Trans-Scripts: CRASE-Sponsored Dramatic Reading and Photography

Event Organized by:
Jane Bleasdale, Ph.D.,, Assistant Professor, Department of Leadership Studies
Amie Dowling, MFA,, Associate Professor, Performing Arts Department
Daniela Domínguez, Psy.D.,, Assistant Professor, Counseling Psychology Department

With Donald Trump in office, 2017 was a challenging year for the transgender community in the United States. President Trump’s inaccurate understanding of sexuality and gender has led to the reversal of Obama-era positions on transgender rights and the creation of policies that attempt to harm transgender students, troops, and workers. Disheartened by these discriminatory attacks, professors Jane Bleasdale, Amie Dowling, and Daniela Dominguez felt the need to take action against President Trump’s attempts to silence and oppress the transgender community.

Sponsored by the Center for Research, Artistic, and Scholarly Excellence (CRASE) and the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education, we produced “Trans-Scripts,” an artistic celebration based on the words and lived experiences of people from the transgender community. Trans-Scripts is a dramatic reading that is grounded in intersectional practice, an appreciation for the preservation of transgender rights, and a spirit of resistance to the reversal of progress. This performance featured transgender students and alum, women from El/La Para Trans Latinas, and photographs of transgender women by Kique Bazan of El/La Para Trans Latinas.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan

The process of creating “Trans-Scripts” started with 58 pages of interviews conducted by Professor Bleasdale with transgender individuals who attended K-12 Catholic and Public Schools. The interviews were edited to a 14-page script, and a backdrop of layered text from the Trump administration was added. Six rehearsals were held, and throughout the creative process, the producers provided mentorship, training, and encouragement to performers, which created avenues for them to feel empowered to use their voice and assert the value of their performance.

The final performance took place during the week of Transgender Awareness on November 14, 2017, at the University of San Francisco’s Intercultural Center and included a 30-minute dramatic reading and a 30-minute panel discussion led by the performers. The artists delivered an intimate performance that reflected the sociocultural challenges that Dr. Bleasdale’s participants have experienced throughout their journeys. The performance was infused with music selected by the research participants to help audience members better understand the affective dimensions of their lives. “Trans-scripts” was a performance that was as strong and powerful as the transgender communities it represented.

During the panel discussion, faculty, students, community members, producers, and performers, discussed strategies to dismantle cisgender privilege and other forms of oppression. Performers encouraged professors at the University of San Francisco to deepen their relationships with transgender students in order to build safer, more inclusive, and thriving classrooms where their identities are honored. They also drew attention to the importance of using correct pronouns as a demonstration of respect, awareness, and solidarity with the trans community.

Surrounding the stage were 26 photographs captured by Kique Bazan, a longtime activist for justice with years of experience working with advocacy organizations and an adjunct lecturer at the University of San Francisco (USF). His photography contested conventional social constructions of transgender individuals and encouraged cross-cultural dialogue on the importance of moving beyond the male-female dichotomy to increase understanding of the complex multicultural and intersectional identities of the transgender individuals that emerge and develop within them.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan

“Trans-scripts” was well attended with over 70 guests which included women from El/La Para Trans Latinas, outreach educators from the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, the Director of USF’s Counseling and Psychological Services, the Director of the Lane Center, the Director of the Intercultural Center, staff and faculty across USF, and many others. Given the presence of monolingual Spanish-speaking guests from El/La, event programs were offered in English and Spanish. During the panel discussion, I provided translations throughout the dialogue to ensure the participation of our Spanish-speaking guests. During the discussion, audience members expressed powerful emotional responses to the performance.

We believe that our event sent a message to the Bay Area community that the University of San Francisco is interested in creating inclusive and affirming environments where transgender students, staff, and faculty can feel safe, protected, and celebrated.

Photo credit: Kique Bazan