Love of performance never leaves you when it is part of your soul: An interview with Mandy Goodhandy
Mandy Goodhandy (AKA Amanda Taylor) is a local trans groundbreaker in Canada. From her early days as a stand-up comic, Mandy has used her platform to both entertain and educate others about the transgender community. Mandy co-owns and operates a Toronto nightclub named Club120, formerly known as Goodhandy’s Nightclub with her business partner, Todd Klinck. She runs North America’s longest running trans woman party (now in its 10th year) at Club120 every Thursday night from 8pm until 2am, for all Trans women, friends, supporters and their admirers to socialize in a safe and friendly environment.
Please tell us about your background. How long have you been performing and what role has music and comedy played in your life?
I have loved dancing and singing from a very early age. It was an escape for me, to express myself and not be judged by people in a negative way. It was not acceptable for boys to dance, it was considered feminine, but I got on that stage every chance I got. When my middle school and high school would have talent nights, it was always only girls who braved it out. However, I loved performing and did not care even when I was being made fun of. It is something that is rooted within me. It is part of me, and when that part is ignored I never felt whole. It was and has always been a very important part of my life. Love of performance never leaves you when it is part of your soul.
The comedy came later into my adulthood. I was never comfortable speaking to an audience, even when playing roles in a play, I felt uncomfortable. Living back then in the wrong gender, I felt like a person playing a role as a man in real life, then playing a role as a man playing a role as a man in a play. All forms of art should be honest and real, this part of my career was not. I usually opted for non-speaking roles in the chorus, dance leads and such. It was just too uncomfortable and insincere being something I was not. Later after I started living as a trans woman, I became so much more confident and felt way more sincere. I always could make my friends and family laugh however, since I was comfortable around them. But the stand-up comedy did not flourish till I began living as myself. Once I finally felt complete, it opened me up to dive even deeper into true performance art.
Congratulations on being the first Trans woman to perform at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival this year. What was it like to share the stage with some of the world’s biggest bands? How important is it to have Trans representation in the arts?
I have met so many amazing singers, musicians and comedians since opening 120 Diner and having live music and comedy shows practically everynight. The feeling of being accepted by them, in their world, is incredible. I have never been looked at as a trans woman performing in their world, they have always treated me as any other artist. The amount of talent in Toronto is astounding and it was a great pleasure to share a stage with them. I think that any chance trans people get to be acknowledged brings us one step closer to acceptance. The more people that know we exist and that we are in every walk of life, including the arts, the more we will be seen as human beings like everyone else.
You have been living as a transwoman for more than 25 years. At the time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism back then?
Absolutely no role models when I was first transitioning. The internet was not around yet and there certainly was not a lot of publicity about trans people. And any news or movies about trans people were usually depicted as freaks of nature. All I knew is that I may be gay, because of my attraction to other males. And I assumed I was an effeminate gay man. Of course once I lived in that world, I knew I did not belong, something was still wrong. What I saw in the mirror was not what I felt inside. So I began living slowly as how I felt, and things seemed to fall into place slowly but naturally.
You’re one woman show Tranny which was launched in 2015 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, was well received by audiences and critics alike. Can you tell us more about your process for developing this show?
I wanted to include my comedy routines and stories about my experiences. So I pieced it together in a play format, and included a couple of songs, getting in touch with my singing again, after a long time. The important thing was to be honest but also show that even trans people can have a sense of humour about themselves.
Do you have any plans to relaunch the show?
I will not be doing Tranny again, it was a one time thing just to get back on the boards. I am however working on a new musical showcase. With songs and funny commentary peppered throughout. And of course pieces of the stories I used in Tranny.
How important is it for you to educate people about the trans community as part of your performances?
Someday maybe the trans part of me will not matter, and people will just see me as a performer. But it is important while I have the opportunity to incorporate education about trans people in my show. People feel more comfortable when they are being educated about something in a light amusing and entertaining way. Yelling and demanding acceptance and understanding from people never works. They either withdraw and never reach out to learn anything, or they respond in turn in a violent and rude manner. I love to watch people in the audience respond to what I am saying or singing, in a positive manner. And you can actually see that "ah-ha" moment in some faces, as you touch on something they have wondered but never asked about trans people. People constantly come up after my shows and thank me for talking about how some trans people feel under certain circumstances. And others ask questions they normally would be afraid to ask. I always tell them to ask me anything.
You’ve had quite a varied career, from your standup, to acting roles on TV and in film, to your writing and musical success. Are there other mediums and formats you’d still like to try your hand at?
My dream is to have my own talk show. I would like to open with a comedic monologue and have comedy and musical guests. Very similar to the way Johnny Carson would do his late night show. Perhaps with comedy skits, singing and dancing bits along with the interviews. Canada is ready for something like this, and it would be very different. Of course unfortunately I think the US will do this first. They seem be featuring their trans people in the entertainment field a lot better than Canada does. But it certainly would create a media frenzy to have a trans woman on a nationwide show.
What do you think can be done to include and accept more trans individuals throughout the many forms of media culture?
People are at the point where they are curious and interested in what trans people have to say, as long as it is in a positive way. The media culture in general are ready and willing it seems, more than ever. It is up to the trans people now to come forward, be brave and be proud. Speak out and show people how wonderful you all are.
You’ve accomplished so much in your career. What’s been the single most proudest moment?
I have had many proud moments. My proudest moment though was dancing with my mother on stage in Mississauga, with the then mayor Hazel McCallion in the audience. My mother sang with the "Sweet Adelines" a musical group of women. And she asked me if I wanted to do a tap routine as part of their show. I danced the tap routine then my mother and I did a short duo, as the ladies sang. My mother is my hero and has always been my biggest supporter, no matter what I was doing. It was a great honour to perform with her.
Do you go to see standup gigs and which recent shows have you enjoyed?
I never go watch live comedy either. Sometimes when you are watching other comics you could unknowingly pick up some of their style or even some of their jokes, forgetting where you heard the joke and use it in a different way. I worry about that happening. And I have seen it happen.
Which new comedians do you admire in 2016?
I do not watch a lot of comedians on tv or even youtube actually. The comics I get to see are the ones who attend my Wednesday night open-mic every Wednesday upstairs at Club120. It is great to watch some of them honing their comedy craft and keep getting better. I support our local talent, and always will. I will include names of some of these young hopefuls if you wish, just ask in a reply.
What advice do you have for anyone who is struggling to be themselves and achieve their goals?
Do not ever worry about what other people think about you. Even if they have you believing you do not matter or you are not talented or you are weird in some way. Everyone has something that is special about them, find that something about yourself. Nurture it and grow it to its full potential. No matter what you feel at the time, visiting that special part of yourself will always make you feel better. People who love you want you to succeed and want you to be happy, reach out to them for help, if you are feeling lost. The people who are criticising you or who are being negative towards you do not want you to succeed or be happy, so get them out of your life. Do not be scared to ask for help, it is not a weakness. To know yourself and to go after what you want is a show of strength, and we all have that in us.
For Mandy's showtimes and dates please visit her website: