DescriptionJamez Terry (34) describes his experience in the variety trans road show and how the show impacted various communities and how he became a chaplain.
- Jamez Terry
- Susan Halvor
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:01 My name is Susan Halpern. I'm 46 years old today is the 29th of December 2016. We are at Providence Alaska Medical Center. And James is my friend. I am his manager and we are both Shopkins together.
00:16 My name is James Terry. I'm 34 years old. It's the 29th of December 2016 hour at Providence Alaska Medical Center. And Susan is my coworker and friend in Spanish.
00:30 So I'm super excited to talk to you. We had a staff Retreat a couple weeks ago and you talked about your role in starting the tranny Roadshow until I would love to hear more about that. So if you could just I guess just start by talking about what the trainerroad show is and how it got started.
00:49 So when the tranny Roadshow got started we didn't know what it would be still feel like two very different questions tag line that we used think throughout the training Rancho is a multimedia performance art Extravaganza with an all transgender cast and we made that lineup. I think before you ever had a show in which I was going to fit or not like multimedia. What does that include letting go back up to where it started before when it became this was in 2004 and that's why I was 22 and I think youth is crucial to the story. Wake up at 8, okay.
01:36 And I was living in rural Maine for the winter doing a house painting job. I knew absolutely nobody in town except for the person I was working for so I had like and it was me and it was Winter and you could barely leave your house and there was just there was nothing at all to do but all the time start. Imagine what I want to do next and I decided what I want to do next will go on tour and that was a very
02:01 Nebulous concept person time. I have never been on tour hits you done performance stuff before not much I grew up playing violin. So I have done like recitals, you know, I had done theater in high school and I had done things like that. I done some poetry open mics, but I've never really been a performer at that much but I have some friends that I wasn't sure what I would do it, but I just like a good idea and then I had to think what did that mean? I'm a little too by myself all those hours in the car and I love her by myself, but it seems different somehow. I want to be in this with me. And so I called my friend Kelly Kelly Costello, but he is her first name is Kelly short and clear.
02:56 And we had to travel together and live together before and I knew that we would could be in a car for a month and be okay. We could also have done project before we started the Denver library together. So I worked well together and I've caught up with a page want to go on tour with me and he sort of like what would that mean?
03:20 And we we were both writers and since there isn't that something else could be a z in Reading to her like we have friends who done that that's him to buy a ball, but then we thought would be more interesting. It was more than just being reading. Can we get somebody else involved to get something different and three people sing for my DL you can fit in the car comfortably something made out of the back of the female and I'm trans your triangle temperature and steam that was really all the think, you know, when it's a bad. So we drafted an email just a paragraph or two about the show that we had imagined and what it could be and send it to our friends and said forward to your friends of this is like I said before Facebook that it wasn't for social medias painting with all the email forwards.
04:13 What time does having see what happens and within a week? We had gotten back more than a hundred replies and that included people who wanted to perform people who wanted to book the show people who wanted to make our Flyers people that I own a restaurant. If you come to my town, I'll give you a meal while you're here who wanted us to stay in their house is all the people saying this needs to happen. How can we help make it happen and it was a really powerful moment of there's something going on here that the way bigger than us longer about. You know, me and Kelly and I desire to go on tour for fun. This is about the world didn't need and we've been called to fill it to this need for Trans performance art + 4
04:58 Specifically for transfer form it's hard to get out of the big city is it wasn't just a New York or San Francisco, but I am going into the middle of America and reaching people where they are and building community and like okay up to the original Vision wasn't very different than what they show eventually became ended up with far more people involved in this Grandeur vision and that we were able to live up to and that was pretty amazing 2004 in the first tour in the spring of 2005. Okay, and that first tour was two months straight and this is part of the never having toured and ends being young and naive we had no idea that was crazy to perform every night for two months.
05:58 847 shows in 63 days and that included I forget 30-something States in a couple padian provinces and we just went everywhere we could go Non-Stop.
06:10 In the following order photo never quite that long again that first show
06:23 The very first show
06:36 Wheatley performed all over the place in terms of venue as we did colleges and bars and churches and community centers and coffee shops and occasionally festivals are conferences are other events. We were fit into warehouses would it be to all kinds of things the first you would have some House shows as wild Wii world those out after the first year, but in general pretended to have sort of medium sized audiences like, you know, 6200 people with might have been some average than the ones that were bigger because that was sort of a standard our first show ever was as part of a conference that we were booked a part of the entertainment for and there were like two thousand people there.
