Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Identity Crisis

After sending in my Dramatists Guild member profile update I got a DG query: do I want to be listed as G.L., or as Geralyn "G.L."?
It's not surprising that they're confused. I provoke confusion. I think I originally joined the Guild as "Geralyn Williams", using my then-husband's last name, because I was acting under that name at the time. However, I had written as "G.L" since college: way back then there was overt science-backed prejudice against "scribbling women" and female intellectuals. People don't believe me when I say that I had NO female professors when I was a college English major, and that there were NO female novelists or essayists in the Honors curriculum-- but that was the case, and jokes and insults aimed at "co-eds" were part of the classroom culture. By 1980 I was divorced and had legally reassumed my Horton birthname, but when I did "serious" writing or reviewing I sent it out as "G.L". On line and in print my critic-persona seemed to register as male-- and I considered that a Good thing; not only because women generally have a hard time being taken seriously as critics even today, but also because the occasional nasty letter accusing me of error or bias is always addressed to "Mr. Horton" and any sexual insults therein refer to parts I don't have: and so are easily forgiven and forgotten. The playwright-persona confusion arose because most of the people who perform or see my plays locally know me as Geralyn, the actor (actress, in OldSpeak) who writes plays. I send the plays out as "G.L.", but even distant productions are often listed as authored by "Geralyn"-- probably because I sign cover letters to people I've met face-to-face as "Geralyn". Nobody who knows me has ever called me "G.L.". But then, people who know A.R. Gurney call him "Pete"......
It just occurred to me that my early Guild years involved a lot of face-to-face with other members. I expected to meet them and hoped to be recognized. I worked as a Starter for the transit system in the late 1970's-early 80's, and my union card was a free pass on the Boston/NYC train. I'd ride down for the day, attend a Guild event-- especially the Woman's Committee, before it was closed down-- and take the Night Owl back home to Boston. And Back Then the Guild had events in Boston from time to time, with Playwrights Platform's Guild members acting as hosts. I wanted the Guild members I met to be able to connect face and name.
I think I should probably prefer to be listed as "G.L.", and be able to tell from how I'm addressed whether someone knows me personally or by my authorial pen name. But if this screws up the system within which I've held a long-term Guild membership as "Geralyn", then I guess a Geralyn "G.L." listing that gives the game away isn't fatal.
However, I did spend some time trying to write a gender-neutral text to accompany a rehearsal photo of one of my plays rather than post my giveaway headshot. Anyone who automatically assumes that the default sex for a playwright is male might be fooled-- for alas, there are still people who assume that. But anyone actively interested in who I am will blow my cover in an instant by clicking the links to my acting resume or my blog, where my mug appears first thing.


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12:06 PM  

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