Blog: Kate O'Donnell

The trans performer knows she has changed, but asks have you?

Hero image

It’s time to face the music and dance.

I transitioned in Manchester 14 years ago and although that may seem quite recent, in trans terms it was like being in the dark ages. Back then you were either a man or a woman and, trust me, you didn’t want to be transgender. Transitioning back then felt more like transitioning in the 1930s, as basically no one had a clue.

And that’s why I set my new show You’ve Changed in the 1930s, using music and Fred and Ginger routines from that era to highlight how far we have come but also to show how far we still need to go.

Back then it was all about living in stealth and “passing” – meaning to not look trans, because god forbid you should be trans and look trans! 2017 feels so much more positive. Trans people are finding their voices and just generally getting on with their lives. The number of people transitioning, both young and old, is increasing. There is a feeling of hope and rather than hide away and apologise for who we are, in this show I encourage trans people to “face the music and dance”.

When you transition you spend a lot of time worrying about how everyone will react when really you need them to be worrying about you. I don’t know how we get through those early years – some sadly don’t. With more trans visibility comes a level of vulnerability and I think we can all imagine how scary it is to transition. Some people are waiting for their parents to die before they start; others kill themselves, too scared to transition.

Although being trans is not always easy, there are other sides to our story which are not often told. The aim of my theatre company – Trans Creative – is to be trans positive, trans led and trans creative. We are hoping for a bit of social change (or to rebrand trans negativity) by celebrating our strength and our courage by telling our stories. We want trans people to feel positive about themselves and to also bring and welcome new non-trans people into this conversation, because we need to keep talking and we need allies.

 We are not hiding anymore and we can always find somewhere to go for a pee, thanks

Hearing trans stories told by trans people is still relatively new. Hearing positive, humorous celebratory trans stories is almost unheard of, and that’s what trans creative is all about . The idea of being positive is challenging for some people who want to tell us which toilet we should use, or trans exclusive radical feminists who say we are making all this up and call us sexual predators. What they have to remember is, for us, the worst is over. We have pushed though a huge barrier to be ourselves, we are not hiding anymore and we can always find somewhere to go for a pee, thanks.

Having already lived as a gay man in the 1980s I know this is all quite normal for a minority group. Here’s hoping with some positive trans visibility people will catch up and catch on because I would like to get on with my busy fabulous trans life, thanks!

I have created shows, been on panels, radio debates, met politicians and marched the streets but am starting to think it’s not my job to get people up to speed on all things transgender, in the same way it’s not black people’s job to teach us about racism. In the show I encourage people to read a book, look it up, get on the net and open up their minds and see what they find. I have changed, that’s clear, but what I really want to know is how much you’ve changed?

Trans people have to change their whole lives – the list of things we have to do is long and quite daunting. The level of admin is huge (imagine changing all your documents) the amount of time waiting for medical professionals to approve your gender is insane, we are expected to buy gender recognition certificates, live with gender dysphoria and deal with trans-exclusive radical feminists. All we are asking you to do is try and get our name and pronoun right, don’t ask questions about our genitals within five minutes of meeting us and just be nice.

I am very excited about how trans people are helping to break down the gender binaries and to challenge what a man and woman are – and free ourselves from that binary. I know we are not out of the woods yet but I see more trans people standing and letting themselves “face the music and dance”.

You’ve Changed – part of Flying Solo Festival and a Trans Creative and Contact co-production, comes to The Lowry on 10 and 11 November, with a post-show discussion on 10 Nov. Tickets via or

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Blog: Kate O’Donnell

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.