In terms of understanding and education, the visibility of trans peoples’ experiences still lives in early stages. Television shows like Amazon’s Transparent and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black—and its star, Laverne Cox—have placed conversations about life as a trans person in the mainstream, but it’s important that the spotlight remain rather than fading out.
“We are in a very important cultural moment. Gender issues, and the gender fluidity of all people, are really coming into the light, which means there is some media representation, which has kind of outrun the understanding of many people,” says C Bain, participant in The Trans Literacy Project
Honest Accomplice Theatre, founded by Maggie Keenan-Bolger and Rachel Sullivan, aims to continue the conversation and promote social change by producing theatre that highlights “topics that are often silenced, seen as shameful, or portrayed as one-dimensional, specifically through the lens of the women and trans experience.”
This is a two-sided process. It's about trans people speaking and having their voices and perspectives heard, while cis people are given an opportunity to learn.
In that vain, Honest Accomplice began The Trans Literacy Project.
As part of the initiative, Honest Accomplice launched Trans 101, November 15, 2017. The video series addresses gender, labels, gender expression and the physical body, and pronouns and language in its first four episodes. The latest video, released exclusively on Playbill.com, points out potential missteps in colloquial conversations about trans experiences. “When You Say __, I Hear ___” reveals the internal thoughts of trans people when cis people say certain phrases that have become commonplace.
“Recording the trans experience and letting trans people represent themselves, both gives other folks a chance to catch up and educate themselves, and also keeps us in control of our own truths and stories, instead of saddling us with a stereotype,” says Bain.
A collaboration between educators, artists, trans allies, human resources personal and the community, The Trans Literacy Project released videos throughout 2017 to discuss transphobia, how to be an ally, dating, safety, navigating the workplace, and more.
“I want people to understand that trans people are just people,” says Maybe Burke, the host of The Trans Literacy Project. “I want trans people to be able to take these videos and use them as the start of a conversation they've been meaning to have with their friends. I want allies to see this as an opportunity to support trans voices and learn a little more about experiences they don't face head-on.”
That opportunity is what drives Keenan-Bolger and Sullivan.
After touring their show The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged for three years, Keenan-Bolger notices, “Without fail, the character who elicits the most conversation is Emerson, a character who identifies as neither a man or woman and goes by the pronouns they/them/theirs.” Sullivan continues, “The outpouring of questions and identification with Emerson made it clear to us that further exploration of trans issues in a nuanced, accessible format was very much needed and wanted by people across the U.S. It was time to see a project created and led by the trans artists in our community.”