On Tuesday I heard the call on Facebook for a trans woman to be in the Vagina Monologues last weekend. My reaction of course: “Pick me! Pick me!” We did three performances just off Brick Lane. I wrote what I wanted to say on Wednesday. I read it from my phone, which is not good enough- I had not had time to memorise it.
Of course it is not transphobic to talk of vaginas. Shaming, and pleasure, around vaginas is a feminist issue, most women have them, and trans women who do not should be allies, however important it is that we are not shamed into surgery. Eve Ensler, who wrote the monologues, speaks up for trans rights, and Andrea, who put the show on, wanted a trans woman in her cast. She found someone, who dropped out with a week to go; she found another for Saturday afternoon, who was suddenly ill on the day. Another cast member was stranded in Ireland by the snow. I could not have afforded a place to stay, so Drea let me use her bed. She wanted trans involvement, and offered to read out something a trans acquaintance wrote, or play a recording of a trans woman.
It was a great privilege to be with such strong, vibrant women, around half my age. Two acted professionally: an American in the audience thought two were American, from their accents. “The Flood” has hilarious moments and pathos, all of which Natalia drew out in her New York Jewish accent- her grandparents escaped there, from the Holocaust. How dare anyone speak against immigration when it brings such people to our country!
With about 130 in the audience over three shows, and a Just Giving page, and selling wine at the venue Drea raised nearly £3000 for Rape Crisis London. In March, we could put the play on without royalties because we were raising money for charity.
Drea performed the dominatrix segment, finding her calling giving women pleasure and making them moan. This involved demonstrating moans, even in front of her mother, who was in the audience on Saturday afternoon. The moans were beautifully authentic, sometimes funny- the student moan “I-should-be-studying”- ending lying on her back with the triple orgasm moan. That is brave.
I had one line apart from my monologue, which this morning I thought how better to deliver, now it is too late.
-What would your vagina say? Two words.
I crescendoed, and today thought if I crescendoed until the fourth line then whispered the last in simple happiness, it would be funny. Too late! Yet, I have faked orgasm on stage.
We were happy to have men in the audience. Men need to hear this stuff. Some men would just mock or ignore it, but some who want to be allies to women but who might have some problematic attitudes will be helped to understand. One of us said her partner was generally woke but said occasional wrong things- she explains, patiently, rather than getting angry.
I was sitting there, thinking, how wonderful these words are, how charismatic the performers, and my inner critic went for me each time- I should not be here, my own words are anticlimax at the end of the play. The other performers praised me and said how good I was, and my inner critic said they are just saying that, they don’t want you going to pieces on stage. Yet I said my piece, three times, and the one compliment I will take to heart is when they said how passionate my delivery was. It was what I wanted to say. On Sunday I went to Meeting at Friends House, feeling tired but loved-up and blissful.