So the Sydney Opera House is putting on a pantomime for several weeks in December, and I’m not happy about it. It’s called “trAnnie.” I could probably just leave it at that, really.
But for the morbidly curious, here is the Opera House website description:
It really is a hard-knock life for ten year old little orphan Fannie (Trevor Ashley). His parents left him in a basket on the doorstep of the Sutherland Shire Children’s Orphanage with nothing but a bracelet and a bottle of Stoli. Now he is desperate to get his long-overdue gender reassignment surgery, but there’s so much standing in his way: including that boozy matron Miss Trannigan (Rhonda Burchmore) who has just been listed on the sex-offender registry, and is bitter from years of Logie losses. Thank God Fannie has a bunch of foul mouthed orphans and his/her trusty ex-sniffer dog to help him/her survive.
When word gets out that multi-millionaire / amateur photographer Daddy Warlow is on the lookout to take in a young ward, Fannie sees her way out! But first she’ll have to pass a rigorous set of blind auditions, a “very arty” photo shoot and an appearance on evil talk-back radio personality Ellen Jones’ show. Even then, there’s still no guarantee for her sex change… she may need a Christmas miracle!
Featuring songs, audience participation, and out-of-work television personalities, this brand new adults-only panto will have you in fits of laughter… and wishing that you too could be adopted by a sexy bald millionaire.
I know, right? How clever. Such devastating wit. Such close attention to the lived realities of trans lives, to be able to make humour from marginalisation and social rejection. Utter, utter genius. etc.
Chai edi Padilla has an excellent note on Facebook that’s worth reading about this, but I’m going to keep it simpler. A text like this is essentially ventriloquism, a display of male entitlement over and aggression towards trans women. Scripted by a man, a female character to be played by a man (reinforcing societal perceptions of trans women as “really” men), for an audience, for laughs. Setting up trans women as punch lines, using a slur for a title, a slur that itself frequently accompanies violence, and giving that slur ever extended currency in the public sphere.
And the Sydney Opera House legitimises this. This is vicious, blatant sexist transphobia, masquerading as light-hearted entertainment.
You can contact the Sydney Opera House here, if you wish to complain.
Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism
The form response being sent out by the Opera House is revolting as well.
This is what one of my friends received back:
Sydney Opera House and Trevor Ashley wish to apologise to those offended by the title of the play “TrAnnie”.
The title “TrAnnie” is a play on words. It is a play on the musical Annie and combines the letters of Trevor’s name into the title. It is also a play on the fact that the central character is transsexual.
The show, while being a comedy, shows the transgender character in a positive light and hopes to encourage greater understanding of the transgender community.
Trevor Ashley said, “Although I appreciate that the word may brush some transgendered people up the wrong way, the intent is not to harm, but to take the sting out of what I’m sure could be a painful word for some. Being a part of the GLBTQI community for many years, we are people who can reclaim words that have been used in harmful ways towards us in the past.”
Your comments are appreciated and we thank you for taking the time to write.
Thanks very much, Emily, for posting the link to Chai’s note. In truth, I really didn’t want to know more about this at all, but reading that note has helped. I had the misfortune to see that ‘trAnnie’ poster image a couple of days ago on my FB feed, without knowing where or what it was about, let alone that it was being produced in the Sydney Opera House shortly, and I had to avoid going full on HULK SMASH and defriending everyone who’d had anything to do with posting it and laughing about it. And I’m pretty laid back about most stuff, but seeing this being joked about by so-called ‘friends’ on FB was utterly hurtful, but not exactly unexpected either, from similar, past experience.
Oh wow Li, that response really is awful.
Is it really? Gosh, how subtle!
Rage smash things
@The Amazing Kim
I know, right? It’s like the lovechild of Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker in title form.
And yeah, the Opera House response is pathetic. Like this is public service they’re doing for trans women. While using “he/she” to promote the show. EDUCATION.
And Ashley’s “I am gay so I can use that word” response? NO THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS BECAUSE YOU ARE NEITHER TRANS NOR A WOMAN.
Like I said, vicious sexism.
I have sent them a ‘concern’. Lets see if I get the same form letter.
