Shakina Nayfack Brings Her Fascinating Take on Life to the Yost

She is, by most standards, part of white Middle America’s waking nightmare: A tatted-up Marxist transsexual artist who writes that she has given her pussy to Jesus.

Yet, talk to Shakina Nayfack, a born-and-raised Orange Countian turned New York City-based theater performer, and it’s hard to shake the impression that hers is actually a quintessentially American story. After all, what’s more American than finding, and fighting for, your place in a country constantly slapping itself on its red-white-and-blue-hued back for being all about opportunity and self-determination?

Nayfack brings her one-woman show Manifest Pussy to the Yost Theater Friday, July 1, as part of WTF Fridays. A synthesis of two earlier solo shows, the music-infused piece both documents and celebrates her journey, reminding anyone struggling with their place in the world to not give up. She describes it as both angry and loving, fun and feisty, and it’s all about giving hope to the underdog, something that has long been etched into Nayfack’s familial DNA.

“Labor organizing has been part of my family for generations,” says Nayfack, who was born Jewish but who attended Catholic school in Rancho Santa Margarita. “My great-grandmother was a labor organizer, my grandfather was a fierce defender of the Chicano Latino community and my [mother] was also involved.”

Her grandfather’s favorite quote is from John Dewey, which is inscribed beneath a poster of Christ preaching the Golden Rule in a frame in Nayfack’s home: “Our government here in America is not perfect, and it never will be perfect as long as it is made up of human beings. But it is so far the best government of the people, for the people, and by the people … until we have the time and wisdom and the tolerance and the power to make it over—into something better.”

That’s why amid all this hubbub of identity politics and backlash against it, Nayfack, who would seem firmly positioned on the frontlines of that battle, yearns for a time when America can get over it and put its straight/queer/whatever shoulder to the wheel.

“To me, identity politics is such a 20th century phenomenon and I hope we’re at the tail end of that wave because what I think we need to be looking at fundamentally is economic inequality and how that plays into education, immigration, labor, gender, politics, and everything else,” she said. “But, I’m a Marxist at heart.”

Before coming out as transgender and her gender confirmation surgery, Nayfack, who was born Jared Nayfack, was an activist. At Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Nayfack was bullied by classmates for wearing nail polish, makeup and spiked heels to class. When Nayfack complained, school officials told her and her mother that the young student should enroll in another school, Nayfack told the Weekly in 2013. Instead, she attempted to form an ultimately unsuccessful gay-straight alliance on campus in 1999, when she was a senior.

Nayfack moved to New York in 2011 with the goal of directing theater, but wound up writing two solo pieces, which serve as the groundwork for Manifest Pussy. Though she knows people in Orange County and Los Angeles, and actually helped one of the show’s sponsors, DeColores Queer OC (other sponsors include the LGBT Center OC and the Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble) get off the ground, this will be the first time that she will perform in the region as a transgender woman.

She says that the increase of diversity in Orange County, gender, sexuality and ethnic, is welcome, particularly since “even the idea of transpride was unfathomable when I was living there as a young person.” That may be true, but there aren’t many transpeople in Orange County—hell the world—whose expression of that experience matches that of Nayfack, who has written matter-of-factly about both being gangbanged by Thai strippers and how she is a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven.

“I think what I’m trying to do in a way is to represent the true teachings of Jesus,” she said. “So maybe all these folks in Middle America who may have misconstrued [His] message can hopefully find a correction. That’s not my only objective, but I think that is so wonderfully subversive about it. There are so many queer people who have felt divorced from a relationship with the divine, whatever their faith is, because so many of the great religious teachings have been polluted with homophobia. But transgendered people have been around for thousands of years in nearly every society and it’s only in our contemporary western culture that we haven’t made room [for them]. So, I would ask people who just want to sling mud, ‘how many times have you been made to feel that you’re not a real man or a real woman?’ So, really, I see nothing radical about having a tatted-up transwoman talking about Jesus and her new vagina in the same breath.”

Manifest Pussy at Yost Theater, 307 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana, (714) 683-3826; Fri., 8:30 p.m. $25-$30.

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