By Ruth Sybil May
A few weeks ago, I participated in the feminist play titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Women, Brazen Acts by Rivka Solomon and Bobbi Ausubel; of which I was a cast member. The play is an adaptation of the book similarly titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts, edited by Rivka Solomon. The framework of the book/play is a collection of true stories submitted by ordinary people recounting an experience in which they acted of courageously and bravely, told through first-person narratives. The play was organized by recruiting a cast of diverse community members to enact these true stories on stage in front of an audience, mixing activism with performance art in a way that is humorous, yet serious and inspiring at the same time.
Within the play, I played the part of Drake, a young, transgender man on a path of self-discovery and emotional bravery. During his scene, Drake works up the courage to come out to his mother as transgender despite knowing his mother would not react well. After sharing his truth, his parents are apprehensive at first, but soon do their research so they can better support and love their son no matter what, bringing their family even closer together than before.
As a trans, non-binary person myself, I saw it as an honor that I was able to perform this true story with an audience of mostly non-queer people who may not have had much familiarity with queer identities and marginalization. My hope was that I could help promote the humanization of transgender people through my performance, because transgender people are often demonized, rejected, and experience extremely disproportionate rates of violence. By showing that I, as a trans person playing another trans person, am as human and deserving of love and respect as anyone else, I hoped the audience would think of and see trans people in a different, more positive, light to better the treatment of all trans people.
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And my main role was but one of the dozen or so bold and gutsy stories about real people that graced the Atwood Theatre stage that week. Of these monologues, several were from the perspective of non-Western, transnational folks. For instance, Rana, a feminist journalist from Jordan, wrote a story about the grim reality of honor killings within her country, and the systemic devaluation of women’s and girl’s lives. After having her story published and read by her nation’s community, she helped play a role in organizing people from across her country to demand action and change, and was successful in making honor crime killings more punishable and preventable.
There were also stories from girls and women from Mexico, Taiwan, and India as well, helping to break down the centrality of white Western positionality within feminist frameworks and activism, though much of the cast was still white students from our campus. This also helped show that courage and tenacity is not reserved only for the most privileged of women, but that Third World women and women from the global south are just as gutsy and tenacious. It also helped chip away at the damaging stereotype that Third World women are helpless victims of their culture with no sense of agency or voice; but rather, they have all of the determination, intelligence, and agency to band together and produce transformational change within their own families and communities without outside help.
And with the performance of That Takes Ovaries, the mission was to show that if the women and people of non-dominant genders from many sorts of communities and backgrounds can create change and perform outrageous acts, the viewer too was capable of doing these important things. The show hopefully encouraged them to be risk takers and reflect on the bold and courageous things they or the people they know have already done.
Thus making That Takes Ovaries an energy-filled and artistic form of grassroots activism that can spread like wildfire and continue to inspire people to take charge and become empowered to be the change that they want to see in the world.