Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

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

This article shared 1448 times since Wed Jun 6, 2018
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.


This article shared 1448 times since Wed Jun 6, 2018
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

LGBTQ+ film fest Queer Expression to feature Alexandra Billings in 'Queen Tut'
2024-04-12
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Pride Film Fest celebrates its second decade with a new name—QUEER EXPRESSION—and has announced its slate of LGBTQ+-themed feature, mid-length and short films for in-person and virtual events in April and May. QUEER EXPRESSI ...


Gay News

WORLD Ugandan law, Japan, Cass report, Tegan and Sara, Varadkar done
2024-04-12
Ugandan LGBTQ+-rights activists asked the international community to mount more pressure on Uganda's government to repeal an anti-gay law that the country's Constitutional Court refused to nullify, PBS reported. Activist ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Trans woman killed, Tenn. law, S. Carolina coach, Evan Low, Idaho schools
2024-04-12
Twenty-four-year-old Latina trans woman and makeup artist Meraxes Medina was fatally shot in Los Angeles, according to the website them, citing The Los Angeles Times. Authorities told the Times they found Medina's broken fingernail and a ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINT Meditation on the killing of journalists
2024-04-11
Trigger warning: I am a journalist and I read newspapers. I've been reading newspapers since I first learned to read. Newspapers were a lively part of the daily life in my family. I even wrote letters ...


Gay News

UK's NHS releases trans youth report; JK Rowling chimes in
2024-04-11
An independent report issued by the UK's National Health Service (NHS) declared that children seeking gender care are being let down, The Independent reported. The report—published on April 10 and led by pediatrician and former Royal ...


Gay News

Judith Butler focuses on perceptions of gender at Chicago Humanities Festival talk
2024-04-10
In an hour-long program filled with dry humor—not to mention lots of audience laughter—philosopher, scholar and activist Judith Butler (they/them) spoke in depth on their new book at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., on ...


Gay News

Black LGBTQIA leaders applaud U of South Carolina head coach Staley for standing up for trans athlete inclusion
2024-04-08
--From a press release - WASHINGTON — On Sunday, April 7, the University of South Carolina's women's basketball team won the NCAA National Championship. Ahead of the championship game, South Carolina's head coach Dawn Staley made comments in support of transgend ...


Gay News

NAIA bans trans athletes from women's sports
2024-04-08
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced on April 8 that athletes will only be allowed to compete in women's sports if they were assigned female at birth, CBS Sports reported. The NAIA's Council of ...


Gay News

HRC president responds to NAIA vote to ban transgender women from playing sports
2024-04-08
--From a press release - WASHINGTON —Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, responded to the National Association of ...


Gay News

Lambda Legal: NAIA proposed transgender sports ban disappointing, harmful reversal
2024-04-08
Lambda Legal: NAIA Proposed Transgender Sports Ban a Disappointing and Harmful Reversal "The NAIA announcement sends a dangerous message, is inconsistent with the law and science, and undercuts the organization's ...


Gay News

NATIONAL mpox, Trans+ Day of Visibility, police items, Best Buy, Gentili's death
2024-04-05
The CDC has concluded that mpox cases are on the rise in the United States, increasing to almost double what they were at the same time last year, according to ABC News. There is a national year-to-date estimate of 511 cases ...


Gay News

DoJ accuses Utah of bias against incarcerated trans woman
2024-04-03
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a lawsuit against the State of Utah, including the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC), alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ...


Gay News

Performers light up the stage at Windy City Trans Visibility Pageant
2024-04-01
Life is Work presented its 3rd Annual Windy City Trans Visibility Pageant on March 30, with a star-studded epic extravaganza featuring 11 contestants performing alongside personalities from RuPaul's Drag Race. The event, which was held at ...


Gay News

Late transgender activist Elise Malary receives street dedication in Andersonville
2024-03-30
Elise Malary, the late transgender activist who died in March 2022, was a born-and-raised Andersonville local who co-founded the neighborhood-based Chicago Therapy Collective (CTC). Now her memory is a permanent ...


Gay News

Chicago's transgender community kicks off Transgender Week of Visibility with daylong conference, resource fair
2024-03-30
Transgender community leaders, allies and politicians kicked off a weeklong celebration of transgender visibility in Chicago with a one-day conference and resource fair. More than 100 community members attended the ...


 


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

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 Transgender 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


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.