For transgender actress, 'Vagina Monologues' role is more than acting
Testifying before the state General Assembly's Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, one person talked about her transgender friends who lost their jobs when they transitioned genders -- male to female or female to male.
There's little they can do about it, however, because state anti-discrimination laws do not include the transgender population. State law forbids discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion and age, but does not protect anyone on the basis of gender identity or expression.
Anne Faith Beon also testified at the Judiciary Committee hearing on House Bill 6599, proposed legislation that would add transgender people to the anti-discrimination laws in Connecticut. The West Haven woman, who was born male, also recently lobbied in Washington, D.C., for transgender protections under the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
She will continue her advocacy this Sunday from the stage of the Westport Country Playhouse in a production of Eve Ensler's award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues." There will be two performances, at 1 and 5 p.m.
The play is powerful and empowering, and Beon said perhaps even more so for her "because of the distance I had come to be there, in life, not geographically."
Only after Beon's gender reassignment surgery in November 2009 did she have a vagina.
"Before my surgery, the play would have been interesting, and that's about it. Now, after my transition, the play affects me on a personal level," Beon said. "Even more than that, and I think this is what the play's about, it's the interaction between the women in it and their embracing of me."
Listening to the individual monologues at Monday night's rehearsal in Westport, Beon said she alternated between tears and laughter.
"One minute I was laughing hysterically, and the next minute I was crying," she said.
Dee Andrian, 79, of Westport, one of the actresses in the cast, called the play "a must see."
"The play itself is a journey," she said.
The Westport production marks the group's second annual participation in V-Day, a global observance designed to call attention to violence against women and girls. The performances will raise funds for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, a Fairfield County organization that offers counseling, legal and housing advocacy services and a 24-hour hotline.
"It's a very empowering show," said Jaysen, a former Westport resident now living in Wilton. "It impacts the performers and the audience. Some people who were abused recognize themselves and it gives them a voice and tells them it's okay to get help.
"It opens up dialogue. It provides support. ... There's an electricity between the words. It speaks to your heart."
"The Vagina Monologues" is a living literary work. Audiences that have seen one production may be introduced to new material at this performance because there are a variety of monologues to choose from, and each year Ensler writes a new "spotlight" monologue. Last year, it was about the women of the Congo. This year, it's Haiti.
For the Westport show, Jaysen opted to include the monologue about a transgender woman and originally she sought out a transgender woman to act out that scene.
"I had a choice. Should Anne be in the piece or should Anne introduce the piece? I think it's much more important for Anne to be herself than to portray (a character) or read someone else's words," Jaysen said.
Beon shared that philosophy. She is still a member of the cast and has lines that she delivers, but before the transgender piece, Beon will speak to the audience in her own words rather than Ensler's.
"I wanted to make my presence there human because a lot of people that I'm going to be in front of in this audience have never met a trans person before. It's like one and a half minutes of Tranny 101," Beon said.
Although Beon had worked in various theatrical venues throughout the state for about four years, she never ran into one of her idols, actor Paul Newman, in those settings, although she did meet the Westport resident several times at racetracks. She is grateful to have an opportunity to work on the Westport stage where Newman had strong ties.
Reserved seating tickets for the "Vagina Monologues" cost $25, $35 and $50, and can be purchased through the Westport Country Playhouse box office at 203-227-4177 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.