Education and Entertainment at Trans Cabaret

Trans Cabaret is a labor of love for the community by the community, a chance to show off ourselves in all our fabulousness!” reveals Alec Butler of his video launching Thursday April 7 at the 519 Community Centre in Toronto.

Originally staged in 2006, Trans Cabaret came out of a workshop project that Alec and Wolfgang Vachon co-wrote to address many themes about being trans and the challenges faced with that. At the same time, they wanted to make the piece entertaining and educational, settling on making “edutainment.” It is set in cabaret style as an homage to Cabaret, an art form that is also a form of political dissent.

By taking the performances off the stage and putting them into video, the filmmakers were able to incorporate skits as well as real footage to document the major theme of self-determination for trans people. “One of my favorite scenes in the video is the footage from the first Trans Pride March in 2009” reveals Butler. “People look so proud, determined, and strong in that footage, it was a privilege to edit.” Other scenes discuss relate to the barriers trans people face once they come out as trans, including gender reassignment surgery, housing and just trying to live a normal life.

Another strong theme in Trans Cabaret is identity and diversity. With the help of Jason Brown and his skill with computer-generated effects with a green screen, one of the skits to look forward to in the video is ‘Gender Catwalk.’ The scene includes many people from the Toronto community. “Working with Jason on the green screen footage was a rush, always wanted to work with this medium. Ryli, Karah, Diane, Monica and Shane were people we admired in the community for years so we encouraged them to get involved in the project, who can resist the invitation to walk down a catwalk? We couldn’t have a catwalk in our own video and not walk down it ourselves!”

One of the goals of the project is to have it shown in classrooms and reach a wider audience. While they want people in the community to see it, Butler and Vachon also want the video to be an educational tool. “We see this as a learning tool for non-trans social justice activists, future social workers who will be interfacing with trans people at agencies that trans people have to access when they are dealing with the repercussions transitioning has on one’s life and relationships, social standing and self image.” Remembering how everyone enjoyed teachers showing films in class, Alec considers the video an important tool in teaching about trans people and opening up discussions. “We also encourage and allow for further discussion among audience members, students once the video is shown. Other than that Trans Cabaret is just plain fun to watch!”

Trans Cabaret premieres at the 519 Community Centre (519 Church Street) on Thursday April 7, 7pm.