Fluttering Eyelids: A discussion with Tim West

By Eric George Tauber

Eric George Tauber

Tim West

SAN DIEGO — “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (Gen 1:27 JPS Tanakh)

And then there are those who don’t quite fit the mold….

I recently sat down with Tim West, the Cygnet Theatre’s Director of Community Engagement. Tim and I have been friends for years through the theatre community. He spoke very excitedly about a student matinée that the Cygnet recently hosted for kids in high school drama. These kids came from Canyon Crest to San Ysidro to attend The Legend of Georgia McBride, which is about an Elvis impersonator who turns to drag because he needs the money.

(To read my full review, follow this link. http://www.sdjewishworld.com/2017/10/22/georgia-mcbride-brings-it-

TW:   It’s all based on conversation. The conversations that we had the first week of rehearsal, let’s have that conversation now. …

So we sit in a circle and we start with definitions. How is drag different from cross-dressing? How is that different from trans-gender? It’s a conversation that they’re already having in the schools. At [one school] I said, “If I may ask, how many identify as trans-gender or gender fluid?” and five hands went up out of about forty kids. And they instantly delved into a discussion of it. One hand went up, down, up, down from a person who said, “You guys identify as gender-fluid, but I’m third-gender.”

[“Third Gender” refers to someone with the primary sexual characteristics of one gender but the chromosomes of the other.]

EGT: After I saw Georgia McBride, I thought the 21st century was a very confusing place. As a cis-gendered male, I’m just male. That’s all I’ve ever been. There was no prefix to that when we were growing up.

TW:   I was fascinated that kids today are much more down with that. They’re much more open to that. And to those that weren’t, I was joking with them saying, “Wow, I’m a fifty-six year old cis-male who’s more woke than you are. Actually, I’m not woke. My eyelids are fluttering.”

These are the conversations that we need to have. That’s why we’re doing the art. It’s point three of our mission statement: We start conversations. And one of the kids raised the point that there are people who are not completely gendered one way or the other.

EGT: When I read your Facebook post, it was the Q&A after the show that you got really excited about. So what was some of that feedback?

TW:   A boy came up to me after the show. At thirteen he had done “drag camp.” He showed me a picture of himself as “Stacey” with his friend “Cinnamon” in their makeup. He’s fifteen now, playing football and doing wrestling. And his teammates –almost perforce- have to accept him because he’s part of a team. He told me that he was nervous the first time he did drag because he didn’t know what his girlfriend would think of it. And he took the hand of his current girlfriend, a beautiful girl, who said, “I like it.” Of course she does, because she’s not putting up with a bunch of macho BS.

The third gendered person reported having rocks thrown at her. Tim was touched to feel the audience of 120 react with quiet compassion rather than mockery. The bullying of LGBTQ kids has always been a problem, but Tim’s sources have told him that things have gotten “way better.” One big reason is that more straight boys –who might have participated in the bullying a few years before- are now taking a stand against it.

There’s a great deal of controversy surrounding LGBT issues, particularly regarding adolescents. People at the far ends of the spectrum take unyielding positions and those in between feel conflicted. But if, by having the conversations, young people feel safer expressing themselves, feeling accepted and supported instead of bullied, then in my book, the Cygnet is doing a real mitzvah.

Tauber is a freelance writer who specializes in coverage of the arts.  He may be contacted via [email protected]


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