Multimedia stage show explores stories of trans women in Pittsburgh
B Kleymeyer is a trans woman who began taking estrogen three years ago. She said it altered more than her body. Gradually, she said, her whole experience of the world shifted, down to “the way things feel, the way things taste.”
Such incremental changes are a big part of the transition process for people receiving gender-affirming care. Because the process takes time — and never, in some ways, really ends — it can be difficult to celebrate in the same way as one might for other kinds of life events, like births and marriages, Kleymeyer said.
Finding a way to honor transitions as a community is one goal of Kleymeyer’s new stage show, “i am not done with this body (and I never will be).” The multimedia production receives two performances, on Fri., May 5, and Sat., May 6, at the Kelly Strayhorn Theatre’s Alloy Studios, in Friendship.
The show, a product of a Kelly Strayhorn Freshworks residency, features actors Natalya Chorba and Moire Diaz and drag performer Jazmine Butterfly using storytelling, dance and video, with original music by composer Ari Artumus. It grew out of not only Kleymeyer’s experiences, but those of several Pittsburgh trans women she interviewed.
“It’s impossible to tell a universal story about transition, but we’re hoping the specifics of all these stories can help give a broader and more real picture of what it’s like to be trans in Pittsburgh,” said Kleymeyer, who is studying theater at Carnegie Mellon University in pursuit of master’s degree in fine arts.
The topic feels especially urgent at a time when more than a dozen states have passed laws limiting or banning outright gender-affirming care for minors. Kleymeyer said such care can be “life-saving” for people whose gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth.
“It’s a really beautiful thing to be able to look at yourself and know that you are in control of your body and that you are in control of how it is perceived,” she said.
Kleymeyer said it’s troubling to hear people who seem to have no knowledge of the issue — politicians or otherwise — discussing gender-affirming care.
“I hope that with this work we can start to unravel some of what we are taught about gender-affirming care, or what we hear on the news about gender-affirming care, and start to open up dialogues about the ways gender-affirming care actually, in reality, affects people's lives in such beautiful and positive ways,” she said.
Like transitioning itself, Kleymeyer considers “i am not done with this body” to be an ongoing process. She plans to continue developing the work as she gathers more stories from trans women.
“In hearing stories we are always learning, always educating,” she said. “I don’t think it’s possible to hear the stories of these women and not learn something new.”