Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Alana's first concert

Today we have something rather special.   When I heard that my friend from "across the pond" was about to play her first authentic concert I asked her to do a write up for Paula's Place.   I have never met Alana but so much of our lives seem to overlap that I do consider her a friend.

Thanks Paula, for allowing me to share my experience with my first performance as my true gender.  A little about me.  I play the Horn (in the U.S. it’s commonly called a French Horn) in my local community orchestra.  I’m really fortunate: as the chances to perform in the U.S. are often rare and I have a spot as the third horn.  While I realized that I was transgender about 20 years ago, I repressed it and even denied the lady I really am.  Only in the past couple of years have I embraced that I am female.  I found Paula’s Place while I was trying to justify my faith in Jesus Christ with my transgender nature, it just so happened Paula and I are both musicians as well. 

So, over the past few months I've been seeing a therapist to begin my transition, as well as slowly been adjusting my wardrobe, in both my private and work environment.  Our little town is so small and isolated, news of me transitioning outside of work, will quickly spread to my work as well.  My initial plan was to keep the male performance in place until this season was over, even though I was showing up to our rehearsals in lady jeans, t-shirt, and with a bra and small pads.  Traditionally our final concert of each season is themed around a teenaged solo performer or two, who perform a concerto or opera aria.  The orchestra then adds a couple pieces to round out the evening.  This concert started with Verdi’s overture to Nabucodonosor, a lovely Italian opera based around Nebuchadnezzar and the Jewish exile, the first two movements of Lalo’s Symphonie Espangnole in D-minor, and finishing up with Respighi’s Fountains of Rome.  Our soloist was Claire Hatter, a violin virtuoso and high school senior, who performed the solo violin part in the Lalo piece. 

The day of our final dress rehearsal, I'm in my jeans, flats, and salmon t-shirt.  Several musicians were missing, including both principal horn players (one had to work and the second had exams).  We nailed down the final details and got our last few clams out of the way and went our separate ways until the performance.  As I was considering getting ready, and thinking about under-dressing in the male required tuxedo, I really started considering just being authentic and showing up in my long formal dress.  I began to wonder if my discomfort with my gender presentation wasn’t affecting my psyche to the point I was having performance anxiety.  While I considered this, I considered that as a performer I was supposed to blend in, and this being my first performance in a dress, might make me stand out.  But as a Horn performer, we’re in the back and I could just stay there and not get, just sort of hang in the back.  I decided that my comfort with my gender was important enough that I would present myself authentically. 

The concert was fantastic, no one made any rude comments, and I really felt the burden of presenting male had been holding me back.  It’s like not being authentic had been affecting my performance, even while I was trying to repress who I am.  My comfort allowed me to perform at my best.  I have yet to see if anyone really will be disapproving.  But at this point I know that our concert master has pledged her support, as well as our conductor, and our local wind band leader, and many of my fellow musicians have also expressed support.  I am a luck lady to have them. 

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