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Transgender actress Rebecca Root struggled for work before Boy Meets Girl role

"It was difficult trying to wrestle with my gender identity - that's why I transitioned"

Rebecca is starring in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, which will run at Dublin's Bord Gais Energy Theatre from April 26 to April 30.

Eddie Rowley

TRANSGENDER actress Rebecca Root tells how starring in the BBC comedy Boy Meets Girl changed her life.

Rebecca, whose mum is from Dublin's Clontarf, had been struggling to find acting work after transitioning from male to female in her early 30s.

She is advocating for roles featuring transgender characters to be played by trans actors.

In 2020, Scarlett Johansson dropped out of her role as a transgender man in fact-based drama Rub & Tug after a backlash from the trans community.

"Boy Meets Girl was a game changer," Rebecca tells the Sunday World. "It brought a trans character to the mainstream audiences for the first time on BBC television, played by a trans person, who was me. I think it demystified a lot of what the general public thought it was like to be a trans person.

Rebecca is starring in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre

"The whole experience of trans people since 2015 has changed beyond recognition. Now people are so much more familiar with non-binary descriptions and identities, non-conforming people and people using third person singular pronouns - they, them, etc.

"It's only a few years ago that people would have been baffled by the spectrum of gender identities that we have now.

"I think it's brilliant. I think it's wonderful that society has become so open to people living their life authentically. It's all we ever ask of people, really… let's live our life authentically."

Siobhan with David Breeds as Christopher during rehearsals

British-born Rebecca, who is set to perform at Dublin's Bord Gais Energy Theatre and has fond memories of childhood summer holidays in Clontarf and on an uncle's farm near Kells, Co Meath, feels fortunate that her Irish mother and English father were both supportive of her decision to transition.

"I was very lucky," she says. "That's not always the case, sadly. Regrettably it can be very difficult for some people.

"Transitioning is difficult anyway. Even if you've got supportive parents, family and friends it's still difficult. But if they are against you, or are in denial, it's so much more difficult.

"I was working in a day job in a box office in London and my place of employment was also supportive and conducive to my transition. I wasn't pursuing acting at that time as much. I felt that I needed to have a bit of stability and just focus on my transition.

"I've always been blessed by my brilliant family and parents. Through thick and thin they've been there for me. From the get-go they jumped on board, gave me all the love and care that I needed to get through something that is not an easy time.

"That said, it's not easy for families as well. They have to take moments to adjust. There's a process of transition for them as well. When we talk about transition, I'm still the same person, I have the same crazy sense of humour and I still like a gin and tonic. You don't change in that respect, it's just from the outside you might look a little different. Apart from that it's just the same you.

"Sometimes that process can throw people a little bit, so you have to be accepting of people who misgender you inadvertently or use your previous name and so forth. It does take getting used to. So it's a two-way thing really. I feel that's something that needs to be acknowledged.

"For the person who is transitioning it's very easy to think it's all about you, it's all about your transition, it's all about your difficulties and navigating them when actually there are other people in the equation. I hope that when I transitioned I was as easy-going as I could be with people who were struggling.

"At the end of the day it's my life, but they also have to get used to it…aunties, uncles, cousins and all of that. I was 32 or 33 at the time, so it's nearly 20 years ago now."

However, Rebecca, who also starred in Oscar winning film The Danish Girl, found it difficult to find acting roles when she went back into the business as a female.

Rebecca plays Siobhan in the stage show

"It's a precarious and tough enough industry anyway without you being trans or transitioning," she says.

"Then being a trans person just makes the industry that much harder. There are very few roles in mainstream theatre and on TV. It was very difficult to get back into it.

"I wasn't getting any work at all and then along came the wonderful Boy Meets Girl. I am so grateful to the people behind that show. My career has changed with it. I'm now extremely fortunate to be working quite consistently."

Rebecca's advice to anyone struggling with their sexuality is to seek professional help. "There are countless gender identity help lines and websites available online," she says. "Be resilient, dig deep and never give up on what you feel may be impossible. Anything is possible."

Rebecca is starring in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, which will run at Dublin's Bord Gais Energy Theatre from April 26 to April 30.

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