BY KATHRYN PIERCE
In collaboration with @SomewhereEDI
[star rating = 4/5]
Named after the gender-neutral frequency for speaking and the ability for a trans person to “pass” as a defined binary gender, Activising for Change’s 147Hz Can’t Pass, is an excellently-crafted hour of spoken word, movement, and poetry combining into a strident, open-hearted and public statement of a young person’s dignity and independence. “I am normal”, states eighteen-year-old transgender non-binary character Ash (performed by INK ASHER HEMP) at the start, declaring clearly that the piece is “not a confession, nor an apology” and certainly “not a plea for acceptance”.
In the time that follows, we are invited to hear about episodes in Ash’s life – their battle with themselves and with the many challenges of a straight, binary society; the pressure of constructing a façade that’s acceptable to everyone else, and what it actually feels like coming out every day. Also made real is the relief and belonging which comes from finding your own community and feeling less alone, less different, less interesting.
With interlaced recorded audio and simple AV, music and lighting changes, we get glimpses into instances in Ash’s childhood and the dysphoria and dissonance with their birth gender, the search for reconciliation with a body that doesn’t express them but also doesn’t reject them (“I trust you/I’m disgusted by you”), alongside lived experiences of the risks of chest binding and never-ending reminders that their biological body still wants to do female things.
The style of performance is straightforward, accessible and honest, and while it feels exposed, there is no vulnerability present. INK ASHER HEMP addresses the audience directly, stands on a box, owns the space and holds a steady gaze, connecting with you and ensuring you hear them.
Though I am a member of the LGBT+ community, I am a cisgendered (my birth gender matches my gender expression) lesbian female and though I have dear friends in the trans community, I don’t expect to speak for them or have any real idea of their lived experience. This is why work such as 147Hz is so important for everyone to see, and especially members of the LGBT+ community which can be fragmented and divided.
Developed as part of Scottish Youth Theatre’s residency program, 147Hz Can’t Pass is an hour of reclaimed time where a person from the trans community chooses and owns their right to speak, and they do so with beauty, clarity, impact and with compassion for themselves and for us.