By Charlie Temmpleton-Smith, YPT Co-op Student
The only place I feel as comfortable as I am on stage is sitting behind a desk in Young People’s Theatre’s office. Being out as a transgender person can often feel like I’m putting myself on display and open to judgement, which is only exacerbated by being a person in the arts. This can cause a great deal of stress, but these are incredibly important aspects of who I am. What makes having a co-op placement here so refreshing is that these are just accepted parts of life.
I’ve always thought that performing itself is a comfort. I am not presenting myself to the audience, I’m presenting the character. My identity and my concerns about how others think of my identity go out the window and I’m left thinking as John Proctor, Tom Wingfield, or Jacob Mercer. It sometimes feels like a privilege as a trans man to be at a high school where gender-blind casting is necessary and no one blinks an eye. The bigger privilege as a trans man is getting to work with YPT.
The role of being an usher at YPT scared me a little at first. I thought I was putting myself in a situation where my appearance would get questioned on a frequent basis, in a dynamic I wasn’t used to. Thankfully, most children were excited to ask me questions about anything other than my identity, save for one instance. I was bringing a group of first-graders to the balcony when one boy asked me, “Are you a boy or a girl?” It was simple enough to just respond that I’m a boy. He pressed further, not out of malicious intent, but out of confusion. He thought that I looked younger than I was, and that I looked and sounded a lot more like a 17-year-old girl. I paused for a minute, unsure of how to proceed in layman’s terms that wouldn’t cause any issues if these kids brought the subject up again with parents or a teacher. I didn’t explain it too in-depth. I tried to address the whole group at once so they’d get the message too. I told them, “Yep, I know I may seem more like a girl, but I am definitely a boy! Sometimes you can’t tell automatically. Boys can look like girls, and girls can look like boys. Everybody is unique, and I think that’s pretty cool.” It wasn’t meant to be eloquent, but it left the first boy with a contemplative grin.
This was a huge step forward for me. It’s not the first time that a child has seen me and felt the need to express confusion at my androgyny, but it’s the first time I felt capable of speaking up as myself.
It’s been a while since I’ve played a character, it’s not something I get to do while completing my co-op at YPT. Instead, I get to sit in on meetings and assist in administrative tasks – work that’s adjacent to acting – and I love every minute of it. I’ve become so much more confident about interacting with others by getting to experience a creative environment where I’m not hiding behind lines and costumes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still passionate about acting, but I’m so happy to have discovered that I can feel comfortable working in theatre as just me.