Trans woman pickets new play in Lisbon

“Where are my rights as a Portuguese citizen?”

A trans woman by the name of Dusty Whistles has taken great exception to the new play by the Lisbon Players – Things I Know to be True” by Andrew Bovell – which opened to ‘rave reviews’ at Teatro do Bairro last Tuesday.

The problem, for Dusty Whistles, is that a role in the play – a young man who has decided to transition to a woman – is not being played by a trans woman, or indeed a trans man. It is being played by an actor who speaks fluent English (the Lisbon Players perform in English) – and this, for Dusty Whistles, is “transfake” and therefore “transphobia”.

Ms Whistles has been out with a cardboard placard, proclaiming this perceived injustice since last Tuesday. She reportedly means to stay the course until the final curtain.

Dusty Whistles claims: “Teatro do Bairro does not want to support the trans community. The Lisbon Players do not want to listen to the trans community. I am here, a woman alone, against 8 male police officers. Every night I’m here alone and every night Teatro do Bairro calls the police to silence my democratic right to protest.

“This is the third night”, Ms Whistles wrote on the third night.”The first night it was 9 police, the second night it was 7 police, and now it’s 8, and only men, against one woman, with the right to manifest with a registered demonstration. Where are my rights, as a Portuguese citizen? Where are my rights as a trans person, to tell my stories, about my life? This theater only has cis people* inside, watching a story about my experience, without one trans person inside”.

The Lisbon Players have already explained, in a statement on their Facebook page, that every attempt was made during casting to find a trans actor to play the part of Mark/ Mia.

“Having received many actors, none of whom were trans, a second audition was held on the 8th of December. In total, we had three non-binary performers come to the audition, but no performer that identified as trans; the character is male-presenting for most of the play and female-presenting at the end. Some of the performers were not aware of this and chose not to pursue playing the role. For purposes regarding age, gender expression, gender elasticity, and English fluency, the other actors were ruled out and another performer was chosen for the role. Casting is a complex process and it cannot be reduced to just one aspect of a given performer.

“This team has been in constant dialogue with many trans individuals and LGBT organisations that have advised us and helped shape the production to be true to Mark/ Mia’s experience and those of trans people in general. Following recent events in Lisbon’s theatre scene, more conversations were had about whether this decision was the correct one and, after much thought, on March 30th, the Lisbon Players decided to open a third call out – this time reaching out to trans performers directly. The company stands by its belief that it has done all it can to reach trans performers and include them in this production”.

The statement can be read in full on the players’ facebook page. 

The group adds that “it is important to state that theatre is an illusion and actors portray people they are not and go through journeys that are not their own personal journeys in prol of social change and evolution”.

Actors act, in other words. That is the magic of theatre – but it is a magic that clearly hasn’t rubbed off on Dusty Whistles.

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*Cis people are those whose gender identity “matches their sex assigned at birth”, according to Wikipedia

Portugal Resident