07:25 And it was fantastic, but it was a funny way to begin the store were either because you had 12 people, but our first show is 2000 and up for sale. For sure there were three of us. Okay. So the way the first year was structured Kelly and I did the entire tour beginning to end and other people came on and off for parts of it cuz looking for couldn't take off two months of their life. And we also hesitant to take people on for 2 months. So we had never met before and so the other people who did as much as a month each, but more often it would be a couple weeks early cuz her to join for a segment and then so they were shows it had lots of people until there's only a few people and it was buried
08:11 And that's another thing that we learned. What's it about building more consistency? And so that even if maybe I won't permit leave another one begin. The number stays about the same throughout it to her.
08:22 So what kind of performances should you have in that refers to her so mad?
08:31 And I'm part of our our vision really from the beginning was to have it be in a variety show format and we really wanted there to be variety to throw out but both the first tour and the years that followed every show included some kinds of spoken word performance every show included some kind of music and every show included something else and something else. I meant soon as we're many something else is but that there was people would do excerpts from plays we had dance we had a juggler one year. We had a puppeteer record of that several times. We had a magician
09:16 We had a professional opera singer wide range of What kinds of things to be in the music violin and Opera and it was just all over the spectrum of What kinds of performance there might be an every show a difference. We also we we screen short film sometimes to filmmakers get that work on tour with us. We also always brought physical arts and paintings or drawings or sculpture like that kind of thing photography. So we have artist to 10 work on tour. That's even if they weren't personally boring. So even when there were only a few of us are always more people represented than the people in the room,
10:04 So we toured from 2005 through 2012. Okay. I don't know how many separate tours there were in that the first couple years. We did it one big guitar like a two-month store 2005 and a one-month tour in 2006, but then starting in 2007 that the model shifted into where we did shorter ones but more often there might be a week here and a three-day weekend here and get her to go into a region and do three or four shows around and then go home a little differently than later in the year. So it was
10:40 They were more in number, but how they left shows give away in his later years.
10:45 I'm curious about both of their individual shows that stand out in your mind, and I'm also curious about some of the places that you went.
10:58 Patrol shows that stand out in my mind probably the ones that stand out are the ones where things went wrong. When one that comes immediately to mind. It was the first night of a 2006 tour. So this was young we had our first year with learned all kinds of lessons about how to do this more effectively and more professionally I guess and and we pulled together this amazing cast none of them until that day so you don't have to rehearse together. So everybody had up to 15 minutes we ask for 12 to 15 minutes for an act and we auditioned and all of that off and virtually buy a video or phone or something and then
11:49 The first time people actually side of their that's why I was on the first performance and do it and is always disliked going to work this time, but you never know because of the first night of that to where we're all basically strangers the rate of us and we were at a college somewhere in Upstate New York College. It was now
12:18 And at College show is typically or some student group that hosted a student who introduces that off and get that from you. Thanks for sponsoring that kind of thing standing together at the back and I'm getting ready to go as soon as I get introduced to show.
12:33 Maybe I wasn't I forgot to tell him I text her and see what happens and what goes up and she's so happy to have us and then she says I mean where else can you get like a transvestite in one place and all of us a thing of all these performers who don't really know us yet don't have a reason to trust us. He had to go before they get on stage.
13:11 Feels like it was my experience either way somehow.
13:18 So we went up and you know, thanks her graciously for the introduction and also took a moment to do some education about what words to use in a way that try to be really carefully like non shaming of her because she was trying to say the right thing and truly didn't know but also to be like here so we actually are and and it worked I became a running joke for the whole rest of the tour for that calf and probably moment that none of us will forget.
13:53 Get the difference between transvestite and transgender that you would hope that that would be true. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That was fun that that's stuck out.
14:10 Forget the other half of your question so places cuz I know you talked when we talked before about like going to places in the Silas and places where people traveled miles to see you. Yeah, so we did we were really intentional about forgetting beyond the big cities 20 people in rural, Ohio. You're not going to make money on that show the same. We're really talking about balancing those things that I think it was the first year.
14:49 We went to
14:52 What's happening, Alabama? I want to say Huntingdon but that could be wrong is a fairly small town in Alabama with my dog is going to rest of the day was significantly laughing. It is now safe now either.
