As a transgender child, there existed few depictions of people whose experiences mirrored my own. The vast majority of characters I viewed seemed happy with (or at least unaware of) themselves as gendered beings: on stage, on TV, in film, on the written page. The few who did identify as “trans” were sensationalized, dehumanized, ridiculed, or worse: on Jerry Springer, in The Crying Game, and through whispered locker room jokes about “chicks with dicks.” As a transgender adult, I refuse to accept that the only possible depictions of trans people are offensive and belittling, told by and for a non-trans audience.

My work as a performance artist and educator explores the performance of identity, of gender, and of my own transition from male to female. I am particularly excited to use a wide range of techniques and media in my performances. The human experience cannot be captured solely through text, or movement, or audio, or video. To even begin to scratch the surface of our shared humanity requires all those tools and more: conversational storytelling, personal narrative, humor, movement, video projection, whatever tool is required for the job.

More broadly, storytelling is activism. From our first interactions with language, we want to hear tales of adventure, and tell the stories of our own life. As we grow older, we learn how our stories can impact the world around us: to shift emotions and change minds. My story combats the tales laid out in film and television of transgender characters labeled as “freaks” and “perverts.” My art takes a stand that I exist. Others like me exist. By humanizing my transgender experience, I make it that much more difficult for others to dehumanize those like me. Which, ultimately, is the core purpose of art, calling us to remember our common humanity.

While the work I do brings me personal catharsis and growth, I strive to find a place within a larger reframing of trans identity in the twenty-first century. I am the only one who is allowed or entitled to define my life, my experience, my story.  And yet, for all the personal value I find in the work I do, sharing such an accessible queer narrative with a wide audience – promoting understanding and acceptance – combats bigotry.

– Rebecca Kling