it’s kind of ridiculous to play my pre-transition self on stage, being reprimanded and driven toward suicide by my fantasy image of myself. Because, obviously, I did eventually begin transitioning; I didn’t kill myself. Likewise, for better or worse, I’ve mostly lost that ‘inner Rebecca’ voice. My drive is now coming from somewhere a bit less corrupted, not quite as dark and easily swayed toward self-injury.
But, while working with Kristen today, all those old memories and insecurities came flooding back: I’ll never be pretty enough to ‘really’ be a woman, never be feminine enough, never be hairless enough, never have a high enough voice, small enough hands. That, if only I’d listened to “Rebecca” earlier – began transitioning, gotten on hormones – I wouldn’t feel like so much of my time and energy is spent undoing the work of puberty, genetics, and years of socializing and presenting myself as male.
Anger also came flooding to the surface, anger I thought I’d moved past. Now that I am able to inhabit that Rebecca I imagined myself as ten years ago, I do want to berate the weak, spineless boy I was. To tell him to suck it up and get off his ass. To punish him for leaving me with a body that’s tall, hairy, big-boned, deep-voiced. It was really easy to slip into a scary place of self-hatred, directed both at the on-stage fifteen-year-old me, and at who I am now, who I let myself become.
Writing all this out, I realize that I’m neither the weak fifteen year old boy I worry I was, nor the ‘Queen Bee’ bitch of a Rebecca I hear myself as on stage. I’m simply me, and try to remember that my strengths outnumber my weaknesses, my beauty is greater than my feelings of insecurity, and my presence on stage proves my evil, fantasy Rebecca wrong: I am strong enough to do this.
Which is why I perform on stage. That’s what theatre is all about: sharing our stories and showing our strength and common experiences. Trans Form is a difficult show for me, as it brings up all my own worries and fears about my identity. But it’s also incredibly gratifying to perform, as it lets me reject those parts of myself which are negative or drag me down, and come out stronger on the other side. I hope you’ll join me.
Trans Form debuts on November 6 in Chicago, and runs through December 5. Tickets and more information are available here.