Then I did the YMCA with the Ladyboys of Bangkok…

To The Staff Members Whom It May Concern,

I am writing on behalf of myself and the other theatre-goers within the college. You may not have heard of us, we are one of the quieter clubs. We have only four permanent members including myself, and our theatre-going (up until last night) consisted of only one outing.  We meet in my common room, the one on the ground floor to the right of the picnic bench. It is here that once a term we rifle through the pages of theatre catalogues, feverishly starring and ticking ones of interest, occasionally mocking and discussing the ones which are not. We often have biscuits, sometimes they have fillings, but we always have ancient fully decarbonated fizzy drinks from the PSO office. It’s compulsory.

This was my second time at the theatre-goers circle. I hadn’t been aware that it was taking place that evening and by chance (in my pyjamas at four o’clock in the afternoon) I stumbled across them. The group had expanded to include several more students and thus they began to read. I don’t know what is going on in Hereford Sir/Madam, however there was a clear theme to the theatre’s offerings. “It will have your legs knitted in sexual tension”- one show’s description read, whilst others broadcasted the similar messages. Then there were The Ladyboys of Bangkok. Now I must admit that by this point I had began to slump, however my ears pricked up when I heard the name. Half way through the description I am sold. “We have to go!”. So to the rest of the group I told how it would be fun, how it would be a laugh, how it would be a good night out. The girls were all for it, they took hardly any persuading. Then a quiet voice from the second sofa, the one nearest the sleeping television, spoke. One singular male student had reluctantly agreed to come.

Now of course the event which our group had agreed on and underlined in the programme was hardly what the staff were expecting. C, who organises such things, tentatively said that she may have to ask you Sir/Madam first before booking the tickets. This was to avoid us attending an event which was possibly ‘inappropriate’.  It was at this point that I pointed out that if our request was denied I would simply write a letter to you explaining that we were disappointed to have been denied access this expressive form of dance created by the thai transgender community, and how surely not allowing us to attend such an event is an equality and diversity issue. But luckily for you I am writing this letter instead.

The night came and we found ourselves occupying seats on the first and second row, directly in front of the stage. As we took our seats there was an apprehensive vibe in the air. The locals were not knowing what to expect, some were there for the spectacle and some were there to ease their itching curiosity. The rest of the audience must have been mildly confused when seeing a group of young people with canes heading to the front row of a dance show, but it is 2014 after all and it is about time we broke some disability stereotypes. Music blared and the lights dimmed. Our group of five blind people and two staff members were sitting together. I was sitting alongside two of my good friends who are unable to see at all. Given my prime position and the lighting on the stage I was actually able to see a fair amount, so throughout the show I gave a running audio description to these friends. In doing so however I did have to lean in very close to the stage which likely made me look like a mildly dodgy and over-keen punter.

The performance was amazing and the cast of sixteen did an amazing assortment of miming, acting and dancing. They had elaborate costumes and the comedy sketches were unfalteringly hilarious. The apprehension I had previously felt from the audience appeared to have drained away and they were almost instantly in awe. Interval came and the public filtered in and out of the auditorium filling their glasses and emptying their bladders. Meanwhile our group joined a queue to have our picture taken with the Ladyboys. At five pounds a picture it was very dear, but it is a good memento of an excellent night all the same.

The second half was just as entertaining as the first and we were singing and dancing along with the tunes. When ‘YMCA’ began to blare out of the speakers the auditorium came to life. There was a buzz in the air as people seemingly began to madly gesture the famous letters to invisible deaf giants. It occurred to me that my friends may not understand what was going on, being unable to see the dance party unfolding around us. The letters ‘YMCA’ look very different in braille to how they look in print, and personally I am unsure how one would create the acronym in braille out of body parts. So in each chorus I took a friends hand and showed them how to do it, to their high amusement. It was at this point that one of the cast came running up to our row and gestured for me. He grabbed my hand and before I could really think about it I was on stage, with the ladyboys of Bangkok. This was not my average tuesday night and with the time only at 9:45pm I felt ending up in such a bizarre situation without the aid of alcohol to be quite an achievement.

As I twirled and wirled and made my body parts into giant letters for imaginary hearing impaired giants I thought. I thought about how my body looked and how my body moved. I felt so uncomfortable and I could feel the eyes of the audience on me. I was having a blast, but it was like when you get your bath water just slightly too hot- you can’t work out whether you feel uncomfortable enough to do something about it or not. I am not the most body confident. I never have been. However one thing I did see from the cast was their confidence. Their confidence to be whoever they want to be, and to go out and do what they evidently love despite what others might think. By the end of the night the audience did not feel that they had attended a ‘freak show’ or weird spectacle, they had seen a performance. The performers all looked startlingly wonderful and it was so very easy to forget the difference between what we saw before us and their biologically assigned sex. We saw on that stage that you should live at your happiest and be who ever you want to be.

So it is here that I address you, approving staff member. Thank you for allowing us to go on such a wonderfully diverse and entertaining trip. We had a blast.

Love from,

Student X

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