Imagine waking in the morning and entering into a play. You assume the part of a character, not you. The character is about five years old and male. “How can I play the part of a boy?”, you ask. “This is the part you are assigned.”, comes the answer, “And this is the part you will play.”
So you play the part, quickly understanding that you must learn the lines and take the role. You play the part all day, until at night, you can come out of character. Lying awake for a while, dreaming of a day when you can wake up in the morning and just be you.
Then you wake up the next morning and enter into the same play. The scene picks up where it left off the day before. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year.
You play the part so well that it almost becomes you. You know exactly what to say and how to act. No longer, is it even necessary to think about it. Just do it. Some of the lines are scripted. Expectations that are easy to see. Words reflect the feelings of the character, not the performer.
The player’s feelings are to be kept separate. Only to be expressed in the context of the role. Occasionally attempting to surface from the inwardly directed consciousness of alone. Then stuffed back into their proper place. Carefully hidden from the cast. Constantly in fear of someone finding out that you are not the person in the play. And the dark imagined consequences that would surely follow if they did.
Always searching for the person to walk onto the stage. Endlessly waiting for the right line. The one that says, “You no longer have to pretend. It is ok to be you.” But the lines you often hear are the ones where someone talks about the evilness and sickness of people like you.
There are times when you are not on stage. Moments when you can step out of character. It is a stage, after all, and there are other costumes. Finding ways to express your true self in the hidden corners behind the curtains. Finding desperately needed breaths in which there is some degree of truth. Better than no truth at all. Yet, also serving to define the correctness of what could possibly be, and the emptiness of knowing it will never be yours.
Over time, the play takes on a different story line. The character is driven by the emptiness, and the lines and scenes become ever more dark. Ever more destructive. Ever more seeming to be leading to a painful and lonely death.
“What are you doing to yourself”, cry the actors and actresses on stage.
You wonder, “Why can’t you see me?”, as you reach once again for anything to kill the feelings that never go away.
If you are lucky, just at the moment when death seems to be inevitable, new characters enter the play. They come with lines and scenes never before allowed on stage. Things that had been dreamed, but were never possible. Hopes that had been born, but only to die. The spotlight is now on you. And someone finally says, “I know who you are. You are a girl, a woman. Why are you playing this part?”
And the curtains closes. And the play is over. A new play, is about to begin.
Stephanie Mott is a transsexual woman from Topeka, Kansas and a nationally known speaker on transgender issues. In addition, Stephanie is the executive director of Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project and Topeka Chapter Chair/Kansas Vice-Chair of Kansas Equality Coalition. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org