15:10 And one of the performers had a friend who lives there who was able to get us a venue and They begged us to come in there and it was converted Warehouse sort of artists space and I think we had 20 people. I mean was it was a small show but everybody who is there needed it so desperately and everybody was so effusive in there. Thanks for coming and couldn't believe it. We have come there and they took such good care of us and it was just really really moving these people who have never seen a trans person on stage being through Atlantic and public and I am deeply closeted people who come to see somebody like them not being afraid to be like them and it was just a powerful. But yeah that people just did the stuff that they loved and broke it. I mean it wasn't
16:04 It's not like every performance was about being trans. It was just people yeah, I'm surprised I'm expecting something that was more like like education and the part of our founding philosophy was that are art is inseparable from her. We are that artist created out of ourselves. And so because we were trans people it was transart weather it mentioned anything about gender or not and inevitably in every show there were some pieces of focused explicitly on gender and others that didn't and we didn't dictate that it always happens. That way this time didn't send it and it really worked opera singer was doing her Opera. It was not about being trans what you was doing it as a trans woman and that in itself is Meaningful because she was as far as we knew the only like grand opera singers without their lease open late.
17:04 After having those things where part of it was.
17:08 We did have goals around education, but it was it wasn't like like Workshop style education was like we want to expand the vision of what it means to be trans. We want you to walk away realizing that trans people are multifaceted and that we can be all of these different things that we are not reducible to our gender and we were also really wanted people to see
17:31 The diversity of the chance community and then again, there wasn't as much trans visibility than even further Hannibal and there is often this or idea of what a trans person is or looks like I can be your can do until we want to make sure that we had people of different races and different gender identities and different ages. We had more more more from their teen for their 70s Show where parents and who are not and who are partnered and who are not and you have a different kind of careers and their non-performing lies and really show this a broad vision of what it means to be trans. You can't reduce have to any one thing because I'm look at how different we all are and that the diversity of the cast of the show was almost as important heading to get on stage of the fact that we showed up looking the way we did. So fantastic. I love that you took that
18:23 And that was a lesson learned from the first year would not all the shows were as diverse because of that model people hopping on and Poppin offer different parts of the total cast the entire first car for the First cast anyone show. That was something that that we didn't think through ahead of time well enough and we're really intentional about every time after that and it's hard. I mean it's because I think that we tend to know people that are like us and so that's fantastic but then it takes a lot of work to really bring in a diverse group of people. So yeah.
19:03 Other places that you went that stood out for you.
19:10 Going into Canada was always tricky because crossing the border with a bunch of trans people whose idea. Start early match. My presentation was always nerve-wracking and sometimes smooth sometimes not we were definitely got pulled over for questioning at the border multiple times. And once the Kelly and I were both given these documents and said that if we didn't leave the country within 48 hours were subject to arrest.
19:53 Did Montreal at his show that sticks out my memory and I don't know what's her that the cultural difference is that produces that's a fact but it was there a handful of us. It was at first year when the cast tended to be smaller. And as always less diverse in the show that that particular kind was very funny. I like almost every Act was humorous. I'm sorry and we were used to audiences laughing and some lines work with somebody other than others, but they were lines always work for everybody like their moments where you going to laugh and we got up in front of an audience Montreal and they were all completely dead pan and nobody had any effect of any kind that we could see they didn't laugh at anything in the First Act finished and we're like
20:39 What are we doing now?
20:50 This is the worst thing we've ever done and it ended.
20:55 And then I'll come up with some that was so great. We we loved it. Thanks for coming. They're buying our merchandise. They're like totally enthusiastic reception afterwards in Montreal the next year and
21:32 They had some but they said that they are rats but it died under the floorboards somewhere. Terrible. Terrible smell in the space that somehow and nobody seemed to mind. So weird like the audience after the whole show just fine, but all of us when we were updates when outside until the doctor in again between
21:52 So yeah, Montreal's not my favorite place.
22:00 It felt like your show is life saving for a lot of people have any talked about that a little bit. But can you say more about that or is there any particular story that comes to mind?
22:10 I think that was probably true from people in the audience at times and the people said things like that to us sometimes but where it feels most true and certain to me as many of the performers. So we had over the years more than a hundred performers involved in the shower now and some of them did it over and over a year after year and some of them to Montour and that was it the different levels of Engagement lots of people and it was truly life-changing and I'm pretty dramatic ways for a lot of people I think of one performer red dark and who was in the first tour for a month shoes are having a longest form of the first year and came back every year thereafter and is still one of my closest friends, and so she
22:58 I've never met another trans person before joining our cast. She was just beginning to come out in the South and it was her looking around on the internet such as it was in 2004 for other trans people and we don't have the time we learn later than she has her looked up and try to find anything about transgender people on the internet. She found two things. She found a support group in a city not too far from her that she read about inside. It was not for her at all based on who was meant for us. And so she sent off an email saying she wanted to be in the show. She had also never performed. She had no performance background whatsoever.
