Transgendered Shakespeare: Father’s one-man show inspired by son coming out as trans

A father is using his one-man show Transgendered Shakespeare to share how he learnt how to communicate and connect with his son after he came out as trans.

Simon Waterfield, 67, and his son Rory, 29, will be bringing a revised one-person version of their 2016 play, Transgendered Shakespeare, to the Wandsworth Arts Fringe in June. 

The updated play, penned by both of them and to be performed by Simon, follows the father’s journey as he discovers himself and comes to terms with the new identity of Rory. Together, the pair navigate how best to communicate their feelings to each other.

“Communication is the main factor,” they told PinkNews, emphasising the message the play aims to convey.

Simon and Rory are bringing Transgendered Shakespeare to London. (Simon Waterfield)

Simon, who lovingly looked at his son throughout the interview, revealed that he discovered his son’s identity as a trans man through Facebook, where Rory often posted “little clues that he was changing”.

Rory, reciprocating his dad’s loving looks, albeit in a more bashful manner, recalled a time he had posted, expressing a preference to be called someone’s boyfriend rather than girlfriend.

“That’s what the play addresses more than anything else: how a trans son starts communicating with his father, and how his father copes – or doesn’t – with the situation,” Simon said.

Admitting he isn’t the best communicator, Rory said he was “incredibly lucky” to have a supportive family, which has helped him overcome depression.

‘Hopefully, it will help others’

But his dad, who is open about having battled prostate cancer, said he initially faced struggles in adopting Rory’s new identity. Finding out one of his three children was trans came as “a bit of a surprise” and sparked an “all-consuming” desire to “make sure he’s happy and safe”.

Growing up in North Wales in the 1960s, Simon was surrounded by people he described as “very parochial” who didn’t talk about being gay. 

“It’s not the sort of thing a white, middle-class male talks about,” he said. “One doesn’t discuss things connected with sex or LGBTQ+ issues, it just isn’t done. People don’t know how to do it, especially men.

The play has enabled father and son to express their feelings to each other. (Simon Waterfield)

“It might be difficult, it might be embarrassing, but you’ve got to talk face-to-face. Find a way to communicate, as that’s the only way you’re going to bridge the understanding gaps.”

Rory also offered advice: “Communication-wise, if you need to start by texting, then start there. Maybe write down what you want to say so you have something to reference.”

Turning to the play, Simon added: “People want to know about it, parents want to know about it, and we thought it would be good for both of us to express our feelings about it. Hopefully, it will help others.”

Money from ticket sales will be split between London-based Free2B Alliance, which provides safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, and Families Together London, a self-help group.

Simon will perform Transgendered Shakespeare at Putney Library, 5-7 Disraeli Road SW15 2DR at 8pm on Friday 14 June, and Thursday 20 June. Tickets can be purchased here.

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