Initially, I didn’t think being a reader for the Vagina Monologues would have been a feasible way for me to help raise awareness about violence against women. I hadn’t thought it was feasible because my relationship with my body and how I got here is very different than most women. I had figured there wasn’t a part for a woman like myself– a transgender woman.
Then I was informed that there was a role for a transwoman that wasn’t filled because they couldn’t find a trans woman to play the part. To be clear, I don’t see myself as an actress. I work in academia in STEM fields, so this is far outside of my wheelhouse so to speak. However, with as much as I had spoken out against cis people playing trans roles, I had to put my money where my mouth was. So I agreed to do a brief audition before the first cast rehearsal. The script for the part was emailed to me.
My heart sank in a nauseating spiraling as I read it for the first time. The role was all too real. If I hadn’t experienced the events of the role personally, I knew others who had. It was like 34 years’ worth of punches in the gut all over again. People needed to see this monologue. They needed to feel this. I had to do it.
When I read my part I was able to express hopes and sorrows I had felt. In life, I was told I have no right to be angry about how people treat me as a result of my transition. “You chose this.” “You have nobody to blame but yourself.” “You are being selfish.” This isn’t the case though. I have every right to be angry about how people treat me and every right to yell about it.
Performing this monologue, I got to do that. There was something cathartic about being able to yell in a strange mix of raw sorrow and anger. I was able to say the things I wanted to and feel like I was heard for the first time.
The pain and abuse we experience don’t start when we begin to transition. It’s a lifelong fact of our lives. No matter how pretty people think we are, the abuse and fear persist. I had no choice when it came to my transition. No one would choose this. People, however, get to decide how they choose to treat me and those like me. This is what I hope people take away from watching this particular monologue. This is how we can work towards ending the violence against all women for future generations.
Veronica O’Kelly, 2/4/2019