He might have been born a girl and voted homecoming queen, but from the beginning, Los Angeles-based performer Scott Turner Schofield knew he was a boy.
"I spent a lot of my early childhood trying to convince people: 'I'm not kidding, this isn't a phase, I'm really a boy,'?" Schofield says. "When I grow up, forget being a doctor or an astronaut or whatever. I just want to be a man."
Schofield was also born with the bug to perform. Now, as an adult, he's touring with his third one-man show, Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps. This latest project explores a lifetime of stories as a transgender man. He'll appear in Miami this weekend at MDC Live Arts Lab.
The '80s in Atlanta, where he grew up, was not the easiest time or place to be transgender. Back then, Schofield didn't even have the words to describe his experience.
"Now we have a context," he says. "People are like, 'Oh, you're transgender; maybe we should figure out how to support that and how to help you feel good,' instead of saying, 'Sweetheart, you're far too pretty; let's go play with some Barbies,' which is what happened to me."
Later, in drama school at Emory University, he found it difficult to get cast because he didn't look like a typical guy or a typical woman. "Casting has very limited boxes to put people in," he says. "If you don't fit those boxes, you have a hard time getting cast."
His teachers noticed his talent and his predicament and encouraged him to solve his casting problem by writing his own show. By the end of that semester, he had garnered so much interest and attention that his show embarked on a five-city tour.
Becoming a Man is his current theatrical project. It's humorous, but it goes deep. It's structured like a Choose Your Own Adventure story: The audience calls out numbers, deciding at the moment which tales are told that night.
Schofield has 127 stories at the ready, going all the way back to his mother's belly. "There are all these medical ideas about what makes a person transgender," he says. "What if I was a little embryo developing inside my mom and I was like, 'You know what? This would be really interesting.'?"
In any combination, his personal history explores questions of intimacy, authenticity, and self-perception. How and when do you tell someone you are not an average guy? How do you love yourself when other people don't understand you? What is it like to grow up hearing you can't possibly be the person you think you are?
"It's important for me to say that I'm not telling anybody else's story," Schofield says. "But I know that other trans people say, 'I can't believe that somebody is finally out there telling that story. Nobody is doing that. Thank you.'?"
He remembers a night when a bachelor party of guys came to see Becoming a Man. They thought it was a comedy show for bros and decided to see it just because of the title. At the end of the show, as always, Schofield greeted the audience.
"These guys were like, 'We would never in a million years have chosen to see anything like this, but our lives are so profoundly changed. And it's because you told that one story about your best friend, and I know how that feels, which means you and me are the same,'?" he recalls.
Being transgender today in the United States is tough. Forty-one percent of transgendered people have attempted suicide. And Schofield admits that living outside the norm can be a heartbreaking challenge. To help change the world into a more accepting place, he uses his skills as an entertainer to speak and lead workshops on cultural competency.
"I'm an ally and advocate across the board for people who, through no fault of their own, are marginalized in our society. And I teach people how to be cool about it. That's kind of my day job, facilitating workshops so that people can learn how to be better to their fellow man or woman."
And though he acknowledges the continuing struggles of modern-day trans people, he's optimistic. Schofield says he has observed a massive shift in the past four years, roughly corresponding to Barack Obama's second term as president. "As scary as the state of the world is right now," he says, "I think it's actually the best time it's ever been to be transgender or any marginalized person, actually.
"I know that's very difficult to see in this moment, when things are so scary and people who are anti-everything have been microphoned," Schofield says. "But as someone who has been on the ground doing the work, I'm telling you there are more people with privilege who are out there helping people who do not have it than ever before. They are more educated and more passionate and, importantly, more litigious than ever. And they are not going anywhere."
Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps
Thursday, February 9, through Saturday, February 11, at MDC Live Arts Lab, Building 1, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-237-310; mdclivearts.org. Tickets cost $30, MDC students $10.