Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Aneesh Sheth, a young American actress and transgender activist, and an Advocate Magazine's 40 Under 40 list honoree. Hello Aneesh!
I think I was cast in my first show at age 7, and just continued my journey in theatre and film from there. When I was ready to leave for college, I made the choice to pursue a career in acting and I was very lucky to have supportive parents who encouraged me to pursue my dream.
Monika: Which actresses or movies are your inspirations?
I’ve recently read Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, and Janet is an incredible writer. It is so inspirational to read stories of others who have lived experiences similar to mine and to see how far they’ve come and what they’ve achieved.
It is a story I think a lot of us can relate to. What was so special about this story was that Priya, the main character, was not only dealing with the duality of genders but with the duality of culture as she had recently moved to the United States from India.
|Copyright 2011 Kurt Jones.|
This is the first play of its kind being produced in Seattle. I hope it begins to open doors and windows for transgender characters in theatre. Then in June, I will be participating in a staged reading of a new play, “At the Very Bottom of the Ocean” by Benjamin Benne where I will actually be playing a cisgender woman.
And in April I will be a co-host alongside YouTube's Grishno on a monthly web-show called "The TransView". Our first live show is Saturday April 5, 12pm Pacific, 3pm Eastern. Be sure to tune in on Grishno."
I also volunteered at Beth Israel Medical Center on a Neurology Surgical Step-down Unit. Most recently, I was on the board of directors for the Stigma Project, an organization that uses social media to help curb the stigmas of HIV.
We have a long way to go in terms of the depiction of trans people on the screen and I think more fleshed out, fully realized transgender characters would be better served by casting trans actors. I do hope we get to a point in time where any actor can portray a trans person, in an honest, fully realized way. Until then, filmmakers need to be a little more daring and not afraid to stray from the stereotypical portrayals we have seen in films thus far.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
After hearing her story, I began the process of realizing who I really was and shortly after that meeting, I began to transition. Although I didn’t have anyone other than my doctor and a shrink helping me through my transition, I found others online, through social media, to whom I could relate. That’s the beauty of the internet; you can find anything you need!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Aneesh: The hardest thing about coming out was telling my family. Of course when I look back I think to myself “Why did you worry so much?” At the time I felt my whole life was going to change in a way I wasn’t mentally prepared for, as much as I wanted it. I was terrified of the emotional and physical changes that were to come.
In the long run though, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. I can thank an amazing support group of friends and family for that.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Aneesh: I am not active in politics, although I am a political news junkie. I have often considered moving into politics, however that would require a big shift in my lifestyle and living.
Being transgender adds another level to that: Can I even find the kind of love I’m looking for? Luckily for me, I met the man of my dreams a few years ago and have been married for almost a year now.
Now that I’ve become a fully realized woman I tend to find the ideas of any beauty pageant a little off putting. There is a huge emphasis on sexuality and a certain standard of beauty for women that I disagree with. I know many women just as beautiful or even more beautiful than your ‘pageant’ girls who just don’t fit the “ideal” beauty type. And that’s OK! I much prefer being around people are beautiful on the inside, as cliche as that sounds.
|Copyright 2011 Kurt Jones.|