At a time when transgender people are getting more attention in the pop culture spotlight, from Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" to Amazon's "Transparent" to the omnipresent Caitlyn Jenner, it's worth remembering that real life for many trans women and men is fraught with mortal danger.
Kandis Capri, who in August was shot multiple times in a Phoenix parking lot, was one of the 22 transgender Americans murdered so far this year, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. She was 35 years old.
Perhaps one day we won't need a Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed annually on Nov. 20, to mourn gender non-conforming murder victims like Capri.
In Tucson, the 16th annual day of remembrance will be marked with a reading of Trans Scripts at Invisible Theatre. The award-winning play by Paul Lucas, which premiered over the summer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will be presented Nov. 19-21 as part of IT's 45th season.
Trans Scripts is based on interviews with trans people from around the world. After the piece was fully staged in Edinburgh—sets, costumes and accents—Lucas decided that it worked better as a reading. He'll be in Tucson for the first two performances and will participate both nights in a post-show discussion with the audience.
"The piece tells the story of six trans women," says director James Blair. "It's about their journeys, and, in the larger sense, it's about everybody's journeys growing up and finding acceptance.
"One woman just wants to make the transition and disappear and live an ordinary life as a woman. The youngest one is an activist," he says.
Blair said the women have one trait very much in common.
"Each demonstrates incredible bravery in their journey. It's the same bravery that every trans person must have in order to be themselves in this world," he says. "We don't make it easy for them."
Although the playwright wants the play to be performed by trans women, that's easier said than done. In the end, Blair assembled a cast of Tucsonans that includes one man (Jeffrey Baden), three women (Halsy-Taylor, Lanay Lindsey, Dea Young-Smith) and two trans women (Charli Swinford and Anna Walker).
"I play Josephine, a trans female from Australia in her 50s," said Walker, a 16-year-old junior at Tanque Verde High School. "She is emotionally fragile and doesn't want to stick out. She just wants to be accepted in society and lay low."
Walker, who was born Christopher and began identifying as Anna at school more than a year ago, is closer to the activist type, she says.
"The school has backed me and helped me through my transition," she said. "I love that I feel safe there. It's a very progressive school."