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A life in theatre as a closeted trans person?


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Good morning!


I'll make this brief (I haven't started my coffee yet!). I had introduced this topic a few years ago and we had a flurry of activity, but eventually it faded and I let it go. I'm curious to know if any others out there had (or still have) careers on stage and to what degree your understanding of yourself as a trans person intruded upon or merely shadowed your career. I'm one of those who spent a lifetime on stage, but never once realized that what I might have been doing was sublimating my everyday self in endless roles, partially because performing was artistically satisfying, of course, but also because I was quietly reveling in every opportunity to live as anything other than my everyday self. For all those years, I hadn't realized why I was finding my everyday self to be so dissatisfying. Today, I know.


Anyone like to chime in? Please do!



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While i was never active in theater i did find my painting a way to express my membership in the LGBTQ community.  I started to explore the color wheel ie the rainbow.  Funny how so few picked up on what i was doing.  At one point i had a show called "True Colors" to benefit the Trevor Project.  I had accumulated a lot of quite appropriate work by then.  

The arts can provide a great way to discover and show, to others and to ourselves what might not be seen otherwise.






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That's so true, Charlize, that it's not only on stage performance but pretty much all the arts that allow us a chance to express our all-too-often hidden "otherness." I want to say more about this, but at the moment I have a deadline pressing down on me and I know one of my most damaging weaknesses is to pretend pressing deadlines don't exist. 😉 More a little latter.  ––Rianon

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1964 was my official specific introduction to intentional acting, before that as younger child though I was happy to get up in front of people and do stuff since it resulted in some visible appreciation which family life did not give other than through one single relative. The year is important here because it was not until 1966, two years later, that Dr. Harry Benjamin M.D.  published The Transsexual Phenomena, so in 1964 there was no real reference to my GD issues. I was in a High School Drama class, and the teacher and my class counselor took me aside one day and told me that several problems I was having with my classmates stemmed from suspicions that I was always putting on an act and was not being the legitimate person that I should be.  Both conceded that I probably had NO idea then as to who my real self was, but they both encouraged me to use performance art to look for the real ME.  Music is a love, but hearing issues keep me out of the actual singing or instrument playing sides of it.  I am however excellent at production support such as audio, lighting and other stage support, and the performers and artists and I have always teamed up without a problem.  I do spoken word and enjoy it now even more that I did before Transition.  Pre-Transition when I was doing public speaking and education talks I always felt I was in my element to be up as a central stage figure in front of an audience, being in charge of what was reaching them through what I was doing. (minor power trip.)  Even in those cases you are deliberately acing a part which overcame imposter syndrome on a good number of occasions that I was presenting.  Nowadays that I am post, the imposter syndrome only lightly infects things when I am teamed with better known celebrities, on my own I am confident and happy still, and that bleeds over into my daily life as just little ole me!

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I am active in local community theatre, but on the technical side.  I have never acted on stage.  I have been asked several times if I would ever try out for an acting role.  But, having acted 24/7 for 62 years, I am all acted out.


I knew one actor who turned out to be closeted trans.  They were AMAB and were cast in a male role.  In rehearsal, the director kept telling them to act more macho, as the role demanded.  At one point, they broke down and ran off to the green room, sobbing.  They told the stage manager that they were trans, saying that being asked to be more masculine was just too much for them.


The stage manager, knowing that I was trans, found me in the tech booth at a break in the rehearsal and asked my permission to tell the young actor that I was trans and that they could talk to me if they wished.  They never did come to talk to me, but I think that just the knowledge that they were not alone settled them down considerably.  The play had a successful run.  At the cast wind-up dinner, the actor came out to the entire cast and crew as non-binary. 


They told me that they had had no idea that I was trans until the stage manager had told them.  I sure felt for their predicament, being asked to act more of a real-life role they wanted to escape from. 



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19 minutes ago, VickySGV said:

Even in those cases you are deliberately acing a part which overcame imposter syndrome on a good number of occasions that I was presenting.

That's interesting, Vicky, that you should mention the imposter syndrome. I'd never heard of the imposter syndrome until a month or so ago when I read an article in the New Yorker. Even though I went on to read other things about the imposter syndrome, especially articles that went on to debunk the syndrome as anything truly clinical, the idea of a person suffering from profound self-doubt continued to resonate with me. It still does. I went on to review much of my life, to see where and to what degree the imposter syndrome –– or imposter phenomenon, or whatever anyone wishes to call it –– may have impacted my life. I found numerous instances where something of that sort –– of reliance on a sheltering self (the expression I most often use) did have impact, sometimes as a most welcome helper. Off-and-on I facilitate a seniors' writing workshop. Writing is not my stock-in-trade. I became involved because … well, honestly, I can't remember how I became involved. 🙃 What I do remember, however, is how painfully unqualified I felt. I had to employ my sheltering self to stand in front of 20-30 seniors and resent what I knew of writing. What did work on my behalf was my years on stage. Standing in front of the group was much like being on stage, and facilitating the workshop was so much like performing (for quasi-imposter me, it was performing), I'd drive home each evening happy with myself, happy to be doing something akin to theatre.



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2 minutes ago, Rianon said:

What I do remember, however, is how painfully unqualified I felt. I had to employ my sheltering self to stand in front of 20-30 seniors and resent what I knew of writing.

OMG! Did I really say " … and resent what I knew of writing"? Naturally, I'd meant to say "present." If that's not an argument in favor of proofreading before hitting Send, I don't know what is! 😁



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13 minutes ago, Rianon said:

I'd meant to say "present."

LOL  That was obvious from content.


I was never involved in actual theater, but I do feel like my life as a man was mostly an act.

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Good morning, Kathy Lauren & Ivy,
Coffee's on. Help yourselves.
That certainly rings true, Kathy Lauren, when you say how, after having acted 24/7 for 62 years, you're all acted out. Until a couple of years ago when I got into therapy, I hadn't realized to what degree I, too, had been acting out for most of my life, since childhood, really –– and, of course, I'm not talking about acting out on stage.
That's a fascinating story about the actor you'd worked with who turned out to be a closeted trans. What you tell us about how they were unable to "butch it up" to satisfy the director –– that has been thinking back to a number of times when I was in casts and the script called for all the male actors to act like "real" males. I remember one actor in particular who couldn't do it. During after-rehearsal notes, he received such abuse from the director! I'm ashamed to say I never spoke up. And this actor would be on the verge of tears as he'd leave the theater. As I think back on it now, it was heartbreaking. I'm glad your story has a much happier ending.
Cheers all around!

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