Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-12-12
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

GUEST COLUMN Still a Cis World After All
by Delia Kropp
2018-06-06

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


A tragic, drug-addicted hooker ( Dallas Buyers Club ). A slasher-transvestite ( Dressed to Kill ) and a slasher-transvestite dressing as his dead mother ( Psycho ). A transwoman who tragically perishes during pioneering gender-affirmation surgery ( The Danish Girl ), a trans man brutally murdered by transphobes ( Boys Don't Cry ), and even a madperson performing their own bizarre sex-change by culling skins from female murder victims ( Silence of the Lambs ).

Extraordinary exceptions? No. Sadly, these are the norm in Hollywood, and elsewhere too. In those rare instances where a trans character survives the final act, it's usually to live in infamy, destitution or disgrace.

Now imagine you are, like me, a transgender human. Nearly every cis person processes you with a brain already crammed with these lurid transgender movie tropes. Inevitably, some behave as if you're a actual threat. The bank teller poises to press her alarm; that gang member on the Brown Line threatens to carve you up ( both happened to me ). Why? Because your real-life face is just one among their familiar fictional gallery of fictional freaks, outsiders, and psychopaths. So, some respond less to who you actually are than their own unfounded fears.

Still, the question I often get is: Why does it matter in a movie or stage work who plays a certain trans role, who directs the production, or who writes the script? My answer is: Because transgender lives depend on getting it right. And because cis people have a terrible track record of exploitation, sensationalism and inaccurate trans narratives.

Receiving the Leppen Leadrship Award from About Face Theatre for my service to the transgender community was a surprise because I'm not an advocate or activist in the any traditional sense, but an actor and director. Just a storyteller doing what I know best: taking stage. Making lots of noise and being very visible on behalf of my transgender tribe.

When a raft of problematic stage shows premiered in 2016, from little storefronts to behemoths like The Goodman, it alarmed me how trans representation and authenticity were being muscled aside by otherwise sympathetic theatre artists. I had worked as a cisgender actor for 30 years and been part of that community. If I wouldn't stand up and cry foul, who would?

Compared to the brutality out in the real world, the arts probably seem pretty easy to change. Just bleeding-heart bastions of empathy, inclusion, and equality, right? Well, let me share some typical responses when I speak up about missteps in transgender representation on Chicago's stages.

"Don't you dare censor my Art!"

Live theater today is a notoriously hands-off endeavor. If a director wants to stage King Lear with Kabuki puppets wearing tutus, then he shall do so, and don't spare the tulle. The conviction is that artistic meddling from outside the rehearsal hall, be they board members, audience members, or social justice warriors, is bound to be bad. It has roots in the First Amendment, but even deeper ones in the mainstream ( white, cisgender, often hetero ) convictions that the 1950s and Joe McCarthy are just around the corner. Today's mainstream often forgets that stories about any disenfranchised group also peddle in matters of non-fictional life and death. If you shape public perception, you directly impact the privileges, laws, and even physical survival of marginalized people. So in certain cases, I will gladly see your "Hands off my Sacred Art" and raise you the lives of trans persons, persons of color and other disenfranchised Americans persons threatened by acts of hate.

"But we artists LOVE you, we feel your pain ... and also you need our skills/access/privilege to get the message out there."

To be sure, theater folk are trained to expertly insert themselves squarely into any character's tattered shoes, and walk their woeful walk. The "We Can Be Anyone" tradition of Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman runs deep. Their cry is We are Artists! We are Everyman!

Well, you know the problem with that? Actors and writers do exactly what they say: they put THEMSELVES into minority characters. I'm sorry, but no coffee chats with your ( one ) trans friend, no Howlround articles nor hours of RuPaul's Drag Race can change the intrinsic fact of your cisgender-ness. You ARE. NOT. TRANS.

Which is critical because ...

