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with John Fleming

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Gender transformation as performance art

Performance art tends to be big on sex and gender issues, but Scott Turner Schofield breaks boundaries in Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps. A onetime debutante and homecoming princess, Schofield tells of his transformation from female to male.

"This is not like any story you've seen," says Schofield, 29, who identifies himself as transgender. "I will tell you stories that will blow your mind, or open your eyes, or make you laugh."

(Certainly, Schofield's story can be confusing if you're a stickler about the personal pronouns "he" and "she.")

Growing up, Schofield always felt like a boy. At 16, he came out as a lesbian in Charlotte, N.C., about the same time that Ellen DeGeneres did. "When Ellen came out, I thought, all right, this is a woman who likes women, and because I have a female body and I like women, that must be what I am. I actually had no idea what a lesbian was."

The gender confusion didn't prevent Schofield from having a few triumphs in high school. "For homecoming court, they tend to pick Miss Best Dressed, Miss Congeniality and Miss Unexpected, and I was definitely Miss Unexpected.''

Not until Schofield was a student at Emory University in Atlanta did he meet a transgender person with whom he could identify. He had therapy and was inspired by Hilary Swank's Oscar-winning performance as a woman who would rather be a man in Boys Don't Cry.

Schofield gets a few questions out of the way at the top of his show. "I take off my clothes and I draw on my body in lipstick all the different surgeries I could have, and I explain those in quick but precise detail," he says.

Though he has taken testosterone, Schofield has not had surgery to alter his sex organs. "It's much more common for male-to-female folks to have gender confirmation surgery than for female to male,'' he says. "That's not something I feel that I want, but plenty of people do."

Schofield is a lanky 5-foot-11, 145-pounder who dates women. "Because I look like a gay man, I get some difficult reactions," he says. "Women will ask, 'Why did you become a man? Do you just want the privilege and the power?' And I'm like, right, that's why I became transgender, so I could have privilege and power."

Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps has performances at 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the TECO Theater of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. $17.50 and $24.50. (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; strazcenter.org.

• • •

From Friday through May 2, it's National Dance Week, at least according to the dancewear merchants association, and by design or coincidence, there are several dance performances in the area.

• "Four Days of Dance" at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City features the HCC Dance Ensemble and other dancers in choreography by Christina Acosta, Paula Kramer, Elsa Valbuena and others at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday at Mainstage Theatre, Palm Avenue and 14th Street, Tampa. $10. (813) 253-7695.

• Co-Motion Dance Theatre of St. Petersburg College performs at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the SPC Arts Auditorium, 2465 Drew St., Clearwater. $5. (727) 341-7984.

• Choreographer Kyle Abraham is featured in "Le Salon de Danse" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. $15, $25. (727) 895-6620; studio620.org.

• • •

The volcanic ash over Europe playing havoc with air travel has led to Florida Orchestra music director Stefan Sanderling conducting the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra this week. He is substituting for Charlotte music director Christof Perick, who is grounded in Scotland. Sanderling will be on the podium for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which was to have been Perick's last concert as music director. He is stepping down from the post he has held since 2001.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.

Gender transformation as performance art 04/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 1:19am]

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