I was different from all the other kids at Cor Jesus Catholic school in Rome. Certainly shy and already leading a double life at 6, I actually could not wait for the bell to toll and leave the nuns behind and run back home where I could finally be myself. There, whilst my mum was still at work, my teenager sister looked after me. I loved her because she would take a break from her own home work and set up some kind of performance space for me. Using leftovers from my mum’s seamstress work, she would create costumes for me and I was in heaven because I could perform. But as a transgender child who lived in a traditional working class 1970s Italian environment I soon learned that in order to blend in and be able to live in peace and possibly get some kind of bread and butter job I had to repress my natural affinity with dresses, make-up, heels, as well as Bette Davis, Sophia Loren and Deborah Kerr.
I coped very well because I was doing what I was born to do.
I was pretending to be someone else.
I was playing the part of the boy I really never was.
Performing saved my life.
However, I eventually transitioned, but although I had a good job and felt that my identity was then completely re-aligned with my body, I began to suffer from severe depression. Medications or counselling seemed to produce short term improvements only. But whilst attending a group counselling session I met someone who was involved in drama workshops and within this context I had the opportunity to participate in a series of transgender drama workshop that aimed at helping trans people to tell their stories in a creative way. Supported by the Arts Council and Islington Council, our group became very busy with writing, developing characters and a narrative.
This resulted in a script, ‘Lili’ – the story of the first trans woman who underwent reassignment surgery. Our play premiered at Camden Fringe 2014 and for me it was a revelation. I suddenly realised how performing had been the missing piece from the puzzle that ‘being’ was for me, whether I was transgender or not.
One night, whilst on stage, I became aware that I was finally complete and it was not because of my new body or the dress I was wearing.
Writing and performing allowed me to re-engage with the fluidity of existence itself and gave me the opportunity to express the multi-faceted wholesomeness of who we really are.
Trans people often are left with no option but spend all their energy in trying to achieve that which other non-trans people take for granted: ‘being born’. This sets some unhealthy limits to their existence and ambition. Later, I manage to get a tiny role in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl which stars Eddie Redmayne and this year I re-discovered Cocteau and his masterpiece ‘The Human Voice’.
As a trans writer and actor, I found many affinities with his tale of a desperate woman waiting for her lover’s last call. Especially in terms of coupling, our society often treats trans people as that sexually charged ‘other’ whom it yearns for but only as a ‘bit on the side’.
My Camden Fringe 2015 tribute to Cocteau is a brand new play that still deals with the end of a love affair, the addictive nature of passion and the inhumane aspects of technology. Yet through my 21st century convoluted identity experience I was able to bring forth themes like mental health and the fluidity of gender, as well as the importance of cosmetic surgery for trans people in their struggle to ‘fit’ in a still very conservative society.
In an attempt to turn our voice, one of the things that often give us trans women away, into a tool for reclaiming our place in society and on stage, ‘The Human Voice’ becomes for me ‘That Woman’s Voice’. Surprisingly, she turns out to be a winner.
‘That Woman’s Voice’ is performed at Birkbeck School of Arts as part of Camden Fringe 2015 on 5th,6th,7th August at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from camdenfringe.com and wegotticket.com
You can contact Simona