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Saturday 08 April 2017

Owning the narrative

Posted in: True Stories
By - 15th March 2016

Shortland Street have cast a young trans guy to play a trans character in the series and have brought in a consultant from the trans community to assist with the storyline.

Film still of Cole Meyers from the film Actually Alex
The incredibly talented Auckland writer, actor, director, artist and activist Cole Meyers was the right person for the job and will also be appearing on the drama series later in the year, playing a trans character.

With his help, Shortland Street successfully cast Wellington-born Elam School of Fine Arts student, Tash Keddy to play a newly developed character for the show, Blue. This is the first time a trans person has been cast to play a trans character in a long-running storyline.

“Shortland Street approached me to consult in relation to this storyline, which I was very excited to accept,” says Cole. “I was impressed at how much effort and consideration was being put into this character, his portrayal, and how Blue would be received by both trans and non-trans viewers.

“I was then offered a small role playing another trans character (who will appear later this year), which allowed a different exploration of Blue's journey, and will provide ongoing support and consultation for further scripts and storylines.”

A man of many talents, Cole was recently one of this year’s Legacy Project directors, following on from his work as a writer on the project last year. He also starred in the feature film Actually Alex, which was recently accepted into the Chicago Pride Films and Plays 'Queer Bits Fall Film Festival and was one of the writers featured at Auckland Pride’s Same Same But Different Writers Festival.

Cole’s work is focused on creating spaces for trans people, queer people and people with disabilities and mental health experiences- to feel validated, creative and safe. In this way he combines his passion for art of all kinds with his drive to help others heal and express their truths through their own creative pursuits.

Tash Keddy Photo: Michael Craig
He says a trans character on Shortland Street played by a trans actor is a huge step forward for the industry. “It is extremely important to have trans people portray trans characters”, he says. “and not just because trans people have an authentic understanding of the lived experience of being trans, and its impossible to achieve even a fraction of that depth in any regular production time, but because a vital aspect to trans visibility is exactly that- actually seeing or hearing trans people on screen or stage.”

“Often when non-trans people produce trans narratives, the reason provided for creating or writing them involves a sense of desire to bring awareness to trans experiences, and the difficulties or differences therein.

“However, if the production of these narratives does not involve trans people in the creation or portrayal, the awareness brought is instead to non-trans people's ideas about trans people's lives, which can frequently end up reinforcing many of the damaging beliefs that increase trans marginalisation and discrimination.

“This may include focusing intensely on physical aspects of transition, incorrect information, using outdated or offensive language, reinforcing the myth of binary sex or gender, ignoring more marginalised trans experiences, portraying transition as a standardised or simplistic process, to name but a few. It also means that trans people never get the chance to tell their own stories, which is vital in bringing understanding and respect to the realities of our lives, and awareness to the enormous creative talent the community has to offer.”

You can catch Keddy making his debut on Shortland Street tonight at 7pm.

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- 15th March 2016