Interview by Will O'BryanPhotography by Todd FransonPublished on December 10, 2009Two transgender rabbis walk into a bar....Wait, scratch that.Riki Wilchins, among the most prominent voices in America's gender-identity discourse, has taken a new turn -- to comedy. But it's not the sort of routine that might play in the Catskills, circa 1950.Instead, the D.C.-based Wilchins, who headed the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) through the first decade of the century and was lauded by Time magazine in 2001 as a civic innovator, is playing for laughs politically with her "one trans show," The MANgina Monologues."I'm angry," says the self-identified "gender queer" activist. "It's just that the anger is coming out in humor. If you're angry, you can yell at people, or you can get people to laugh at your anger. I'm choosing part two. It opens up a lot of doors."Onstage, Wilchins's humor doesn't sound too angry. She mocks the hoops the medical establishment forces people seeking gender-reassignment surgery jump through. Perhaps rhinoplasty candidates should be forced to live a couple years in the role of a small-nosed person before being eligible for that nose job.Or, as Wilchins walks her audience through world of such surgeries, she segues into genuinely educational material about intersex babies and the clitoris. It could be tragic, but we're back to laughs: "As a woman, I can now confirm personally, most guys couldn't find the clit without help if you put landing lights on it. Which my surgeons actually considered. I loved the idea of a better sex life, but didn't think I could handle the big electric bills."This line of levity might come as a surprise for some who recall a much more serious Wilchins. Elizabeth Birch, former head of the Human Rights Campaign, remembers sparring with Wilchins over policy in years past. Now she's a fan of the funny lady."One can always count on Riki Wilchins to go where no person has ever gone before," says Birch. "Now she's bringing that same courage to stand-up.... Everyone's dying to ask a transgender person, 'What's it like?' Riki brings it all up and puts in on the table. She brings her colorful and wry sense of humor to the stage, and it's very funny."So far, Wilchins has performed her act just twice, with another show to follow Saturday, Dec. 12. There's talk of possibly bringing the act to the D.C. Jewish Community Center come spring. Really, it's still a matter of Wilchins trying stand-up on for size and seeing if it's a good fit.But with a chance to get her message out, Wilchins seems more than satisfied, both with reaching an audience and with her own evolution."To some extent, being known as a transgender comedian is the point of the exercise. Which actually is a pretty big turn when you think about it, because when I transitioned, my doctors were very big on 'You have to pass to be a successful woman.' So if you made fun of me 20 years ago for not passing, I would've broken down in tears. Now I go up there and out myself all night and make jokes about it. It's a pretty big shift.".....
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Posted by De Sube at 12/10/2009 07:21:00 PM