18 July 2013

A Re-Enactor Of Gettysburg

A few days ago, after I cariactured Tammy Fay Baker, someone suggested that I try my hand at acting.

The thought had never before occured to me.  About the closest I came to trying it was the acting class I took during my last semester as an undergraduate.  I had no visions of myself on film or stage; I took the class mainly for fun and because, I told myself at the time, it might help me to understand acting if I ever decide to write a play (something I've never done).

Actually, some would argue that I've been acting for a long time--in the classroom.  I don't disagree with anyone who says that teaching is a performing art, but somehow I think it has more in common with stand-up comedy (something I've also never tried).  Then there are those who say that I was acting during all of the years I lived as a male.  I wouldn't disagree with that, either.  The thing is, the more I lived as a male, the more alienated I felt from the male persona I, in essence, created.  Somehow I imagine that actors--the good ones, anyway--feel more empathy, or at least understanding, for their characters as they spend more time portraying them.

Still, I found it curious that even though a number of writers, musicians, artists and other creative people and performers are transgendered, I'd never heard of a trans actor.  

Well, I learned of one today.  You might not have heard of her, but I think her story deserves attention.

Barbara Ann Myers donned a hoopskirt and petticoats to play a lady who might have been seen in the Gettysburg marketplace 150 years ago, when one of the pivotal battles of the Civil War was fought there.  

She has been re-enacting the battle and other historical events for a long time.  It helped her to indulge in her love of history while, she said, it also maginified her gender identity conflict.

"I never wanted to be a soldier," she explained. "I always wanted to be a lady and I was never able to do that."

She reports widespread acceptance from the community of re-enactors and her co-workers at the Florida Highway Department.  However, her wife divorced her, her son cut off ties and her mother doesn't want to see her in a dress.

In spite of--or, perhaps, because--of the mixed reception, she has continued to follow her passions--and, most important, her spirit.  Acceptance from some is a reward for being true to yourself, while rejection or distance from others is the price or "dues" you pay.

Seeing the video of Ms. Myers and reading her story, I couldn't help but to wonder how (or whether) the kind of characters an actor plays--or the way he or she plays them-- would change if her or she were to undergo a gender transition. 

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