When Erin Cotton was young, the words “pervert” and “monster” often popped into her head as a way of describing how she felt about herself.
Growing up, Cotton, who used to be a boy, often felt she was different from the other people in her class. She enjoyed cross-dressing, had fantasies about having a virtual reality machine where she could change the settings and make herself a man or woman. and felt very She also from her male peers, many of whom thought she was gay.
She also felt a discomfort and disassociation with her body.
“I didn’t know I was trans, I knew something was wrong with me,” said the now 23-year-old Fernwood resident. “I felt as if I was a pervert or a monster. I had very negative feelings around my impulses and behaviours.”
When she was 18 years old, Cotton was talking with a friend and said something ignorant about transwomen. Her friend quickly corrected her and sent her educational information about transwomen. It was then Cotton began to realize the fantasies she had were not just odd desires, but part of her identity.
“Reading this information, I was able to recognize myself in it and just start pursuing that path and I’ve been on that path ever since. It’s my life now,” said Cotton, who began the transition to a transwomen when she was 18 years old.
“I realized that all these different things I’d been feeling fit into being trans.”
At first, she wasn’t completely certain, but every step she took along the way helped confirm she was heading in the right direction.
Now, Cotton is opening up about her experience as a closeted trans teenager, in her new solo show titled Trying on Your Dead Mom’s Underwear.
The show, directed by Graham McDonald, is autobiographical and includes a mixture of spoken word poetry and storytelling. There are five interlocking stories that include chasing down a purse snatcher in Brussels, missing the bus on the way to her mom’s deathbed, falling in love with her best friend only to find out she’s a lesbian, finding herself on an Internet message board full of weird porn and trying on her mom’s underwear in front of the bathroom mirror — all of which are true stories.
Cotton hopes that by showing the audience her life, they’ll be able to identify with her story as well.
“I’m hoping that by seeing my life, they’ll be able to see themselves in that. They’ll be able to see this example of someone who is struggling with their body, and is going through life with this double facade and be able to see their own life in that,” she said, adding she hopes young queer people might see the show.
“I just really hope people earlier and earlier can start to be aware of what transpeople are really like. Not just the negative images that people see in movies, TV shows and in magazines.”
Trying on Your Dead Mom’s Underwear hits the stage on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Intrepid Theatre. Tickets are $10.