Opening the door: an interview with Anne Huston

For Decent Company June: secrets, Anne Huston will be performing a piece about secret memories from her childhood that shaped her gender identity. Anne sat down with producing director Josh Boerman to talk about those memories, as well as the need for self-discovery and the importance of advocacy.

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JOSH BOERMAN: The piece that you’re doing is a story that you’ve been wanting to tell for a long time, right?

ANNE HUSTON: Yeah. It’s incredibly personal. It’s very personal, and it’s something about me that most people, I think, don’t know. People might suspect, or you know. But it’s about gender, and it’s about presentation, and it’s about your true self. Or it’s about my true self, I guess.

JB: What is it in this show that people maybe don’t know? That they won’t expect? Without giving too many secrets away, of course.

AH: It’s sort of taking snippets, remembering past moments in my life where things didn’t quite connect in a way. Or moments of the rug sort of being jerked from under me, in terms of ideas of what gender is, and what I was taught that my gender is and should be.

JB: You felt like the way that you were being forced into expressing yourself was different from who you actually were?

AH: It didn’t line up, yeah. And so this is sort of a message, if I had a chance to talk to my younger self. To generally just be assuring, I guess, my younger self that one, you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not crazy.

And that it’s always going to be a learning process. And that’s something that I am still kind of being okay with, or working on being okay with.

JB: When did you first sort of start to realize that these feelings or experiences or memories that you had were actually something that really was out of the ordinary, and not just the kind of weird stuff that all kids go through—

AH: Like, a one-off.

JB: —or like a one-off thing, yeah.

AH: I’d say within the past five years or so. And it started sort of more with figuring out sexual identity. And you know, gender and sexual identity, of course, one does not mean the other. But they often go hand in hand, and when people have different expressions of either of those, the two can be kind of intertwined.

So it started more with sort of realizing that I identify as bisexual. So that was part of it, but then sort of allowing myself to be okay to ask questions about like, “Oh wait, is this actually hinting at something? Is this moment, is this particular memory, part of something bigger?”

JB: What prompted that change in thinking?

AH: I don’t think there was any one moment that prompted that. But I think that being out of college, being in a relationship where I feel safe and supported, and—

JB: It’s with me, guys. I’m her husband.

AH: (LAUGHS) Guys, surprise. It’s with Josh.

JB: This is, like, the most biased interview.

AH: It’s okay though. But feeling safe enough to, and feeling like I ought not be ashamed of who I am. And sort of realizing, also, no good can come from me keeping this part of myself hidden from myself.

JB: Because it was a secret that you were keeping from yourself—

AH: From myself, I think. Yeah.

JB: —as well as from others, and you couldn’t even begin to talk about how it impacted everybody else before you understood how it impacted you.

AH: Exactly. And so I was willing to be honest with myself about it. Not that I was, like, actively hiding in a closet somewhere. I mean, gender and sexual identity and all of that, it can be kind of intimidating to dive into and really unpack and figure out. And so I was sort of afraid of what I would find, I guess.

JB: And what did you find?

AH: I found that a lot of things from my past make sense now, for one thing. I found an openness, or an ability to just— that I am comfortable with myself in a way that I didn’t think I could be, and that I definitely wasn’t before trying to figure all of this out.

And I feel also now like I can be more of an advocate for other people who maybe are— like, friends or family, or strangers who are going through something similar. Or not even something similar, but that are in the process of trying to figure themselves out.

Because I don’t think that I can— they’re, like, conversations that I wouldn’t be able to have, just generally, if I hadn’t done this myself. And that’s a big part of growing up. That’s growing up.

JB: How do you feel now in terms of— I mean, obviously the show is about secrets. And as you said, this was a secret that you felt like you were keeping from yourself for a very long time. It’s very easy to do that.

AH: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s easy to not think about things that you don’t want to think about.

JB: Do you hope that, in some way, your piece is going to help other people who might have secrets that they haven’t grappled with?

AH: I really hope so. And I think it would be super cool if, like, ideally people would, after seeing this, question their own gender identity. And not have a crisis of “Oh my god, am I a woman, am I— what does this mean for me?”

But just, like, I think there are things that we take for granted about our identity that we don’t necessarily ever actively think about, or actively decide. That things and behaviors are sort of— they’re learned. It just becomes a part of who we are, and it’s not any process where we are making choices.

But I think it’s important to understand why you think a certain way, and to understand why you present your gender in a certain way. Because that is such a huge, fundamental part of who we all are.

And I also think another sort of side of that is, especially now, I’m thinking particularly in light of Orlando. I think that we owe it to ourselves, our own selves, if we are able to, if we feel safe to do so, to own who we are. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is public. You know, that’s an individual choice, of course, for anyone.

JB: Well, and not everybody is able to go public with who they are right away, either.

AH: Exactly, exactly.

JB: It might take a matter of time.

AH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I think that’s a process that everyone should start at some point.

JB: Do you feel like you’re still in that process, or do you feel like you’re—

AH: Oh, absolutely. But I think I’ll always be in that process. Because I think while it’s just as easy to not turn over rocks and look at who we are and ask questions about ourselves, I think it’s also easy to let things become sedentary and just settle.

Which I think is unhealthy, and I think can be dangerous. That, like, sure, you might make decisions, but then if you don’t change, if you don’t allow yourself to change throughout life, I don’t think that’s good.

JB: Well, and it also kind of goes back to the whole Socratic ideal of, like, to keep questioning everything and always be in pursuit of the truth.

AH: Yeah, exactly, it’s very much that. It’s very much the Socratic line of thinking. And I think we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to each other, to constantly be trying to understand ourselves as much as we can. Because that’s the only way that we’re going to really be able to help others in the way that— we need to be able to help other people.

JB: That actually leads me into the next question I was going to ask, which is, how do you feel like this has changed the way that you interact with others? The way that you now perceive yourself, that you feel like you better have a sense of who you are?

AH: Yeah. I honestly think because I have been able to put words to questions that I’ve had and I’ve asked myself this certain set of questions, it makes me more comfortable in advocating for myself or other people who are in the queer community. Because it can be—

JB: And what do you mean when you say “advocate?”

AH: Well, I mean, it can be very easy to say, like, “I’m an ally and I support you.” But to really understand what that journey is and what that particular struggle might be? And again, with Orlando, you see so many people coming out like, “We support you.”

But what does that actually mean? What does that actually look like? You can say that you support and love someone, and they’re in your thoughts, they’re in your prayers.

JB: But ultimately those are just empty words—

AH: It’s empty.

JB: —if you aren’t coupling that with some sort of conscious action.

AH: Yeah. And so for me, I’m a very non-confrontational person. I don’t like debating, even. I just— I can’t.

JB: It’s a key difference between you and me.

AH: Yes, it’s a very key difference. But with this, I’ve found that I feel more confident in myself. Like, if something were to come up, and I were in a position where I had to sort of— not defend, but to be able to speak for someone and to speak with someone on their behalf or for them, or support them in a way that is not just, you know, “Here’s a shoulder to cry on for you.”

But to be more deliberate with that, I think. If that makes sense. So people are gonna be reading this, and I think, I dunno. Gonna learn somethin’. (LAUGHS) But I think that’s important.

That I reveal— that sounds very dramatic. “I’m revealing my secret.” But that I’m choosing at this point in time, I guess. ‘Cause now is as good a time as any to be open about being genderqueer, and to open that door for myself and for other people who might want to have a conversation.

To buy tickets for Decent Company June: secrets, click here.

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