I have to just come out and say it: I’m weirded out that the other FTM character in the play I’m performing in this week is being played by a genetic guy. A guy who is a working, handsome, white, probably straight, and yes -talented- actor in LA. A guy who I’m guessing has never been an outsider, unless it was because he was an actor, which is pretty far from being an outsider because you feel like you’re living in the wrong body. He’s doing a fine job – but in the scenes where his character is talking to his girlfriend, he’s just… a man. A cis-man. A man who is used to being a man, with all the privileges (and stress, and difficulties) that come with that. He’s not a man who chose to be a man. Who used to be a woman. And it bugs me.

The premise of the play is so incredibly interesting to me, even if the execution (i.e., the guy, among other things) is strange. A 26 year old fully-transitioned, passing, FTM guy in Boston is called to question why he changed his body. He chooses to go off the T. He realizes he rushed into the change because he felt lost and like a nobody, and in the end decides to move on with his life in a different way.  My character, a younger trans kid, seeks out his friendship to learn more about the process of transitioning – how does it feel? What are the hormones like? Is sex better? Does your body feel right, now?

I lived a lot of this. A decade ago at the Prestigious Women’s College,  there was one semester where suddenly all the butches were dudes. You couldn’t say a pronoun without getting a lecture. All these guys were suddenly walking around, talking about when their shrinks were going to approve the hormone therapy.

I was really swayed by this. I’ve never felt right in my body. My earliest memory is of my lonely, three-year-old self, sitting in the cozy cushioned dog bed under the kitchen table. I was wearing my Peter Pan hat, eating a handful of grapes, and praying with all my might that when I crawled out from under the table I would be a boy.

Nineteen years later, that prayer suddenly became a possibility. I was in smart lesbian mecca, I’d escaped the confines of my conservative, Catholic, Southern California upbringing, and then there were these… guys. Who were still kind of girls. But not, and not for long. And they were awesome, and knew who they were – or so I thought – and they looked great in suits and had hot girlfriends and were wicked intelligent and were fighting the patriarchal hegemony, or some shit like that. They were brilliant. And a bit bullying. And persuasive. They wanted me to change my pronouns, to join the rallies, to use my popularity as a performer on campus to further their cause against the “women-only” college mandate.

I went home for winter break and announced I wanted a boob job. An un-boob job. To my parents, it was a “reduction.” To me, it was top surgery. I started using the name Max with everyone, not just my girlfriend and singing group. I bought a whole bunch of boxer shorts. I never publicly came out as trans, but if folks asked which gender pronouns I preferred, I said “either.” I was called ‘sir’ a lot.  (And I had the surgery – just a reduction, though. I was too scared, or else I intuited (somehow) that I was too young to know myself well enough to do the full deed. And boy did they grow back. Yikes.)

And then my wiser, older butch friend took me aside. And she reminded me that there is something beautiful about being butch. Not that it isn’t amazing to be trans, and to find yourself in that as well. But at that time I needed to hear another voice. She was worried that all the butches would just become men, and we’d lose the beauty of women loving women.

I’ve written about how important that moment was to me before, but it still transforms me. It makes me braver. I still consider myself trans, but I won’t transition. I also identify as butch, and have learned to be comfortable with the body I live in. I don’t push it. I’m not interested in pronouns. These days I wear girly undies as often as I wear boy undies. I love and support my fully-FTM and MTF friends, but I prefer to live somewhere in between.

So it’s strange to me that I can’t just roll with the idea of this guy playing what easily could have been the FTM version of my life. I like the gray areas. I like messing with norms, and exceeding expectations, and pushing the boundaries of comfort. I think it’s good for those of us to check our motives and prejudices about our own experiences as often as we judge the experiences of others. But this instance rubs me the wrong way. It’s an intersection of too many personal things for me, I guess – a reminder of too many fights with my college gf, too many years spent hiding my body, too many times I decided not to audition for a show because I was ‘too butch’.  This guy doesn’t know any of that. And yes – I’m playing the other FTM role. I’m playing the other side of the equation, the FTM who knows that transitioning is the right thing. So there is a balance there, somewhere. And after all – it is acting. Not being. Except maybe for me.