Archives for posts with tag: identity

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.

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From a project I submitted for last week – apparently they’re still looking.

WOMAN TO PLAY A LESBIAN
Background
Female / 24 to 50 / AfricanAm, Caucasian, Hispanic, Mixed
You would one half of a Lesbian Couple looking to buy a home at an open house. We are looking for more of sterotypical Lesbian look – more butch.

I’ve learned not to be discouraged if a part goes out again after I’ve submitted.  I used to have a feeling of  “They’re still looking! They don’t WANT me!” but that’s my scared actor-lizard-brain talking.  20-plus years of performing finally quiets that sucker down.

When it’s a part looking for a butch/lesbian/queer woman, though, it does make me think twice.  I’ve been to the open calls for butches and lesbians.  I’ve seen the super skinny blonde girls with their long, long hair tied up in a bun and shoved mercilessly under a baseball cap, looking more like Prymatt Conehead than any respectable butch I know, wearing some sort of “sporty” t-shirt and their too-skinny jeans.

In the two years I’ve been in LA, there has only been ONE other butch that I’ve seen at either an open call or an agent-scheduled audtion that was, well, REAL.  We gave each other the Knowing Look. And I think she got the part, and good on her. When I signed with my agent, he asked me how I felt about the other women at the auditions I’d been getting for myself. My answer was “I’m the only one in the room who looks like me. That’s why I’m here.”

And, of course, I’m not forgetting that there are a few already-sort-of-famous folks like Julie Goldman and Skyler Cooper, among a few others, who scoop up the too-few parts.  I actually lost a part on a queer web series to Julie Goldman back in 2004, when both of us were the heavy funny butches (she’s way funnier than I, hence…).

So another day, another battle to be myself in an industry of stereotypes and chameleons. Another audition, another breakdown looking for a “smokin’ hot model-type to play a dirty lesbian. Must be comfortable touching another woman and kissing open-mouthed.” I could show them a thing or two about that, but apparently the ‘model-type’ I exude only sells Suburus and Olivia cruises, which I obviously buy with all of my lesbian-disposable-income. At least in those spots I get to wear excellent flannel shirts. (snarky wink)

A standard example of what Hollywood is looking for when a part calls for a lesbian:

LESBIAN CHICK #1 AND #2
– (18-27) (Female) *must be comfortable making out or at least messing around with another girl; must be model type.

And for a butch:

Featured / Female / Caucasian / 25 – 30
Tough Receptionist should be butch with short hair. She’s Mindy’s replacement; Tim watches her answer the phone in the clinic break room. Tim flirted too much with Mindy and likes that he doesn’t have the desire to flirt with Tough Receptionist.

 

Note that the lesbians have to be “model types” and the whole point of the butch is that she’s undesirable to a man.

McSigh.  Really what we need is screenwriters who aren’t afraid of writing REAL GLBT characters.  Because on the whole audiences watch, and learn from, what the writer’s write. Glee, whatever its problems are,  is a direct example of that.

I’ve long wanted to write either a feature (or a musical, because I like singing) with a true butch lead.  But I always get stuck on the storyline… I have images, but no plot.

And in the meantime, the above examples are what I’m up against.  At least the butch one doesn’t specify “heavyset” or “ugly” like many breakdowns I’ve seen. Improvement?

I used to be a compulsive liar. A joiner liar, meaning that whatever conversation was happening, I would join in as though I was entirely up on what was being discussed. Politics, movies, TV shows (this one always killed me – I didn’t have a TV for over 10 years), whatever it was – I was always wittily and forcefully in the know. Except that I wasn’t, I was bluffing, and eventually I started to get caught. And people (mostly my gf’s) would get hurt.

It didn’t end until the PGF came along – and somehow, I couldn’t lie to her. Because she gave me permission to not know, to be wrong, to fail, and to fuck up. In that permission, she found my truth. I found my truth. It was a pretty spectacular change.

Except that now I think I may be a different type of liar.

I can’t even tell, really, but it seems I may be lying to myself.

Where is the line between positive self-talk/hopes/dreams and downright creating a false reality?

In six months I will turn another decade. It’s a little early for my annual age-related freakout (hello, autumn in July), but I can’t help but feel like maybe I’m crazy – maybe I’ve spent too long doing the same old things and expecting different results.

When I moved to LA, I did it mostly so that I could say that I had tried. If I’m an actor, and an actor the way I want to be, then I had to really commit. Since I had given up acting when I lived in NYC, and since I had made the commitment to go back to physical theater school, and since I grew up in SoCal – well, the final commitment seemed clear.

But since then… I may be lying to myself about my level of commitment. I’ve fallen into the same old rut – the rut of chasing money at menial jobs for which I am overqualified, simply because the schedule is flexible. The rut of doing too many things for money that have nothing to do with who I am. The rut of not creating on my own, which is the only means to true success, as I’ve come to learn.

Something has to give, and soon. This practice is unsustainable, and I’m starting to lose my belief in the lies. When that’s gone… what do I do?

drink it up.

