Advocate of Gender Diversity
Have you ever wondered why dresses are women’s apparel and not men’s? Why is the color pink for girls, and blue for boys? The reasons – gender.
Gender is the social and cultural role assigned to each of the sexes. Many assume biological sex and gender to be the same when, in fact, they are not. Biological sex is what one is born with, and it does not change whether one wears pink trousers or a gray pinstriped skirt. Gender is malleable and fluid.
There are individuals whose internal sense of gender does not match the sex to which they were born, and in our modern society, notions of gender are expanding.
Maybe Burke ’14, a graduate of the Pace Performing Arts directing program, is an advocate and artist who works toward building a more diverse and inclusive understanding of gender.
As the artistic associate of the Honest Accomplice Theatre and founder of The Trans Literacy Project, Burke’s work is intersectional, occupying the cultural crossroads of biological sex, gender, advocacy and theater. They (Burke’s preferred pronoun) work to bring the social and cultural change that will one day make gender spectrum inclusivity possible.
The Trans Literacy Project is a series of spirited educational short videos by and about trans people. Its purpose is to serve as a tool to educate cisgendered folk (those whose gender identity matches their biological sex) about topics like acceptable questions, pronoun usage, and how to be an ally, and in so doing reduce the isolation and misunderstanding experienced by trans people within their families and communities.
Burke spoke with the Dyson Digital Digest about their advocacy work.
Describe your work as artistic associate at Honest Accomplice Theatre.
I work with the company’s artistic directors on different projects. I design lighting for our touring productions; I speak on behalf of Honest Accomplice Theatre at events; and I created and collaborate on The Trans Literacy Project.
What is the impetus for The Trans Literacy Project?
We wanted to provide easy-to-access education to the general public about trans people from the point of view of trans people. In addition, the videos are also meant to ease the burden upon trans people who have to explain themselves, serve as a resource for allies, and offer positive role models and community to young trans people.
What motivates you to do this work?
Growing up, I realized that the world is built in a way that doesn't acknowledge people like me. I needed a language. I needed words to describe my feelings. I needed a community of people who thought like me to whom I didn't need to explain myself. It wasn't until I grew older and found like-minded people that I began to feel validated and functional.
These needs play a major role in the work that I do now. I tell my story to as many people as will listen. I speak about my experience and try to give people the vocabulary so we are better equipped to have conversations in the future.
Do you have any advice for young persons?
One of the best pieces of advice I got was from Pace School of Performing Arts professor Robert Ross Parker. He told us to not take anyone's advice too seriously. Take only what resonates, and find what works best for you.
When the world sees Maybe Burke, what would you like the world to see?
I honestly long for a day that my work is not politicized. I long for a time where I am not labeled a trans artist but recognized as an artist who happens to also be trans. I don't want people to hear my story and assume it to be "the trans story." I want people to see me as a person first.
If you’d like to learn more about gender spectrum inclusivity, please check out the most recent episode of the The Trans Literacy Project here.