Oceana Maund is a non-binary trans activist and campaigner and currently trans blogger in residence with the National Theatre of Scotland. Here are their reflections on the production of Eve.
When the lights went down and the applause stopped, I turned to my friend and, when I could speak (which took a few moments), I managed to blurt out something along the lines of “how on earth am I going to write about this?”
Co-written and performed by Jo Clifford, and based on her own experiences, Eve is a thoughtful and thought-provoking monologue that describes in sometimes shockingly intimate detail the twists and turns of her life to date.
Parts of this story could come from just about every trans person I have ever known or read about, including myself. Childhood memories of being different somehow and not being able to confide in anyone followed by years of isolation and introspection spent trying to understand or come to terms with yourself. The icing on the cake is of course when you finally do, and have come to a decision about what to do with this knowledge; those responsible for helping you seem to employ draconian gatekeeping strategies before any help is offered.
But these are not the things that have been keeping me awake at night.
I, like many other trans people, find the mere possibility that someone would use my old name very unsettling. It is a tactic that has often been used in populist media to somehow demean or diminish trans identity and for me it is an absolute no go. Transition is not a line in the sand and it’s certainly not as simple as before and after, it’s a series of small steps building towards a coherent whole. I am the same person I have always been but it is true that there was a point in my life when I began to publicly express myself differently and changed my name. I am often asked what my “real name” is and go to great lengths to explain why it is both irrelevant and upsetting for me to do so. That name was never me; it refers to a time and a place that I struggled to escape and represents a connection to a life that to all intents and purposes I have consigned to history. Reflecting on Eve has made me challenge myself on this and I am gradually coming to the conclusion that I may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
With Eve, Jo does something I have until now been too afraid, or perhaps more accurately, unwilling to do. It explores in depth what went before. Using a series of old photographs as a backdrop, we are introduced to John, who of course is and always has been Jo. What follows is an intimate and revealing interaction, at times a message of reassurance sent across the decades to a frightened child and at others almost like a love letter or a lament to a beloved and sadly departed wife. Jo celebrates being John, there is no trace of shame or remorse in the telling of his story as this is her story too. Eve powerfully demonstrates the symbiosis of Jo and John, it shows us that these are not different people with different lives, merely parts of a whole, and most importantly it celebrates the fact that one does not have to detract from the other.
About the author
Oceana Maund is a non-binary trans activist and campaigner. Co-convenor of TransPrideScotland and a sessional worker for the Scottish Transgender Alliance, Oceana was resident trans blogger for the National Theatre of Scotland, in support of our productions of Adam and Eve.