I had a relatively normal 1970’s childhood in Surrey, where I was born. We moved to Oxfordshire when was 10. It was like moving to a farm, a completely different pace of life, completely different accents. stood out like a sore thumb and didn’t make friends.
I had a very difficult few years, which coincided with my adolescence and increased gender dysphoria, which I’d been feeling ever since was a wee kid. didn’t really have the vocabulary for it, but at four or five years old remember feelings of incongruence and discomfort with what had, and wondering why wasn’t built differently.
I always thought that when grew up wanted to be an actor, and I wanted to be a girl. can remember very few incidences when wavered from those twin desires. So when was 18 moved to London to go to drama school and that was the next chapter of my life.
When I made the decision to transition, thought chances were that probably wouldn’t act again. As luck would have it, in 2003 the BBC was casting a trans part in Casualty and got it. filmed two episodes and about two weeks before transmission they said, ‘We’re dropping that storyline and we’re shooting your scenes again with a cis gender actor’. The world of acting is replete with stories of actors being fired or cut from movies but this particularly felt a bitter pill to swallow because it was taking something from a trans person and an opportunity for a trans storyline to be shared. never had an explanation or found out why.
I continued to work very sporadically, but never gave up acting. did my MA in voice studies and worked as a voice teacher, which still do.
Then Boy Meets Girl came about. It was a competitionwinning script, and as part of the prize there was a table-read in front of an audience of producers. was asked to take part. The BBC commissioned the first series, which was aired in September three years ago. September is a lucky month for me as it was also the month had my gender confirmation surgery. We got two seasons out of the BBC. It’s a shame we didn’t get a third, but there you go, that’s showbiz.
There were already trans people in the public eye and trans character storylines. The Hayley storyline in Coronation Street, a character in Hollyoaks, although they weren’t played by trans people. In the US Orange Is The New Black became a massive hit and changed the landscape for trans characters, and then Transparent came along. Boy Meets Girl was part of that growing consciousness in the entertainment industry, and certainly in the UK.
You wait all your life for a movie and then suddenly two come along at once. It’s like London buses! The part in Colette with Keira Knightley is a gorgeous featured little role, not as big as the character in The Sisters Brothers, which is a nice supporting role. Then to have them both released on the same day in the US in September! My lucky month again!
I’m a patron for All About Trans. It’s an organisation that engages with the media, journalists, storywriters, scriptwriters, TV producers, to promote understanding of trans experiences, trans storylines and lives. Also Diversity Role Models, which goes into schools and talks to young people from primary school age up to 17 or 18 about understanding LGBT+ issues, not just limited to trans experiences. They work with the younger generation because if you’re going to educate and change society, start with the youngsters.
I made a show with Anna Pacquin called Flack, which will be out in the New Year, and have a voice part on the new TV adaptation of Moomins. I’m going to Toronto for The Sisters Brothers premiere. haven’t got an outfit yet so I’m beginning to panic!
Then come straight back to Dublin for Rathmines Road. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into a play and I’m thrilled to be working on this one. It’s a brilliant, brilliant play. read it once more yesterday and it hit me all over again. It really does pack a punch; it’s an extraordinary piece of writing.
As the first trans actor in a trans role in professional Irish theatre, it’s made me wonder has there ever been a trans character in a cis gender role or has there ever been an amateur trans person in an amateur production, you know what mean? But it is exciting.
I’m half Irish, my mum’s from Clontarf. I’m really thrilled to be coming home to Dublin. feel like it’s somewhere knew well as a child but as an adult don’t really know it at all, so I’m growing to know and love the city more now.
‘Rathmines Road’ is presented by Fishamble: The New Play Company and runs at the Civic Theatre from Oct 4 to 6, and the Abbey theatre from Oct 10 to 13, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. www.dublintheatrefestival.com