GayCalgary Magazine - November 2012

Page 12

Be a wo/man

Gender-bending, multi-media fusion challenges biases By Krista Sylvester When Jasmine Whenham took on the precarious role of playing a woman living as a man, she knew it would be challenging and eye-opening but she didn’t realize how life changing it would become. Even as a lesbian woman, Whenham always found the topic of transgender uncomfortable and confusing. So when Be a Man writer and producer Rita Bozi asked her to play the role of Tommy, a woman living as a man, Whenham was hesitant, but decided to challenge her views and dive head-first into the role - something she now credits with changing her life. “When Rita first contacted me, my first emotion that I felt was extreme discomfort,” she explains. “I’ve always felt uncomfortable about transgendered individuals and issues. I’ve also always felt uncomfortable about being uncomfortable about it because I’m a gay woman and I shouldn’t be judging anyone else.” She completely realizes the irony of the situation now. “It’s funny you know, when you are gay everyone says why are you making that choice and you explain it’s not a choice


GayCalgary Magazine #109, November 2012

but as a gay person, I was looking at transgendered people and asking the same thing.” But the role has changed her life. “Now I realize it’s not a choice at all,” she explains. “The compassion I now feel for anyone in that situation is immense. There are no questions about it; it’s not a choice, end of story. I feel bad for anyone trapped in the wrong body or forced to have to use the wrong restroom.” But it wasn’t without its fears and scars. Whenham already had short hair but cut her hair even shorter for the performance, ditched her earrings and let her eyebrows grow. In the past month alone she’s been mistaken for a man several times and even forcibly removed from the woman’s washroom at a movie theatre. “I was surprised because I didn’t change that much,” she explains. “But it was humiliating. I was devastated. It certainly did a lot for my sense of compassion, especially having to prove my gender, but that was my goal coming into the project. I will be a huge advocate from now on. ”