“First Person” shines spotlight on gender transition

Allison Mueller

“Trans elder” JamieAnn Meyers (middle left) explains her life transition of becoming a woman in a self-performed play and panel discussion at Winona State. (Photo by Nikko Aries)
“Trans elder” JamieAnn Meyers (middle left) explains her life transition of becoming a woman in a self-performed play and panel discussion at Winona State. (Photo by Nikko Aries)

Danny Moriarty / Winonan

Some people know from the time they are children that something is different about them. JamieAnn Meyers said she felt this way every day of her life and for a long time struggled to figure out what made her so feel so different.

Meyers took the stage Friday, Feb. 10 in Winona State University’s Somsen Hall to present her play “First Person: A Life in Transition.” The play was free and open to the public, and a panel discussion was held prior.

“First Person” is a story about Meyers’ transition from male to female and the obstacles that came along with this decision. The play was written and performed by Meyers and features the acting talents of Zealot Hamm, Beckett Love, Suzi Love and Eileen Noonan, with Shalee Coleman as director and Sarah Wolf as stage manager.

Meyers was born during the 1940s and began her transition in the early 2000’s. She is what she calls, a “trans elder.”

While transitioning, she found people who understood and supported her decision, but she said she also found individuals who lacked understanding and were less than polite when discussing their feelings towards her transition.

People often asked her “When did you transition?” and she would reply, “From when I was a fetus, until long after my death.”

The play featured 12 scenes based off true experiences from Meyers’ life, ranging from struggles to find early acceptance within her peer groups to difficult conversations with loved ones. It shifts from past to present and from reality to imagination.

“It is profoundly important as a queer or trans person to see on the stage yourself represented,” Noonan said.

In Meyers’ play, the cast was free to express themselves in ways they never thought was possible through her voice. Meyers’ scenes are intended to have the audience members get inside her mind through her gift storytelling.

Cast members could relate to Meyers’ theme of feeling lost and confused, especially Hamm. She enrolled in college for graphic design but ended up getting nowhere, despite putting in a lot of hard work.

“I didn’t want to necessarily impress my peers, but I wanted to have something to share with them,” Hamm said.

Hamm ended up dropping out due to financial reasons and found herself in a state of depression, wanting to find a sense of creative accomplishment. Soon after transitioning from male to female, she went to audition for a part in “20% Theater Company” in the Twin Cities.

“They called me on my birthday and told me I got the part I auditioned for, and I just took off from there. I have been with the company ever since,” Hamm said.

Hamm, along with everyone else in the cast, have roots with “20% Theater Company.” Meyers joined in 2012 and is grateful for the team of friends the company has given her, which included director Coleman.

Coleman was the one who originally encouraged Meyers to incorporate a Greek chorus into her monologues, though Meyer’s original intent was to create a performance around just herself. Coleman persisted, and Meyers then added members from the company. From there they began to create the world.

By Danny Moriarty