23:52 And I performance screening process was almost non-existent the first year that also changed it after that. So she didn't have to do a real Edition change to email. She seem like somebody that we could be around to seem smart and funny and we work they're what shows can be doing exactly. But we hope that she was clear that we took the chance and the only photographs you sent us with a super close-up that showed like one eye and her nose. You can really see what she looks like. Her name was read, which was totally androgenetic didn't know what gender she wasn't intentionally antibiotic with no dander and there's a website like she has no clue about who she was going to do.
24:39 It turned out to be absolutely brilliant and then watching her style come together for over the course of boring as he did with different things and ended up finding her a lot of things along the way and
24:57 And has become really one of the better-known fans performers Piccoli it like that YouTube World in more recent years.
25:06 But that's for her never met a person. She was desperately searching some reflection of herself in the world. We also learned later that she didn't even know that trans man existed until we showed up at her door, and she isn't coming until later.
25:35 And and she has said that she found her community. She found her her her calling her a place in the world machine used appropriately of scoping out the rest of the country and finding where she wanted to be the learning you who she was and where she wanted to be and what you wanted to do there and all of that through this process of touring with this group of people and she said many times that without the tranny retro should be dead, but she liked has no doubt that that is what kept her alive.
26:09 And I've heard similar stories from from other people who are in the show who however they first connected with. It came at the right time at the right moment and give them something they have found anywhere else.
26:20 I think a lot of ways that was true for me too that I didn't feel like I had a community until I built my own and that was how I did it.
26:33 Somewhat similar light to red. Even to living in DC when I came out I had more access but the people support group one. So these are not my people that worked out really badly and there's like I didn't have a community that felt my own.
27:03 Until about this job right and discovered in that at my community.
27:10 It can be a specific that's her broad as trans people cuz again, I can be all kinds of different people but that my community with trans artists and specifically traveling fans are dead and you can buy and all those things together. I loved every single person I ever toured with a lot of them were very different in lots of ways. We had at least those three things in common and that was enough. So, how are you different because your house it shipped to you?
27:37 In so many ways
27:42 I think one thing is.
27:45 Is the confidence you gave me and interpret making things possible in that way back to the beginning story where we had this Grand Vision, but no idea how we were going to do it and we just believe and I really think a part of that was Youth and ignorance cuz if we had known we would never have tried.
28:11 But having done that it done it successfully and done it repeatedly a more confident in general and sort of trying that the grand ideas and thinking like I can have an idea make it real done it before so that's one piece.
28:30 I feel much more connected.
28:35 Open specific and in Broadway's connected to the start of.
28:41 National network of people many of those nuts on top of the notice. They have names for audience members and venues and a host of that sort of thing where I have knowing that I have felt deeply connected the thousands of people all over the place and he's really intense moments.
29:00 Give me his continued sense of connection to the world any more specific way to the people that have toured with.
29:09 Most of my closest friends are people that I'm entering and they are the people who who I know will always be there at that. Like we have been through these experiences together that where are often beautiful and often really hard and we we've seen each other through all kinds of things and been incredibly vulnerable together and like those are my people that's never going to change. So it really did give me my community.
29:39 I think the other piece is that it also.
29:43 It's probably in some way is directly responsible for me being here as a Chaplain. Like I had sense of calling came out of that experience as I do say that because I was going to be friends and I love that you really heard that the call. I mean, you know, you had the idea and then discovered the need for it. So yeah, it was curious. How did you know you finish Children's Hospital chaplain now for year, and I'm so how has that got you here?
30:10 Probably less directly responsible for me being a chaplain and being in Ministry at all. But my sense of call to Ministry can really pretty directly from the show and tell what that looks like for me is I was raised in church religion was always a really important part of my life why I left home unlike a lot of my. I did not leave church and finding churches in the community that I went to as a young adult and was often the only young adult showing up from home.
30:41 The religion and Faith had always been important to me personally and
30:49 I'm part of what I found in building trans Community was how incredibly rare that was that not the people didn't have faith or have deep spirituality is our have yearnings, but they didn't have any connection or Community related to those of depart from people who have been rejected from their churches are really just communities or who expected rejection into left preemptively Orban to rejected by their families based on faith that they weren't willing to try again.
