Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Butterfly: Chapter One

It is difficult for me to post about this show. It's one of those experiences where, while you wish you had a photograph of it, you're almost glad you didn't take any, because it somehow cheapens the memory.

When I was in Ireland on my cross-cultural study, our guide, Brendan, encouraged us to stop taking pictures and simply live in the moment, rather than the future. The things I remember as having the most impact from the trip, are the things I chose to simply treasure mentally, rather than snapping photographs and journaling.

In spite of this, I feel I owe my readers an understanding of the experience I've been having for the past few months as David, the transgendered man and title role in Butterfly, by Trish Cole.

I haven't said much about the experience since I "snagged the part" at the beginning of the process. I wasn't sure how to handle any of it. The fact that my androgynous look helped me immensely in casting. The recognition as a boy simply on the streets, and now on the stage - what did that mean for me as a woman. What did that mean for me period? What exactly, was I embracing by agreeing to be a part of this project?

My first reading of the script, as I've mentioned before, was disappointing. I focused mainly on my sections of the script: the parts where David appeared before or after his transition. In that reading I was afraid I had signed on to something that may not be worth my time, considering our financial situation and the fact that I already feel rushed all of the time and that I don't spend enough time with my family as a whole - this gig wasn't exactly paying. I stuck it out, however, and showed up at the read-through, after which my entire outlook changed.

The power of the script, when read aloud, was somewhat life-changing for me.

I try to pretend I am relatively worldly as far as my understanding of things. That I have had so many experiences and have this urbanized open mind. The fact is, to my knowledge, I've never met anyone who is transgendered. While I have several gay friends, mostly men, I had always found the trans-sexual world something entirely different. It's not just a preference. It's something of an accusation. That "God made a mistake." That was before Butterfly.

As a Christian the entire thing rocked my faith. Made it stronger, really, or at least more aware, but I cannot express how much I struggled with the subject matter.

I researched for this role in a twenty seven minute production more than I had ever researched for any other part. I was fascinated and horrified and bewildered and confused.

As a young girl in elementary school, I struggled with some gender issues myself.

I wanted to be a boy.

It seems they were kinder to one another. It seemed they got to do more thing, what they wanted - play better games, wear more comfortable clothing. During this time I wrote the name "Josh" on my papers, knowing this was the name I would have been given had I been born male.

Since that time I have come to embrace my femaleness, but it has taken quite some time to get over it. To fully appreciate what it means to be a woman. I feared that this role might take me back into that ten year old girl's mind who just wanted to be accepted, and being male seemed the only way that could work.

I know now, looking back, that everyone else was going through puberty - at least most of the girls in my class, and I was simply a very late developer. It gained me mostly ridicule, though now I'm told I still look twenty, and I'll be very happy about this when I'm sixty-five.

Through this journey I learned so much about the trans-sexual community. I was able to walk in their shoes, so to speak. It opened my eyes.

I used to be one of those people who made jokes about "she-men" and about women who cut their hair like mine. I used to think I knew what I was talking about. I was so wise.

To be trans-gendered is not the same as being confused. It is not the same as being homosexual. It is its own animal entirely.

I watched several videos on YouTube where trans people gave themselves injections and gave instructions to one another with helpful hints on "passing" as their "true gender". I sat in restaurants, in church, and at meetings observing the differences in mannerisms between men and women and never realized when I came off as masculine or not. I never realized how many cues we take from society.

Near the end of the run I talked with Trish (the writer and co-director) about how I was noticing these things and I related the story about the boy in the pediatrician's office who called me "ugly" and how that had hurt me, and how his mother didn't correct him. Trish said that it was society's way of putting me back in my place. Telling me I was breaking one of the unspoken rules that people work diligently and constantly at enforcing regarding the paradigm of social norms. It was difficult to accept that I had been a part of it and most likely still was to some degree.

All of it seemed to relate nicely back to the star I had chosen at the beginning of the year, the fruit of the spirit on a cardboard star I was to relate to for the remainder of the year. Our church does this ritualistically every January. Mine was kindness, and that's another blog all by itself.

There is much more to say, but the baby is crying and I have to end this now. I hope to add to my Butterfly entries at least three more chapters before I'm through.

1 comment:

Missy said...

Reading over this blog a second time, now that I've posted it, I realize it's sort of all over the place as far as subject. I think this comes from the fact that I was trying to fit everything about this experience into one post, which I now realize is impossible. I may re-do this particular chapter once I can sit down and sort everything through.

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