Academic journal article TheatreForum

TF Casebook:transgender Performance

Academic journal article TheatreForum

TF Casebook:transgender Performance

Article excerpt

Two years ago the editors of Theatre Forum (TF) decided to unearth the tradition of publishing occasional casebooks containing short articles, thematically linked through one central topic. The first such casebook appeared in TF 50, focusing on disability in performance. In this second installment of the performance casebook, the focus is transgender performance.

Transgender (trans) visibility has increased in recent years, with trans individuals rising to prominence; transgender actress and activist, Laverne Cox, was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 2015, and this year there have been a number of transgender politicians elected to office (including Virginia state delegate-elect Danica Roem, and Canada's first transgender mayor, Julie Lemieux). Alarmingly, there is a growing conservative backlash, which includes the "bathroom bills" and President Trump's attempted military transgender ban. This double-edged sword of increased visibility intensifies the need for good representation of transgender characters.

Transgender representation is important for a number of reasons. Responsible representation is empowering to trans people-particularly to trans youth and those who are just coming out. Having accurate representation on which to model oneself allows for self-understanding. Unfortunately, traditional mainstream representations of transgender characters have largely been damaging, treating the trans character as an object of curiosity, a punchline, a freak, a criminal, a tragic figure, and/or as a metaphor to better understand normative gender. These stereotypes affect the perceptions of cisgender people, many of whom do not personally know anyone who is transgender. This lack of "knowing" means that people are less likely to reject the harmful stereotypes which have been perpetuated by traditional presentations of transgender characters. Finally, responsible representation includes trans actors playing trans characters. …

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