31:27 We had performers who identified as a Christian and Jewish and Buddhist and and all of these different related entity. That was her to come up no sense of who they were, but it weren't connected to practice or
31:42 And and more specifically than that through the show itself.
31:47 It took me several years to notice that when I started realizing was that almost every performance truly almost everyone involved religion in some way but it was never had on nobody to ask them. They were talking about religion, but it was in the stories from their past or it was in the metaphors and their music or was in the imagery in their heart rate was integer constant think of religion like lurking in the corners and in the background, but never being allowed to come into the floor and I just really struck me as like as shaped desk as trans people specifically
32:26 We aren't willing to talk about and I was consistently the only person to talked about religion in any direct way and I have to go out to the trails smoke and talk to me about that. A lot of record for audience members of answer their own relationships with the church or their family or religion in at large and I'm just really not having a language to talk about that or a space to talk about that. I think I've heard many people talk about how in through the gay community of the queer community that officer taboo about even mentioning religion.
33:03 Jean Robinson tells a story about a time when he was speaking at an event a cousin HRC event and he asked people in the room how many who go to church and half of them raise their hands then he asked how many never talked about it here in the space and every single and went out and does that idea that like this is something that's important to us, but were afraid to talk about it and its other part of a community is also important to us and and I just talked to that of the silence in in churches about trans community and silence and trans Community about religion and that all of those wounds that I was seeing and hearing or never going to be healed but I felt so broken and it's still super hard. I mean there are very few spaces for I feel like I can be a Santa Clara all the pieces of who I am and so
33:52 So yeah, so it became clear to me that I didn't know what that meant or what it was I needed to do but I needed to do something if there was a gap between the church and the trans community and that my call was to be in that Gap and to try to be a bridge-builder beginning at both ends as somebody who had a foot in each world to try to make space for the rest of us.
34:18 So that sense of of need and calling him out of my experience in the Roadshow and led me into Seminary to try to figure out you know, I don't know how to do this tonight to do this and drive again and through that process. I ended up here eventually, but then I don't I don't think I would have ended up in Minister. Hey if I hadn't been to the rush hour, so can you say more about what it means for you to stand in that Gap? Like how do you see your stuff in that place with feet in Two Worlds?
34:49 Hard question to answer and the answer has probably changed lots of time.
34:58 Sometimes the work is really should have explicit and obvious and I've gone into churches and Dunn sermons about welcoming trans people into community and I've done workshops and teaching for churches and for Village of professionals and done some sort of didactic work in that way.
35:20 But I've also done a lot of assertive showing up and holding space and sort of like in the Roadshow are part of the point was to let people see us as multifaceted people and as a diverse community and as who we are and I still feel like part of the work on both sides to be a witness in trans community that religion isn't only this oppressive harmful hurtful thing. That is absolutely real that I can also be something else and that I know because I've seen that to share my positive experiences as possible that if they want a way back to the church that they left the way is there we don't have to take it. I'm I'm not an evangelist there for people who want to take it.
36:10 Yeah, I think for me.
36:14 Standing in that cat piss let him he's getting in a lot of other gaps. I think of the chaplains week just keep finding the gaps and we hold the space for people to be whoever they are and feel loved and God's presence.
36:31 I think and I'm just thinking about this now. I think it's probably is one of the gifts that I bring the chaplaincy is done sense that that not only my own faith but my sense of ministry and calling all comes out of people who are disenfranchised from religion, which is a lot of what we see in the hospital in Alaska in particular and a lot of people who need a chaplain most that people who are well-connected have a good support already exam people who are disconnected and disenfranchised and don't know where to turn but know that turning somewhere is important are the ones who need us most and that is people that I'm also supposed to care for I'm so very glad to get to do this work with you. James went to share this with you after I had to boil down what I learned from the Roadshow when I hope everyone learned from his that we are not alone.
37:26 Thank you so much for taking the time today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
37:35 So I realized I had one more question. So I did actually ask you what you did like what your performance art was in the tranny Roadshow storytelling and I did poetry United music and I did sort of more abstract performance Rd things, but what eventually realize that all of it always was about narrative storytelling and everything else I did was in service to that. I've always trying to tell a story and always a true story is it was about reflecting pieces of my life and trying to put out positive queer and trans stories. I wasn't hearing anywhere else and to do it in a way that was really specific to me but also reflected things that felt bigger than me and Universal on the people concern.
38:26 I love that cuz they know everything for me for my own call to Ministry telling stories and hearing stories has always been really at the heart. I think of what I'm called to and it sounds like that's kind of true for you as well. Thank you for letting me ask you a question.