When starting my training, back in 2019, I was yet to come out as trans. I was proudly a part of the queer community but hadn’t come to terms with my gender. Growing up in Somerset, my childhood wasn’t one that was surrounded by queer people; that really changed overnight when I moved to London at 19. It felt as though there were more queer people than not. Not long into my 2nd year during theatre training, I began using they/them pronouns - this was the start of my gender journey.
The trans experience in drama schools
Throughout my time at drama school, I believe I stood as someone who really advocated for positive change in all areas of the training, so when I started to come out, I made sure to continue to do so. Things were inclusive at the school I trained in but, like most places, they still had work to do. Dance classes, historically, have been routed in ‘boys do this’ and ‘girls do that’ - so when you’re going through the process of working out who you are, hearing phrases that instantly whack you in a box that you don’t want to be in can be really hard.
Starting conversations and asking questions is a great place to start. Gendered toilets, wording in emails, dance uniforms - small things that can make a big difference. I was lucky enough to have constant open dialogue with the head of the drama school I went to - she always listened and sometimes ran things by me. Change usually happens when a majority disagree with something. If there are things that you don’t like or don’t agree with, speak to your peers. The more voices you have, the better. When it came to the 2nd Year musical, I wrote to the head of the school and said that I’d like to be given the chance to audition for one of the male leads - I was listened to, given the opportunity, and was cast in the role. People aren’t always reluctant to change, some just aren’t aware that it needs to happen!
Trans experience as a theatre graduate
Breaking into the industry as a graduate is hard. By the time I had done my first professional job, I was out as gender queer, but was still on a journey of self-discovery. I carried my attitude from drama school into the professional world; I wanted to be a part of the small group of trans people who were slowly changing and challenging the industry. I was lucky enough to sign with a wonderful agent who made it clear from our first conversation that they would be 100% up for supporting my journey as a performer and as a human being. Since signing with them I have been seen for roles that I never even thought I’d get in the room for, purely down to our working relationship. I am always honest with them if I feel something isn’t right for me and I always tell them when I think I’m right for something!
One thing that I always stand by is that being your authentic self only aids your performance ability. Easier said than done. When you walk into an audition knowing exactly who you are, it reads. When you are comfortable in yourself, you are your most relaxed. In my experience, this can lead to your best work!
I often reflect on how lucky I am to be in arguably the most accepting and inclusive industry when it comes to difference. It is far from perfect, but the majority of the industry is moving in a positive direction. I think that the acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community within the performance industry has aided the speed of my coming out process. I am lucky to currently be in a job that celebrates differences. The cast of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory are incredible and I’m grateful to be spending the next year and a half with them while we tour! We are a massively diverse group of humans who all celebrate each other. I feel very safe at work. I feel allowed to be authentically myself without fear of backlash or hate. I feel comfortable to be a proud trans man. As much as this should be the norm, I recognise that I am very privileged to feel this way!
Top tips for navigating the industry as a trans person
Here are some of my top tips for fellow trans people who might be worried about training:
- Your gender journey/self-discovery is just as, if not more, important than your training.
- As cringey as it may sound, there is only one ‘you’ - no one else can be you better than you can. Own it. Every part of it.
- Be brave, push boundaries and ask questions.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with rep, try things out, change keys - see what works for you. If it’s a story you connect with, but the original key doesn’t sit right in your voice, change it!
- There are going to be days where it feels hard and that’s okay!
- Always remember there is room for you in this industry. As you are. Sometimes you have to make the room yourself, but there always is room.
- Being trans is so wonderful. It is something you should be proud of. The minute I realised this; life became a lot easier.