In early April my family, boyfriend, and I went to go see “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway. That evening featured Tony award winning Lena Hall (her last night!) and John Cameron Mitchell, the writer of the show. The show is about a young man named Hansel who grew up in East Berlin while the wall was still standing. He met an American GI who offered to take Hansel to America but, in order do so, Hansel needed to be able to prove he was a woman…physically. One botched operation later Hansel became Hedwig and immigrated to America. When the GI leaves her, Hedwig needs to find her own way and tries to involve herself with men while also launching her rock career. Hedwig’s story is one of confusion, heart-break, and self-discovery.
The story of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” came to mind when we were discussing transgendered issues in class last week. What I find particularly interesting about her story is that she did not necessarily choose to be transgendered (or transsexual for that matter): as a gay man Hansel needed to change to get out of East Berlin. Once the operation was complete, Hedwig assumed a more feminine identity to fit her in-between physicality.
One particularly moving scene is when Hedwig is with her boyfriend, Tommy Gnosis. Although they have
beentogether for quite some time and shared much of their lives, Tommy and Hedwig had never been intimate while facing each other. When he shies away, Hedwig cries: “Love the front of me, honey!” Her plea reminds us all that we should strive to love people for who they are, not what they look like or what their sexual preferences are.
Gender is a spectrum, and one that is ever moving. Over time one’s position on the spectrum can shift based on new understanding of one’s self. How can we learn to accept people for who they are, and let them grow and change over the course of their lives?