Owning It

What do SF, NYC and Trinidad CO have in common? As a transsexual, you can’t pass in any of them, or so TBB says.

She was called in to see the rehearsal of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap last week. It wasn’t good. The student actors just didn’t know the play, and asked for lines every moment.

They stopped the show in the second act, when TBB realized why she was asked to see the show.

She circled the actors.

“How many of you are scared about going on next week?”

They all raised their hands.

“Even though you are scared, how many of you still want to do this?”

They all raised their hands.

TBB asked them to look at each other around the circle.

“Will you commit to yourself and your fellow actors to give your best effort into being excellent?”

As she went around the circle, they did.

“No rehearsal tomorrow. Learn the play. Sunday at 1, back here, and we will do double rehearsal at double speed.

“And no line reading help. If you go up, you need to help each other get through.”

On Sunday, they came back and did it. In the next few days, she tightened up the show, and by last night, they were getting a standing ovation, and kudos from other teachers at the college. They close tonight, and I hope she gets the flowers she deserves, but then again, it is Trinidad.

Her lesson to these kids was simple: Until you own it, you can’t own it. It’s a lesson TBB has learned in her life.

She gave the gift of commitment to these students, believing they could do it with immersion and strength. It’s a lovely story, true.

But to me, the gift they gave her was as powerful. They were kids from Trinidad, the transsexual surgery capital of the US since before they were born. And when TBB came to help, there wasn’t fear and questioning. They didn’t worry about the idea that accepting gifts from a transsexual woman might be bad.

Nope, they knew she had something to teach, and they engaged it. That let TBB come from her heart, her mind, her experience and her gifts, and open them to the gift of theatre, to the magic of being on stage in relationship with other actors and an audience. TBB could trust her magic and open the magic in these kids.

I just heard Rise And Shine by Anna Quindlen, a fascinating exploration of living multiple lives. The narrator, sister of a famous TV celebrity, is at first uncomfortable when her boyfriend says that Sis is good at “maintaining the illusion.” She then realizes that everyone maintains some illusion, offering a dream that we are trying to turn into reality.

Back in the late 1980’s I was questioning Rachel Crosby who was just emerging as a transsexual woman. I pointed out all the problems, the crocks, the twists, and she just looked at me and said “You are really a bubble burster, do you know that?

It was thinking about that that I understood how fragile dreams are, and how they need to be treasured in order to try to make them come true. We need to be able to fake it until we make it, to act “as if,” as people have said.

Years later, I went out to do a project with a member of my staff who had spoken for spending more time in the office to prepare. At the end of the day, as we walked through Paramatta Park on the way back to our motel, I asked her “So… What problems that we ran into today would we have solved if we spent another week in the office?”

She thought for a moment and then said “I take your point. . .”

For a woman who, like me, identifying all the possible pitfalls & potholes was important, it was a big statement.

TBB, though, she knows that supporting the dream, with encouragement and with blunt feedback is important.

And those kids in Trindad just saw her as someone they could learn something from. What a gift from her to them, and what a gift from them to her, even though both just saw it as another step.

Tonight she’s dressing up nice for closing night, and will enjoy a cocktail or two afterwards. She’s seeing her daughter graduate from high school in a few weeks, with full boat scholarship offers from two great schools, and two weeks after that her kids are coming for the summer.

She gets to be a smart and loving teacher, to give her gifts that empower others, and more than that, to have those gifts valued. She maintains the illusion, keeps the faith, holds her center, and as such, she makes our world better.

And if that’s not owning her own power of transformation, I don’t know what is.

Thank God she doesn’t pass and can just be herself in the world.

And thank God those around her can value that self.

It’s a gift.