Tranny is about transition, but not the transition you would assume. Mandy Goodhandy’s solo musical comedy doesn’t document her journey from male to female. Rather, it charts the various stages of her life as a performer.
After graduating from Sheridan College, she did conventional musicals including You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and Brigadoon, before shifting to cabaret shows. Like many a fledgling actor, she realized she could make more money taking costumes off than putting them on and began working as a stripper at the Zanzibar, when they still featured men downstairs. She gradually shifted into stand-up, serving as an MC (often in drag) while touring Ontario with guys from the club.
Fast-forward three decades. She’d transitioned, generated a healthy resumé as a sex worker, and founded Club 120 (formerly Goodhandy’s) with Todd Klinck. But her performing life was mostly limited to hosting their Wednesday boys’ nights along with a rotating cast of aspiring porn stars including Tripod Trevor.
But things changed two years ago when complications from silicone injections left her in bad health. A small amount of silicone had moved into her lungs and doctors were unsure whether she would survive. Suddenly, tossing out one-liners between cum shots wasn’t enough.
“I’m not trying to make this sound that dramatic, but I was surprised by my reaction,” she says. “I was lying there, wondering whether I was going to die, and I had this very strong sense that if I was going to live through this I needed to become a voice. I’m not that vocal in the community when it comes to being an advocate. But I realized that as an older trans woman it’s my responsibility to get out there and show people what’s possible.”
In addition to her various lives as a performer, Tranny touches on issues trans women face in their day-to-day lives: the challenges of doing sex work, the stupid questions people ask, the men who’re afraid to admit they’re attracted to them. But while the themes are serious, the tone is intentionally humourous.
“Being trans I feel like you need to be able to laugh at things, because it’s sometimes the only way to deal with the ridiculous shit people say to you,” she says. “Even when people mean well, they ask these fucked up questions about our bodies and our identities. At the same time, if people don’t have this life experience how are they supposed to just naturally know about it? They have to hear it from someone. I think people will be much more receptive if I try to educate them with comedy, rather than just yelling at them.”
“There’s also the selfish motivation in doing the show of getting back to my art,” she adds. “If you’ve been given a gift as a performer it’s wrong for you to waste your abilities. You need to get out there and share what you have to offer with the world.”