In this essay, I am focusing specifically on transgender bodies and narratives on stage, what
they mean, and what they bring to theatre. I specifically use the term “on stage” rather than
“in theatre” because I am most interested in the audience/narrative/actor relationship in this
work. If I said “in theatre”, there would be several layers of backstage-working relationships
to discuss such as actor/director, actor/actor, actor/designer, etc., which could be an entire
additional paper in and of itself.
In the tradition of transgender studies, rather than being made an object of study as a
trans person, I am seeking to make the world my object of study. That is to say, I am a
seeking to identify the theory of trans scholars within and create knowledge out of lived,
personal experiences of my work as a trans actor and theatre maker. The framework with
which I am approaching transgender bodies and narratives on stage are languages of
intelligibility, representational practices, gender performativity, gender self-determination,
shifting, trans embodiment, and trans affect. I specifically address the way in which trans
bodies and narratives are largely invisible in theatre - even though they are there - because
the language they speak is not legible to mainstream audiences. This clash of mainstream
representational practices and trans self-representational practices brings up several
questions addressed in this paper such as: Where do these meet? Can they ever meet? On
whose terms do they meet? Do we create bridges for them to meet? Who are we performing
for? How is gender and transness constructed (or not) in theatre? Who are we trying to be
recognized by? How could trans be embodied and affected on stage beyond a fixed identity?
Finally, this paper proposes the ways in which trans artists can counter gender
normativity from their own positionality on stage, and in the process, expose the cracks in
gender and claim agency while simultaneously opening up the space of theatre. Ultimately, I
want to pose the question: beyond the fact that we should just have more trans people on
stage to begin with (which is often tokenizing), what functions do a trans body and narrative
on stage serve?
Transgressing and Resisting Gender Normativity: Transgender Bodies and Narratives On Stage.
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