Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Trans Perspective: I am a Transgender Comedian

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | July 11th, 2018

Jan SyversonJan Syverson
standupjan@gmail.com

Three hundred miles northwest of Fargo, ND I find myself at the back of a small bar in a small town surrounded by nothing but snowy fields and darkness. I take a drag of a cigarette and go through my set. It’s freezing outside, but that’s my thing, I find the quietest place wherever I go and just think about what I’m going to say. All comics do something similar, and inside the tavern the audience is gearing up to laugh. I hear them tell their own jokes, most of which are usually muffled street jokes. I wonder, “Are they going to like me?” I don’t wonder, “Are they going to think I’m funny,” ‘cause I know that, so it doesn’t matter.

I know I’m funny, but most people have never met someone like me. What if they think I’m funny but they don’t like me anyway?

I finish my cigarette and in the dark distance the coyotes are crying a warning message to me that says, “Be safe.” I am a Native American Trans person in a mostly white rural ND town. Sometimes I’m scared. I’ve heard how things can be out west in the Wild Western Dakota. However, it’s a great thing to go to a place being so different, having nothing much in common and yet, being able to laugh together. I think that’s amazing. Laughter bridges the divide in my opinion. People like to come up after shows to tell stories about LGBT people they know, or to apologize for their town being backwards.

I think it’s a common misconception that small towns are backwards. I’ve been to so many small towns, it’s a blur which ones are which, but I always remember the people in them. Whether I’m in Fargo, Minot, or someplace much, much, much, no-gas-station-for-miles smaller. I ask myself the same question. Am I going to be safe here?

I’d like to say that comedy and all things are equal. I’d like to say that the hurdles you face are ones of talent and self determination. I’d like to say all of that, but I can’t, because it’s not true.

In my work I often get asked a question, “What’s the hardest part about being a comedian?” I always want to answer that question by saying it is finding your voice, knowing your audience, and coming up with the best punch line. Those things are hard, for sure, but the truth is the hardest part of being a comedian used to be being a woman, then it was being a lesbian, now it is being transgender. Each of these identities has unique hurdles, and yet all three intersect at all the same point.

“What’s the hardest part about being a comedian?” I think that’s too simple of a question, because at the end of the day it’s a difficult thing for anyone to navigate. It’s late nights, apathetic crowds, and lots of failure. For me, the one thing that I’ve heard louder than any other audience response is that I am different.

Because I stand out as being different, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been sexually harassed, and, when I tell people about it, the first question is, “Why do it?” It’s as simple as loving the feeling I get when I make people laugh. I love making people happy, but I also love showing people that I exist and I’m not sorry about it.

VISIBILITY. Visibility, is so important.

How many transgender comedians have you met? How many women? How many lesbian? How many gay? How many LGBTQ? My comedy is for people like me, who wanted to hear the things I say, but didn’t have anyone saying them. I want to let people know it gets better, it’s going to get better, because I believe it will and I wanna make you laugh while it does.

Recently in:

FARGO – At times, William Henry Hoehn’s conspiracy to murder trial flows like an episode from “Law & Order.” Jurors and observers are on seat edges, necks craned, listening to Hoehn’s mumbling lies and hesitant admissions…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comPhoto by Anne BradleyValkyries of the Valley will invade the North Dakota Apartment Wrestling Federation (NDAWF) for Brawl-esque, a variety show that will be held at Prairie Brothers Brewing Company…

Best Bets

Spirit Talk

by HPR Staff

Thursday, September 27, 7-9 p.m.Homewood Suites by Hilton Fargo, 2021 16th St N., FargoGet in touch with the other side! Sunny Dawn Johnston will help you reach the spirit world in this two-hour, eye-opening event. This is a group…

It’s bad enough when his word versus her word regarding sexual assault gets out in a high school hallway, but can you imagine it spreading throughout the national news media? Imagine reliving those events every time you turn on…

We failed to educate the players of “flag” footballI passed all of the American history courses in Morrison County District 54, Little Falls High School, and Moorhead State Teachers College, but I’m often appalled about what…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comAs I sat across from my wife at Himalayan Yak Tuesday evening, it dawned on me that time had slowed down. So often when we go out to eat, we are in a hurry. We get anxious when we aren’t greeted…

Music

Back in the saddle

by Sabrina Hornung

After a long hiatus members of Teenage Lobotomy reunited for the first time in 22 years at Center Fest in Robinson North Dakota this summer. With influences such as Husker Du and the Circle Jerks their high energy immediately had…

Director Craig William Macneill speculates on the infamous legend surrounding Massachusetts murder suspect Lizzie Borden in “Lizzie,” a long-germinating labor of love for star Chloe Sevigny. Working from a screenplay by Bryce…

It may be cliche to say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when wet plate artist Shane Balkowitsch found out that his 15-year-old daughter Abby Balkowitsch was following in his photography footsteps, he was…

by Stella Mehlhoffstellamehlhoff@gmail.com“Our mission is to invigorate civic conversation through intimate and transformative storytelling.” This statement posted on Theatre B’s website and tacked to their studio wall in…

In the approximately three years I’ve been writing for the High Plains Reader it seems I’ve always circled back to comedian Adam Quesnell. First, I wrote about his farewell show before he set out from Fargo and the comedy…

When walking into the new space on 1st Ave N that now houses Drekker brewing, one can only say, “Wow.” The majesty of the interior is unprecedented for a brewery in the region and provides a feeling of awe and astonishment.…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

by Andrew Alexis Varvelmr.a.alexis.varvel@gmail.com“If a piece of equipment purchased in the 1920s is kept up and can guarantee, at present, an operable rate close to 100 percent and if it can bear the production burden placed on…