An artists' strongest concerns, insights, and convictions inevitably concern themselves. Life is rendered through the grimy lense of our own experiences and perspective. This is just human nature. Undeniably, today's artists sometime achieve their rainbow-and-unicorn dream world where pure artistic imagination ( and that hard-earned MFA ) magically supercede the all limits of their experience. Where trans stories are concerned, no such Superpowers are in evidence. Cis artists don't even score passing grades when depicting our transitions, our self-perception, our love-lifes, and especially not our typical roles in society.

"But I'm gay, I know your pain."

Oh dear Lord, no. You're gay and you know YOUR pain. But, because trans is hip and cool, we become ciphers for your stories. I had the displeasure to direct such a play, that tried to translate its writer's memories of mid-century gay youth into a modern transgender story. The ways he got us wrong staggered not only me but my cisgender cast, too. Yet this play had been judged exemplary by several gay theater artists until I staged a reading, and detailed its many trans-gressions. Folks are still discovering that we're not all interchangable LGBT misfits.

So I continually challenge our entertainment industry because these insitutions resist change, and trans people are still largely figments of cisgender imagination. And I believe that artists' response has to be No. No more marginalization. No more noble deaths but tales where we flourish. No more heart-of-gold whores but transgender business owners, mothers, and steel workers. Our very survival depends on this.

Like all human beings, we merit narratives which exemplify our right to exist with dignity, and to move freely among our fellow man. Only then shall I gladly confine my noise and fury to the stage.

*Note: The author here uses "transgender" to denote all gender-nonconforming persons typically grouped under that umbrella term.

Before gender transitioning, Delia Kropp trained in England and Chicago, and acted with a variety of Chicago companies including The Goodman, Red Twist, Griffin, Lifeline, and Pegasus Players. She won Best Supporting Actor for her work as Alan in "Equus" at Michigan's renowned Boarshead Theatre. She has also directed a number of productions for Chicago storefront and educational institutions. Delia's female acting career begins with "Raggedy And" at Pride Films and Plays in 2016.


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Raven Theatre sets casting for Pulitzer winning How I Learned to Drive 2018-12-17 - CHICAGO ( December 13, 2018 ) — Raven Theatre is pleased to announce casting for Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece HOW I LEARNED ...


Gay News

Hellcab 2018-12-17 - By: Will Kern At: The Raven Theatre, 6157 N Clark St. Tickets: WeAreTheAgency.org; pay-what-you-can ( suggested $20 donation ) . Runs through: Dec. ...


Gay News

The Play That Goes Wrong 2018-12-12 - Playwright: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields At: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. Tickets: BroadwayInChicago.com . Runs through: Dec. 16. ...


Gay News

Coming out to your kids in midlife 2018-12-12 - When the parents of Natalie Perry and her sister sat their girls down for a family meeting, Perry learned that their father, a ...


Gay News

With Kavanaugh on the court, what now for LGBTQ rights? 2018-12-12 - As the reality of a new and intensely conservative Supreme Court majority sinks in, some people are asking, "What's the use of fighting ...


Gay News

Hedwig' tour in Chicago in 2019 2018-12-12 - John Cameron Mitchell—the Tony-winning, Golden Globe-nominated co-creator of Hedwig & the Angry Inch—will bring his rock spectacle to the United States for the ...


Gay News

The Second City 107th Mainstage Revue, Algorithm Nation or The Static Quo 2018-12-11 - Writers: Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Jeffrey Murdoch, Emma Pope, Nate Varrone, Kimberly Michelle Vaughn At: The Second City Mainstage, 1616 N. Wells ...


Gay News

Windy City Times previews winter movies 2018-12-11 - Escape the cold weather by hitting the warm movie theater, where sunny comedies, strong superheroes and unbelievably true stories can all be seen ...


Gay News

T.R. Knight talks about upcoming 'Dream' role 2018-12-11 - T.R. Knight might still be best known for his five-season run as Dr. George O'Malley on ABC's Grey's Anatomy—and for the infamous 2007 ...


Gay News

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins 2018-12-10 - Author: Michael Daily, from the book by Eric Kimmel At: Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice Ave. Tickets: strawdog.org; $20-$25. Runs through: Jan. 5 ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.