I always wanted to be a writer and then I was but had no idea what that really meant. I always thought I'd write fiction. Novels and short stories were the goal. I was asked by many why I didn't write plays and I always said, 'I don't know how to write plays; I was never taught'. And that is true.
I went to theatre school to be an actor. I trained at Sheridan College and University of Toronto and, at the time, there was not a playwriting course. Besides, I had no illusions about being a playwright. The only reason I wrote a play was because I had a friend transitioning from male to female and had an incredible life story that I believed should be written down. She said, 'Go ahead, I give you my blessing,' and that is how Damaged was born.
The problem was I am not a member of the LGBTQ community and not transgender. The play had a couple of readings at bcurrent but when I attempted to get interest elsewhere I was roundly criticised for telling a story that was not mine. This was in 2012. Transparent, Transamerica, and Orange is the New Black were not in existence yet. I was defiant, at first, because I believed I was telling a very important story. Alas, it was not my story. It was my friend, Lillian's story, and she had moved to another part of the country and could not care less about what was happening in Toronto.
Lillian found Toronto a hostile place for transwomen in 2010 and couldn't wait to leave. My play was supposed to illuminate those who didn't know how great the trans community was in our city. I gave up trying to produce that play many years ago because there were plenty of trans actors who could tell that story better than me.
I'll never forget the blistering letter I received from Yvette Nolan that basically said, 'how dare you?!' and Sky Gilbert gently coaxing me to move on to another play. In retrospect I'm glad I was schooled in 'appropriation' since writing at the time was so new to me. I moved on to write a different play that I titled Eating Pomegranates Naked and the genesis of that piece is just as interesting as the birth of Damaged. Hopefully I'll remember to write about that tomorrow. Let's just say that there's a goldmine of ideas in your daily newspaper. Inspiration is everywhere; take it from someone who was named when her father found the name Andrea on a piece of garbage in a TTC subway car. True story.