On Friday and Saturday night, I was alive, on fire, bawdy, emotional, and pulsing. I was onstage, performing in The Vagina Monologues for the first time in years. And let me tell you, it felt good. Nothing is more gratifying than those bright lights and the affirmation of a crowd, proof that you’re creating great art.
But Sunday morning, as I was scrolling through Facebook, a post from a fellow cast mate ripped through me like fire hot shrapnel. “Drag performer gunned down in New Orleans East.” That’s what the headline read. When I clicked on the article and read further, I learned that Chyna Doll Dupree, the woman who’d been murdered, was a member of the transgender community. She was shot at about 8:30 pm in front of a strip mall. “Neighbors said they heard eight to 10 gunshots.”
Eight to ten gunshots.
The tears came fast and ready, and I was unprepared. I fought to keep them at bay. They dripped down the back of my throat and tightened my vocal chords.
I wanted to scream.
Less than 12 hours earlier, I had performed “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy…or So They Tried,” Eve Ensler’s incredible monologue about the transgender experience. This piece documents one woman’s journey from her early childhood recognition of her true gender identity to trying to mask her gender identity to fit it, through a full transition and her joy of finally feeling complete…only to have her boyfriend killed in his sleep. His fatal crime? Loving someone who was “different.”
It’s a powerful monologue, and during each performance, it was hard for me to get through it. But I pushed and struggled through the difficult content, knowing that the piece is important and real and raw. I felt it was a step in the right direction, sharing this woman’s story.
Sunday morning, my feelings of celebration and advocacy dropped to the pavement, just as Chyna’s body had. We’d lost another of our own to senseless, stupid violence. Because of misplaced fear and intolerance. Because Chyna wanted to live her true life.
Chyna is the fifth transgender woman to be killed in 2017. It isn’t even March.
Chyna’s death was a sobering reminder of why The Vagina Monologues are performed every year. Survivors (and those who love them), advocates, activists, actors, mothers, daughters, sisters, and more will annually take to the stage in an effort to end the cycle of emotional, sexual, and physical violence that so many women endure in the course of their lifetimes.
We’ll recite the monologues for your sister, who had a little too much to drink at a college party and woke up with a stranger on top of her.
We’ll recite the monologues for your mother, who has endured years and years of emotional abuse at the hands of the men in her family, her community, her life.
We’ll recite the monologues for your coworker who is considered dumb or promiscuous or “asking for it” because of what she wears.
We’ll recite the monologues for women who endure rape and violence as a systematic tactic of war.
We’ll recite the monologues for the scores of girls who are taught to be ashamed of their bodies and their sexuality.
We’ll recite the monologues for the amazing, strong women who birth new life into this crazy, wonderful world.
We’ll recite the monologues for Chyna Doll Dupree.
As for me, I will recite the monologues for every woman I know who has encountered abuse. Sadly, it’s not a short list.
Participating in The Vagina Monologues this year was an incredible experience. I made new friends, forged relationships with new Vagina Warriors (both male and female), had a brilliant time onstage, and helped InnerMission Productions raise more than $3,000 to benefit Think Dignity and Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence.
And I’ll do it again next year…and the year after that…and the year after that.
I’ll do it for Chyna.
I’ll do it for you and the people you love.
I’ll do it prove I’m more than a statistic.
I’ll do it until the violence stops.