Here is the “concern” I have just sent.
I also complained about their form response 🙂
I am cynical. I do not think this will do any good. But I am keeping my fingers crossed.
Emily, thanks for putting up this post. This has made me soooo maaaaaadddddd.
This is what I sent them:
I am concerned that the Sydney Opera house is showing a musical that not only mocks transgender people but also uses, in its title, a slur that has been directed against transgender people and used as an excuse for violence against them. Regardless of his membership of the GLTBI [eta: sorry Q’s how could I forget you!] community, Trevor does not have the right to mock other members of that community, or cause them pain or humiliation. I am stunned that anyone thought this was a good idea. [signed Me]
This is the cut and paste they sent me of their response letter:
Trevor’s response about being part of the LGBTI community and so therefore he is reclaiming the word seems to me part of a greater problem regarding many queer men’s attitudes. They seem to think that because they are queer (men) they can speak for all of us (especially trans and cis women) and appropriate our experiences. This is because they, as men, feel universal. Queer = queer man by default, so all queer experiences are theirs to use as they will.
There’s also a tendency by some people who are members of one oppressed group to use the lives or conditions of another oppressed group and it’s okay because they are not a white middle class cis man. (“Evelyn, Evelyn” is a good example of this. It’s okay cos I’m a woman!)
I’m a writer and I do think it’s important to write characters who are “other” than myself but I have a responsibility to do it with respect. I have a responsibility to research, to not mock or misrepresent. Trevor Ashley has failed to do these basic things.
(I’m a white queer cis woman with a disability. To put what I say in some sort of context since my comment name gives no clue.)
As a trans woman, nothing makes me feel so secure as knowing gay men are there to reclaim tranny for me, because I certainly know that I wouldn’t be able to myself, and let me tell you, it’s a word I just can’t accept the loss of.
(Yeah, sarcasm, if it wasn’t obvious. 😛 )
translation: Sorry you’re offended and don’t appreciate artistic humour.
translation: Actually I don’t care whether or not I harm any trans* people. My ’ancient eldritch power called “Intent”’ is fucking magic.
I see they’ve changed “sex change surgery” to “gender reassignment surgery”, as if that makes the whole thing better. *rolls eyes*
I received a response noting that I did not wish to receive the form response (that’s something! at least someone is reading!) and telling me that Trevor Ashley and the SOH had apologised “to those offended”. The email was from the head of Patron Services, which suggests that this whole debacle is being noticed by management. That is something.
The email thanked me for my email and feedback. (HA!)
It did not address my “concerns”.
I wrote back and asked if the apology was public and online, whether there would be any changes made to the show or the marketing, and with some further questions about policies about productions which are offensive (to the point of being harmful) to marginalised groups.
Let’s see what the next step is… (I am not holding my breath).
I’m starting to wonder whether this is something we should be drawing to the attention of artists who have staged, and might stage in the future, shows at the SOH, and who might be allies. Tim Minchin? Miriam Margolyes?
The problem is that the SOH just has, and will always have, such pulling power. *sigh*
It doesn’t matter how eloquently and logically you point out how wrong and hurtful something is or who you point it out to. Various government departments or ministers responsible for perpetrating discriminatory practices, Libra commercial anyone? etc. All you ever get is an excuse as to why what they have done was never intended to offend despite the fact that it clearly will and has.
What is hurtful is when people under the LGBTIQ umbrella sell out the T so that they can get giggles at our expense. They aren’t sorry, they don’t care and they are not accepting or inclusive yet they seek acceptance themselves from wider society.
I have started an online petition to have this show cancelled.
Please sign the petition and share it with your friends.
Savannah, I wish you luck and I’ve signed the petition. I doubt its efficacy however – I don’t think there are enough of us to make an impact on their demographic calculus. It’s still worth standing up for, and this time I could well be wrong. After all, previous campaigns against the Parrot have got nowhere, but this time around at least there’s been a temporary result.
The show is still on, but the title has been changed to “Little Orphan Trashely”.
Well at least that means that the posters won’t all be up around town with the slur ‘trannie’ all over them.