Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps includes comedy, tackles heartache

Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps includes comedy, tackles heartache

A little sleepy on a Friday morning in Brooklyn, N.Y., Scott Turner Schofield is tired from an “argument” against censorship that lasted until 2 a.m. This time, however, Schofield is not defending his own work, but someone else’s, having been to a screening of Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives at the Tribeca Film Festival the night before. The movie, a self-described “homage to the exploitation films of the ‘70s and ‘80s” is a “revenge fantasy that brews up a concoction of camp, slasher horror and power-chick flick to create a radical new genre: Transplotation.” 

Man127Steps_540156339.gifAnd it’s pissing off a lot of the LGBT community. Many of its members are calling for the movie’s ban from theaters.

And as a writer/performer himself, that bothers Schofield.

“It was a good, productive talk,” Schofield says of the discussion. “But it really scares me whenever people call for censorship. We (the LGBT community) have been the subject of so much censorship and fighting for representation, and now we’re calling for it.”

Schofield knows what it’s like to be in the crosshairs of silence. In 2006, conservative groups protested the performance of his first work, Underground Transit.

“It’s a battle to get venues to do my shows, honestly,” says Schofield, who will perform at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa April 22-25. “Because it’s a risk for them. Every time I do a show, it’s almost like I’m auditioning for another. Being labeled as transgender usually puts a serious block in people’s mind that the quality is going to be any good. There’s usually an immediate ‘ick’ factor or people will say ‘What?’ question mark, question mark, question mark. Is it a murder? Is it all just illicit sex? Because that’s all the mainstream media has shown of the transgender community. And once people see my show, they realize it’s really good.”

Schofield’s Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps in the TECO Theater housed within the Straz Center uses multimedia, and stunning silk scarf acrobatics that allow him to hover high above the stage and audience participation to tell and live the story of a man born as a female.

“The audience gets to pick about eight stories a night, not all 127,” Schofield says. “And they pick them by just randomly choosing numbers. Each number has a story.”

The stories range from heartbreaking to hilarity; from something as mundane as Schofield answering an e-mail to something as monumental as going to his sister’s wedding.

“I’m this goofy person walking through the world,” Schofield says. “And these things happen. There’s a lot of grace in the stories. There’s one story where I draw on my body with lipstick all the possible surgeries I could have.”

Though Schofield isn’t happy with the way the transgender community is portrayed in mainstream media, he said it is a very secretive, stigmatized world, even in the LGBT community.

“Sometimes the LGBT community is the worst,” Schofield says. “Transgender is not well understood and to a lot of people, it’s freaky. And the gay and lesbian community has fought so hard to say, ‘I’m normal. I’m just like everyone else.’ I was part of the lesbian community for a long time. Now when people see me on the streets, they think I’m a gay guy.”

Touring all over the country since 2001 with Underground Transit, Debutante Balls and now Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps, Schofield has learned something new about transgender communities everywhere he has gone.

“There’s a large community in Houston,” Schofield says, “And I was speaking at a conference, and this woman approached me afterward and said she was sorry she had missed my performance the night before. And I said, ‘That’s alright.’ And she said, ‘Well, I just don’t go out after dark.’”

Last October, Schofield took his act to Europe Ireland and France—for the first time, where he received very different, but positive, reactions.

“In France, I was completely nude on national TV on the 11 p.m. news when they did their art segment,” Schofield says with a laugh. “It wasn’t for the shock value. They used it for the intent in which I use it in the play and they were explaining its purpose. The show sold out.

“In Ireland, all the transgender people in the community came out, which never happens in the U.S.—usually it’s straight people who are supportive of the transgender community or queers who get it. So after the show, we had a long talk and I learned what it was like to be transgender in a culture that is very different.”
If there is one thing Schofield loves to do, it’s to communicate and break down stereotypes—and he wants to do both with his show.

“Up until now, the transgender narrative has been, ‘I was born different, I changed, now I’m better,’” he says. “With me, I’m still the same person. The play is what it’s like to have a human life in a culture that doesn’t support you, but then it does. Stories can turn on a dime. We need more people out there saying, ‘This is what transgender looks like.’ ‘No, this does.’ ‘No, this does.’ I promise people won’t go away feeling bad about themselves after the show. Hopefully, we’ll make some friends.”

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