On March 16th, I was fortunate enough to see the captivating show Down There, performed by members of the Women’s Empowerment Committee at Queen’s University. It was a collection of different pieces/stories written, directed and performed by students. The pieces were about sexual identity, and issues that are not openly discussed.
Walking into the show, I was not sure what to expect. Would this be one big production? Would there be small segments? What are these stories going to be like? Will I feel awkward? What will the audience be like? How will people react? Who is in the show? So many unknown possibilities and questions were running through my mind as I walked through the doors, and waited in anticipation for the show to start. With a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I walked away from the experience being very pleasantly surprised.
During the show, I felt myself react in many different ways to the different monologues as they were being performed. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I was watching the piece “Pretty” and “Not my Fault”. I was very intrigued by the actresses who were performing them, and the emotion they put into the performance truly conveyed the importance of the piece and message that it was giving. However, I also felt uncomfortable and the more I have thought about this, I have come to realize that I was able to draw a personal connection to each of the performances. The piece “Pretty” was performed by a girl my age, and someone I knew. The piece “Not My Fault” was a real life story written by a Queen’s student about her horrible experience with rape on campus. I believe that I felt a specific level of un comfort when exposed to these stories because they were very realistic to me, and I could grasp the possibility that that could be happening to anyone around me.
I also felt surprise and shock, specifically in the piece “Cellophane Wrapping”. The performer had the appearance of a man; he acted and sounded like a man, and even made comments to encourage the audience to assume that he was a male. However, in retrospect, he never explicitly stated that he was in fact a male. In my mind, I did not question it. My assumptions trumped any doubt that I could possibly have about his identification. At the end of the piece, he stated that he was in fact born a woman, however identifies himself as a transgendered man. I was completely caught off guard and shocked. The fact that I had assumed so much also shocked me, when I really knew nothing about him. I was also inspired by this piece because I had never seen such confidence and strength in a person when discussing identities, and he was very open and confident in his performance and sharing himself and a bit his story with an audience of strangers.
Lastly, I felt humor and amusement out of some of the pieces, specifically the “Feminism: A Disney Music” and “Blood Bath”. I thought that both of those pieces portrayed serious and debatable topics in an appropriate way which made them funny, and engaged the audience. They were a very good balance to the rest of the show, and also symbolized that although many of these topics and issues are seen in a dark or ignored light, they can be looked at in different ways. There were jokes made that, In my opinion, demonstrated to the audience that there are some topics that are potentially more easily discussed and talked about when you add some humor.
All in all, I think that the show Down There was eye opening. I was exposed to identification issues that I hadn’t really been exposed to before. I also caught myself making assumptions about people that I really have no right to make. I was able to see and feel firsthand what removing these identity issues from the shadow looked like and felt like, and I believe that Down There was the first step of many to exposing and addressing gender identification issues.
Have you heard about the show Down There? Is it something that interests you? How do you feel about gender identification issues? What assumptions do you make daily about peoples gender identification? Are these assumptions avoidable?