If being transgender was a job, no one would apply for it. I am not sure how the job description would read, or what the pay would be like, but take it from me, you will not be rich. It costs a lot to transition; think electrolysis, prescriptions, deed poll name changes, gender recognition certificates, a new wardrobe and then there is always surgery. I funded most of this by re-mortgaging my house. I said it was for home improvements!
How about the working conditions? Well, it's a mixture of awkward and embarrassing moments: you may be challenged about which toilet you can use or called the wrong gender on a daily basis. You may be threatened verbally or physically and regularly have to field questions about what's between your legs.
The big perk of the job is, even though it scary and hard: you get to be you. More of us are finding the strength to transition and take on the job of being transgender. The level of admin required means it really is a job- just think about changing every document you name appears on.
Some people are too frightened to transition and I understand why. How the job is advertised in the press, media, TV and film is hardly positive. I applied for the job 14 years ago. Back then it was all about living in stealth. Trans people, myself included, hid themselves. There were no fabulous trans pride events like there are today. My ex boyfriend's family never knew I was trans (at my boyfriend's request). They still don't officially know. Concealing my past involved lots of awkward conversation about the fact I had not had children and having to reinvent bits of my past. That's what I hated the most; having to make up a cisgendered past. My queer, gay male, drag queen, trans past was so much more interesting!
The job has become a lot more exciting for me in the last three years since I truly outed myself and stepped into the spotlight, starting to make theatre work about being trans. I did this because I didn't see my story represented on stage. And, let's face it, I am also a big show off. Basically, I re-wrote my own job description, creating an uplifting piece of theatre which made a song and dance about being trans. The show is called Big Girl's Blouse, a name my Dad called me on a daily basis, just as his way of letting me know what a shit Dad he was.
I toured the show for two years up and down the country, did Q&As after each show, created an online campaign encouraging visibility and solidarity for the transgender community and wore my accompanying t-shirt at every opportunity. I went on radio, appeared in BBC 2's Boy Meets Girl, hosted events, appeared in magazines, was in a gender musical, created cabaret pieces, took my clothes off, wrote songs with a trans jazz musician - basically anything to make people see trans people in a new light; a positive light. Trans people are often shown as sad, lonely people. Or sex workers, or trapped in the wrong body, rejected, suicidal, killed or simply die. Basically the media would have you believe that it's never ends well for us trans folk.
I believe that art can create social change and I like being part of that change. Once, during the Q&A session after one of my shows a young person came out to their Mum about their gender identity on stage- a live transition. As a trans person you can be very isolated, creating and touring Big Girl's Blouse show helped me meet so many amazing trans people, I now feel a part of this incredibly exciting community, and I now have a trans boyfriend to boot!
There has been a tidal wave of interest in all things trans which has quickly increased visibility for the community. However, with visibility can come vulnerability. For me as a trans performer more doors are now open for me than ever before, which means I am now able to open some doors for others. I have just received three years funding from the Arts Council's Elevate fund to form a trans theatre company called Trans Creative. Our mission is to be trans led, trans positive and of course, trans creative.
I am rehearsing the role of Feste the fool (typecast!) in Shakespeare's gender-bending play Twelfth Night at The Royal Exchange in Manchester. In this production, Feste, who is traditionally cast as a man, has transitioned. Exploring the characters lines, which were written over 500 years ago has been a very interesting experience. At the end of the show, I, as a trans woman, sing a song in which the first line is "when that I was a little boy." In today's rehearsals I cried whilst singing as it struck such a chord.
We have come a long way. Of course there is still much more to do, but I believe the job of being transgender will get better as we get prouder and happier at being transgender, as more doors are open to us and we are shown in better lights. Here's to better working conditions and a few more perks of the job.
To learn more about Kate's pioneering new theatre company Trans Creative please @ or / transcreativuk on social media or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To see Kate perform in Twelfth Night at The Royal Exchange from April 13th- May 20th, please visit https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/twelfth-night
Photography by Rudy & Razz, make up and styling by Born, design by Reform Creative.