Butch Wonders wrote a nice little piece on the “additive effect of butchness” a few days ago.  I’ve been mulling it over – it struck me deeply, simply because it’s exactly what I’ve struggled with my whole life.

As a terminally shy person, it’s a battle to be just who I am in any given moment.

As a terminally shy person in a profession that rips the throats out of shy people, I feel under fire almost every day.

My butchness makes me a target.

My butchness has very rarely been additive. It is a deep part of me that I have attempted to sequester in full view for over twenty years. Some weeks I am still embarrassed by it every single day, and that’s part of why I keep writing here.  I’m trying to shine a little flashlight into myself, coax myself out from under the floorboards.

My PGF once said to me, “You know, people can see that you’re gay.”

Even though I was wearing men’s boxer briefs under my all-menswear outfit, with my gf sitting on my lap, listening to Ani DiFranco in my Park Slope, Brooklyn apartment – I nearly burst into tears.

And I’ve been out since I was 13, so one would think it would get easier. “It Gets Better” and all that Trevor Project stuff. Well, in the words of one very astute filmmaker who participated – for me, “It Gets Marginally Different.”

Here’s one of my darkest confessions: I’ve never been proud to be queer, under all my bravado. I’ve never tried not to be, but I’ve never fully embraced myself.  I’ve shrouded myself in shame, and it creeps up on me in my best moments. (Although, once in therapy I was asked what I feel best at in the world.  My short answer was “flirting with girls.”)

Even in the company of other butch women, my butchness has often caused me distress. Because I don’t seem butch enough there, either. So I put on a show, upping my masculinity, puffing out my feathers, only to leave the party feeling phony.

BUT – the weird paradox is, I love it. I love my butch sensibilities. I love the attention I get from girls because I walk that masculine/feminine line. I don’t want to just be a regular woman who dates women, I want to look different too.  I love that straight people can’t quite put their finger on me.  It just makes me want to crawl away and hide at the same time.

When I was a little kid, I would put on shows for the adults around me, only I wouldn’t announce that I was doing I show. I would just started doing whatever nearby and hope they looked at me and praised my talents, and if I sucked then it was fine because no one was watching. These days I feel like I’m performing my gender expression within the same parameters.

The question always comes down to: what am I so afraid of? The answer seems to be: to be seen clearly.

 

 

if only i were that small...

I think I may have hit my limit with the shopping necessary for both The Assignment and The Photos Which Will Soon Be Taken.

Walking the androgynous-clothing line is difficult at the best of times, but with all this pressure it’s making me a bit glassy-eyed.  I’ve hit all the stores, all the factory outlets, and most of the vintage boutiques I can muster. Don’t get me wrong- I have quite the haul to show for it. It’s just more difficult than average since I had reached a point, clothing-wise, where every single thing I owned fit me like a bed sheet draped over a dachshund.  The price of losing weight is steeply relative to the price of replacing your entire wardrobe in a period of a few weeks.  You buy a pair of jeans that fit, and then all your shirts could cover a banquet table. You get a shirt that fits only to see that your jacket looks ready to eat a dozen hungry-man breakfasts. It snowballs.

And after yesterday’s Excursion, during which I and my Fashionable Straight Friend focused on graphic tees and suchlike, I’m feeling a bit… well, a bit too girly, truth be told. On my own today I stopped into a shop where I had purchased an amazing blazer two weeks ago. The FSF picked it out for me despite the fact that it was a men’s jacket. But it looked so good on she “allowed” it to accompany me home.  I returned today in search of tees in bold colors, a utility white button-down, and possibly another blazer.  I forced myself to browse the women’s section with steely determination. And it was only when I was finally in the dressing room, trying on a selection of men’s vest, coats, and tees (and in fairness, some women’s too), that I realized how difficult it’s been to shop on the other side of the store.

I want to dress masculine. It’s why I am who I am.  As a little kid I was a tomboy. I started doing theater because I was tall enough to be cast as a boy in most productions. Ditto for studying theater at the Prestigious Women’s College. I didn’t play a true female role in four years, and I got to wear all the best clothes. Suits and fedoras and wingtips and cardigans and tailored shirts. My queer identity is completely wrapped up in my clothing.

I have really enjoyed the feeling that accompanies walking into a store and having clothes fit again.  I have also enjoyed discovering that women’s jeans need not be the devil incarnate and that I can successfully layer tank tops and not feel like a princess. I have enjoyed the shopping, but I feel like any more and I’ll stop being fair to myself.  I mean, yikes, I bought a fuchsia shirt yesterday.  That is, apparently, where I draw the line.

What I.m seeking is a personal tailor, to whom I can bring all the great, lovely, textured, elegant menswear I want to wrap around myself. I want a tailor who will make these things fit my body, the way they should, but still stroke that masculine-of-center stylebug I seem to have eaten as a child.  And who is affordable. Mostly, I want to find that grey area where I can dress how I like and still do what I want as well.  It’s the conundrum of my existence, in a nutshell.