by Kimmi Awiszio
The Vagina Monologues has been a part of my life since 2011. The first time I auditioned, I was a self-conscious freshman in college who had never really done any theater, let alone talk about vaginas on stage. Of all things. The whole concept was absolutely wild to me, but as an upcoming feminist—it felt right.
Since then, I have been a part of six productions, performed seven monologues, and even co-directed a production. I keep coming back, and chances are I always will.
In the last twelve years of my life I’ve been raped, abused and torn from the inside out. I’ve struggled with self-harm and eating disorders and clinical OCD. I don’t even know what gender is right now, but the humans of TVM have been there for me through so much healing—including some of the women in my current cast.
TVM 2018 was my first production with V-Day Raleigh. It was also my first year using they/them pronouns as I slowly, but confidently came out as Genderfluid. To be completely honest, I think the concept of gender is a wildfire, but I’ve never felt better than hearing someone talk about me using my chosen name and pronouns while I strut around in my “The Future is Genderfluid” sweatshirt and freshly faded haircut.
The women of V-Day Raleigh were some of the first people to accept me and my gender identity, however it may have presented itself both on and off the stage. The question remains: how do I fit into The Vagina Monologues—a show that’s about women—if I don’t even identify as a woman?
Truthfully, there’s a lot wrong with this show and its origins. Playwright, Eve Ensler, though reluctantly adding a monologue about one Trans Woman’s experience, has never denied being a TERF [trans exclusionary radical feminist]. There are so many hints of homophobia, transphobia, and racism throughout her script that even if she did deny it, I certainly wouldn’t believe it.
V-Day, however, “is a global activist movement to end all violence against women, girls, and those who hold fluid identities” (hey, that’s me!) “that are subject to gender-based violence.” It is observed by billions of people around the world. But The Vagina Monologues script doesn’t match up with the same truths. Although new monologues have been added, the original script hasn’t been updated since the 1990’s and is filled with archaic language—it’s simply not keeping up with the times the same way the movement has. There’s room for improvement.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the V-Day movement is the be-all-end-all of idealistic feminism because that would be a lie. Nonetheless, being a part of it has taught me so much. The script, although problematic, is beautiful and poetic and speaks in waves of emotions. It evokes literally all the feelings. More than anything, the women and folks within the casts and crews have helped mold me into the human I am today.
Through every production, I have had the pleasure and honor of knowing and growing close to dozens of people. TVM has not only created a culture where we can talk on stage about the bodies and experiences of women, but it has also created a safe space for us to talk about our own experiences and our struggles and our bodies and our feelings and our hopes for the future. It has created a space so freeing and beautiful, it is hard to put in words.
I have never felt more at home than when I walk into a room with a new cast and crew of beautiful and strong and badass fucking women. And for that, I’m forever grateful.