'This Experience Is Not A Monolith': Ground Floor Theatre Shares 'Trans Lives/Trans Voices'
“Trans Lives/Trans Voices is a project that I’m really excited about,” says Ground Floor Theatre co-artistic director Lisa Scheps. “Because it allows trans and non-binary people to tell stories about their own lives in their own words, which we don’t hear so often.”
It’s a pretty simple idea; every Thursday, Ground Floor presents a short video featuring a trans or non-binary community member sharing a story about their life, and then hosts a virtual talkback session with viewers. And that simplicity is a big part of the point – Scheps sees the project as a way to share the specific and personal experiences of people who haven’t always had a forum to share their stories.
“If we want to battle ignorance and hate, the best way to do it is through education.” Scheps says. “And I believe that if people know a trans person, they are less likely to hate that person or inflict violence upon that person. So this is a way for anybody to get to know a trans person.”
She says the response to the project has been more positive than she originally imagined. “When I transitioned, trans people were not as well known as they are now, so I was truly feeling all alone. And that’s the lens [through which] I look at the trans and non-binary experience right now,” Scheps says. “So when I put this out there, the cynical part of me just said ‘nobody’s going to really care, because nobody ever has.’ But they do. And they have. So I am pleasantly surprised.”
That positive response has meant the likely expansion of the project, Scheps says. “Officially we’re doing these until the end of March, but I’m going to do them as long as I can do them,” she says. “So currently we have enough to do until the end of April. I’m going to guess we might have an entire year’s worth.”
One of the storytellers in the project is KB, a local poet, performer, and organizer. “I’m really happy with it, because I know that I was being honest and true to my experience,” they say. “And I don’t know that I’ve had the opportunity to really, like, tell someone that whole story out loud. So yeah, I feel really happy with the outcome.”
“I’m really thrilled with the way it’s… turning out, because these people are bravely telling their own stories,” Scheps says. “I am a trans person [and] i have not done a story yet. I don’t have the courage of KB [or] of the others. Of course I’m considering my own story – I really want to.”
With a laugh, she continues. “You know, without having my psychologist here to help me through, I rarely talk about myself. So I would have to muster a lot of the bravery I have. But yeah, it’s still a possibility.”
KB says that, as they told their story in the studio, they weren't thinking about whether or not it was an act of bravery. “Afterwards… I was just like ‘oh, this is something that’s kind of been on my heart for like years and years now.’ And I’m glad that feels, in its way, reminiscent of bravery. And I think a really cool thing about this project is that different people have such different experiences of what it means to be trans, what it means to be non-binary. This experience is not a monolith.”
“My biggest hope is that people will look at these stories and see the real people there, the heart that’s there, the bravery and courage that’s there, the intelligence that’s there, and understand that these are fellow human beings, deserving of all the respect and care and love that any other human being would get,” Scheps says. “So that the next time they encounter someone that’s different from them – be they trans of anything else – they may take a step back and go, ‘you know, there’s a human being behind that person. I might want to respect that.’”