Archives for posts with tag: identity

I am always asked to work one level above my current status. At least one, I should say, although it’s often more. And it feels like twenty. I don’t know why this seems to be my lot, but it flows across all aspects of my life: performing, relationships, day jobs.

It’s more exhausting than exhilarating most times. But lately I’ve been working on just floating on the rising tide. Admitting my mistakes. Admitting when I don’t know all the answers. Trying to do my best. Trying to stay positive, to cultivate within myself the feeling that everything is going as it is supposed to. Because I don’t believe you can just think positively – I think you have to feel it for it to pan out.

I think I’m coming to terms that I may not get the help I ask for, because it seems I have to do it myself. I do wish for someone to talk to – someone who could act like a mentor. Or even a group of friends – ones who are ready to listen, as opposed to just talk.  I’m climbing up a ladder where the experts are on the top rung, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone between them and me who might hear me if I start to slip.

I think I put it out there that I wanted to excel, and now everything is coming back to me asking that I do. It’s terrifying.

Anyone else know this feeling? Like you’re looking into the abyss, but you might actually be looking up at the sky? And either way, you know you’re going in?

 

After my horrendous Tuesday which bled into an equally horrendous Wednesday last week, I am finally recovering a bit. Had to really sleep it off this weekend.

On Thursday I was able to sit down with the Coach for ten minutes and run the scenario of my Tuesday night reaming by him. He was so sweet, duly mortified, and incensed on my behalf. Aside from pointing out the disrespect that man had to go off on me in HIS arena, surrounded by HIS people, where I couldn’t truly defend myself without banishing all polite conduct, Coach brought up an interesting point about Hollywood: in this town, ‘gay’ is an action. Until you are ‘doing the thing’, maybe you’re gay and maybe you aren’t. Everything else is style.

Which is why so few actors can come out before they’re famous. Sure, they’re gay in private, out with friends and their partners, but not on the talk shows or in the movie theaters.

This isn’t news to me, but last week clarified the concept in a new way. That man I spoke with on Tuesday obviously was offended by my style because of the verb it conjured.

I have to say, though – the closer I get to myself, the more I love that my concept of being butch is lessening its grip on my identity as queer.  For me, the two are indelibly intertwined, but I think I’ve long struggled with they idea that folks would obviously “see I was gay.” I went from being ashamed of that to accepting it, and now I can see beyond it entirely. Who cares?

I also love knowing that, although I don’t know anyone personally like this, there are women out there who consider themselves butch and are NOT gay. That’s awesome – that opens up a whole new vista for self-expression. I give a virtual high-five to those women.

I’ve been out for 18 years, and I’m not planning on stuffing that away while I pursue this most-public of professions, but I’m gaining the courage to defend myself from the haters and this just adds another tool to my arsenal.

My eyes are almost swollen shut today, which is funny since I’m at my day job early, covering the front desk for the concierge who is out with pinkeye.  (Yes, we disinfected EVERYTHING.) This post might be a bit messy, since I’m still working through some powerful emotions.

I went to an actors networking event last night. I was turned on to this happening through the great online class I’m taking, Self-Management for Actors. Since I left my agent, I need to keep my career going on my own, and this class is taught by a casting director I’ve known and followed the writings of for many years.

Which is why I was surprised to get into such a heated argument/conversation with said cd’s husband, who is also very involved in teaching the class and a working actor in his own right.

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I’ve slowly shifted, over the past year or so, back into the general use of my given name. Which is not Max. Here’s the truth – Max is a nickname I gave myself, in spite of what I may or may not have told anyone else about it. It’s a  riff on my surname, sure, but there are many people who have mistaken me for a dyed-in-the-wool Maxine. NOT my intention.

Many of those in the Max camp are completely aghast when they learn A) it is not my birth name and B) my birth name is not even remotely related to Max.  I was not one of the lucky Alexandra’s who could so easily be an Al or Alex or even Xander. When those folks hear my first name, they scoff at the ridiculousness that I could ever be other than Max. It is my essence, they say. I tend to agree, but…

On the flip side, those who have known me long or have been introduced to me with my more effeminate birth name absolutely can NOT even consider calling me Max.

I named myself Max in college, when I threw myself into my latent butch identity. I told a really good explanation (read: lie) about how I came by that nickname for a long, long time. But when I was ejected into the real world, it didn’t look so well on paper anymore, and the lie/explanation sounded more and more feeble. For tax purposes I stuck with my given name in the workplace, and therefore also for any acting gigs I had that paid.  When I joined the acting union in 2005, my fate was solidified – there was already a Max MyLastName in the union, and no two union members can share the same name – that’s where stage names come into play. So my birth name went down in history as my professional acting name.

And now that acting IS my profession… well, fewer and fewer people are meeting me as Max. My headshots state my given name. Folks who meet me in the theater or on set don’t know that Max exists.

My gf often asks if she should stop calling me Max. I say, don’t you dare. I think of myself as Max and she does too.

But as I’m slowly peeling myself out of this self-protective cocoon I spent a lifetime creating – the shiny fibers that were supposed to hide my true self and deflect awkward questions – I’m learning to embrace my (feminine) name again. It’s important for me, both as a grown adult, and as a butch to get down to the core of me and stop being so scared to be who I am.  So we’ll see.  I’ll always be Max to those who know me as such, but I’d like to shift the swagger of that name towards where it truly belongs – squarely on my shoulders, instead of hiding in my shadow.

 

 

I’m taking a class for actors about running your acting career like a business, which is something I’ve done for a while, but since I’m agent-free right now I felt like it was a good idea to get some direction.

The first homework exercise was seriously one of the most awkward, useful, and frightening things I’ve done in a long time.  (And I’ve performed in front of 10,000 people. This was worse.)

We were given a sheet of paper completely filled with adjectives and a few nouns, a long alphabetical list: “adventurous”, “awkward”, “badass”, “hunky”, “nurse”, “intense”, and on and on… over 300 words total.  We were asked to go out onto the street or into the world with a friend, bearing a stack of these word sheets, to someplace where people were hanging around and we wouldn’t bother them by talking to them.  What you do is, your friend approaches strangers, while you stand a few feet away (out of ear-shot). Your friend then asks the strangers to look at you and circle the words on the sheet that best describe you. And you stand there and try to act normal while you are scrutinized.

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I never thought this was where I’d be at 30 – Los Angeles, for one, was a place I tried to get away from as soon as possible. Performing I tried to shove into a bag and hide under my bed for more than a few years. And being queer, and being butch… well, I never exactly abandoned or denied those parts of myself, but I never made peace with the fact that my life and lifestyle left me deeply ashamed in some circles and gregariously arrogant in others.

I’m coming to terms with that now – and it’s fucking scary. I wake up terrified at what I’m trying to do. Nobody in their right mind moves to Hollywood to try and break in as an underrepresented minority. But I’ve always found my way into situations through side doors and back alleys, so I guess  this is just one more attempt at scaling the wall and sneaking in. I’m good at being sneaky.

The most painful part, though, is realizing how many years I’ve spent – possibly my entire life – half-pretending to be myself. Half-hiding in plain sight. I can’t take it any more, but this change hurts. It comes down to something simple: I’m learning to like what I like, to know what I know, and to admit what I don’t. I’ve never really dealt with any of that before.

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