An open letter to Kelley Jo Burke, Jeffery Straker, and the Globe Theatre;
(This letter represents my personal views and opinions, and not those of UR Pride, TransSask, or any other organizations I’m involved with.)
Here is an honest review of Us from the perspective of a transgender woman who began to understand her (trans)gender when she was 27. This is a review written by the subject of your musical, from the perspective of who you wrote this musical about — and not for.
To be honest, I was expecting this production to be a mess.
I was expecting to show up, and be offended
by the ignorance of a cisgender playwrite
telling a story she has no right to tell.
And it did not disappoint,
I fucking ditched at the intermission.
To say the bar is set low in terms of expectations is being generous — the bar was laying on the ground and you completely failed to acknowledge it.
Trans women have literally been screaming about this for years now — that casting cisgender men as transgender women actively perpetuates violence, actively strengthens the societal belief that transgender women are not really women, but men who are acting.
That it was deemed acceptable to cast a man as a trans girl because the character was at an early stage of her transition perpetuates the idea that transgender women are men, that a trans girls remains a men until they reach some societal cisgender expectation of what womanhood looks like.
By casting a man to play Carley in the world premiere of this musical, you have not only fucked up this run of the show, but you have set a precedent of how Carley should be cast in future productions.
“To say the bar is set low in terms of expectations is being generous — the bar was laying on the ground and you completely failed to acknowledge it.”
When we talk about perpetuating cycles of violence and marginalization, this is exactly what we’re referring to.
The articles I linked to above contain more than enough information for you to get a basic understanding of these issues, because, and let me make this very clear, despite what you may believe, and what the general public has been pandering to you, you are still at the Very beginning of understanding the transgender community, our struggles, and our needs.
It is obvious that your understanding is insufficient to produce a piece that is not violent towards the community you are looking in on, and trying to help.
It is clear that your involvement in the transgender community is insufficient to assemble a cast and crew representative of the story you are trying to tell, a cast and crew who, at any number of points, could and would have stopped and said “what the fuck is this.”
“It is obvious that your understanding is insufficient to produce a piece that is not violent towards the community you are looking in on, and trying to help.”
Cisgender gay men DO NOT face the same oppression and marginalization that transgender women face. That I am having to explain this to people in my community, to people who are claiming to be such a strong advocates and allies to the transgender community, is disappointing.
The issues facing the transgender community are continually cast as “trans issues,” while those facing the cisgender queer community are viewed as issues facing the 2LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.
This is obvious from the general disengagement of the cisgender queer community from 2LGBTQIA+ advocacy once marriage equality was achieved, it is obvious from the desire of Regina’s queer community to keep Queen City Pride a celebration and not a site of active resistance (which is still Very much needed for transgender people), and it is obvious by the microcosm you have created within this production — where straight and queer cisgender ‘advocates’ and ‘allies’ speak for the trans community without the trans community.
So to claim that my experiences are represented by cisgender queer men, by a community that both myself, and every single trans woman in my life, feels neither supported nor welcome in, is oppressive, violent, and one of the strongest indicators of how out of touch you are with the trans community.
Have you considered that some of the most pressing issues facing transgender women are housing, employment, and financial instability.
Have you considered that you are profiting off the voyeuristic pain of trans women’s experiences while not paying a single trans woman in the process?
While actively keeping trans women at arms length from your production?
“When we talk about perpetuating cycles of violence and marginalization, this is exactly what we’re referring to.”
A month or two ago I offered to review the script and/or sit in on a rehearsal to provide some feedback from the perspective of a trans woman. A few weeks ago, someone reached out to UR Pride to see if UR Pride would be interested in bringing their queer youth group to see the show. UR Pride responded by requesting a copy of the script to ensure the content was suitable for the group.
At neither of these points were the requests accepted. In the development of a show about the power of community coming together, the community you claim to speak for was actively turned away one more than one occasion.
A significant theme in Us is the mistreatment and exclusion of transgender women, even within queer spaces. I would say it’s ironic that you turned down the help of trans women and queer organizations in ensuring this piece fairly represented the trans community, but the proper term is actually systemic transmisogyny.
Not only did you tell a story that you quite frankly have no right or business telling, but you did so in a way that actively perpetuated the violence and marginalization you were attempting to address.
This show doesn’t deserve praise, and it certainly doesn’t deserve awards.
Honestly, I don’t think it should be running, and I am encouraging my friends, family, and community to not support this production because of how actively violent it is. Because of blatantly it actively ignores and profits off the community that it claims to speak for.
from Treaty Four Land,
and with fierce love,
… by the way, I have barely scratched the surface of the many ways in which this is piece is problematic and violent — if you wish to have further discussion, you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can pay me.