An upcoming Sydney Opera House show will be subject to a petition, boycotts, sit-ins and a NSW Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB) complaint if it goes ahead, say trans activists.
TrAnnie, which tells the story of a convicted trans paedophile, is scheduled to open in the Opera House Studio on December 6. The comedy/musical – a spoof of recent hit production, Annie – is written by Sydney gay man Phil Scott and stars gay cabaret performer Trevor Ashley.
While the show is yet to start, trans activists say its name and synopsis alone are enough to warrant major revisions, if not complete cancellation.
“For the trans community, the word ‘trannie’ is loaded with violence and vilification,” said Indi Kelly Edwards, spokesperson for activist group Trans Menace Australia. “A quick read of the synopsis takes us further down the rabbit hole of negative stereotypes – for instance, the character of ‘Miss Trannigan’ being a convicted paedophile.
“The Sydney Opera House is making a huge mistake, and as we lodge a complaint to the [ADB] and launch a public petition, we hope they are smart enough to reconsider their error in letting this continue.”
Controversy about the production has spread interstate, with Transgender Victoria spokesperson Sally Goldner also taking umbrage.
“Our objection is twofold: the use of the word ‘trannie’, which many people find highly offensive – and the fact that the trans character is a sex offender,” she said. “Trans people have long had to battle offensive stereotypes linking us to sex offences. There is a false belief that sexual abuse is what’s caused many people to be trans, and also some who believe trans people themselves are sex offenders.”
Ms Goldner called for “appropriate revisions” to the show, and urged producers to work with the trans community to achieve them. The Sydney Opera House and Mr Ashley released a joint statement addressing the controversy.
“Sydney Opera House and Trevor Ashley wish to apologise to those offended by the title,” said the statement.
“TrAnnie is a play on words,” it continued, noting the title is a portmanteau of Ashley’s first name and Annie, and a reference to trans people.
Mr Ashley added: “Although I appreciate that the word may brush some transgendered people up the wrong way, the intent is not to harm … Being part of the GLBTQI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex) community, [we] can reclaim words that have been used in harmful ways towards us in the past.”
But Ms Edwards said gay men should not speak for trans people.
“It’s not up to the gay community to reclaim negative pronouns for us. We don’t go around reclaiming ‘faggot’ and ‘poofter’ for the gay community … These decisions should be left to us.”