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What’s it Like Being Transgender in New Zealand?

Media Release 8 July 2013

What’s it Like Being Transgender in New Zealand?

A New Kiwi Play Aims to Start the Conversation

Last Summer while many of us were enjoying some of the best weather in years, Robert Gilbert was interviewing transgender New Zealanders in Auckland.

The Christchurch director, playwright and Rangi Ruru’s Director of Theatre Arts, is developing a play that explores the world of transgender New Zealanders in contemporary society, and is using group funding to get it off the ground.

“There are very few theatre plays that look at transgender issues which is curious when themes around cross-dressing, androgyny and transgender have been around for thousands of years, and were explored in the earliest of written theatre literature, for example The Bacchae by Euripides,” he says.

With the working title TRANS TASMIN, the play is almost at the stage where it can be workshopped and further developed however to do this, Gilbert must raise $6000 by August 11th.

“Boosted is an all-or-nothing fundraising model; the project needs to raise 100% of the money to get funded or it doesn’t happen,” he says.

Gilbert became interested in the topic when a friend underwent gender change, he observed that society and even the law were largely ignorant of the real issues facing transgender people and their families.

“I wanted to look at the way society sees Transgenders, how they see themselves – both before and after. We still seem to see men becoming women as slightly comedic, a la Mrs Brown,” he says. “We are still freaked out. You’d think in 2013 we could just treat people as people.”

TRANS TASMIN which will look at discrimination in New Zealand society, misunderstandings and fears about the transgender community, will be presented in a theatrically challenging context by including aspects of Euripides' The Baachae within the text. One of characters is Tasmin Mahika, a Māori transgender woman of Ngai Tahu descent. She is completely comfortable with herself as a woman. It is others who struggle with her gender identity, once they find out.

“It’s my intention to write a play where the issues of gender role, and transgenderism in contemporary society are seen against a backdrop of an ancient Greek Tragedy. The scenes will be linked by the character Simon Greenwood, who is a first year university student studying The Bacchae. He is able to view his own contemporary challenges of having a transgender girlfriend against the gender-role themes in The Bacchae,” says Gilbert.

The playwright hopes that audiences will come away with a greater understanding of the transgender community, and perhaps have more tolerance and compassion for New Zealanders who are different to them.

“TRANS TASMIN is not going to hit people over the head with the issues, it allows real people to tell their stories in a way that many who know little about the transgender world, can understand and even empathise with,” he says.

© Scoop Media

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