Comedian Sarah Franken on being transgender, spiritual and ready to rock ‘n’ roll
Comic Sarah Franken talks to PinkNews about transitioning ‘full-time’, believing in higher powers and her ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ attitude.
PinkNews chatted to Ms Franken after she performed a set at the Isobel Advertising Agency in Lodon. Every few months, the offices transform into an underground comedy club, where a series of entertainers take the stage for short increments.
Ms Franken was perfoming alongside John Robertson, Mike Shephard, John Henry Falle and Jessica Fostekew, who each discussed their relationships with gender identity.
Ms Franken’s own journey began in March, when she stepped out of the closet for good – and has not looked back since.
She said: “It’s kind of this feeling of like, ‘F*** it, who cares? You only live once, rock ‘n roll.’ That’s the way it is. I prefer to live like this.”
Her “full-time” transition from Will to Sarah has brought unexpected changes to her comedy sets – bringing out a “looser” and more creative side.
Her gradual transition recently came to an end, when she officially changed her on Facebook, saying: “I never had a real identity.”
Ms Franken, who has no plans to undergo “the operation,” has only performed a handful of acts as Sarah, although you wouldn’t know it – at venues like Isobelly Laughs, the crowds cannot get enough of her.
Ms Franken makes it clear to her audience at the start of her performances that she is a transgender woman.
While Will’s source of comedic inspiration was often rooted in anger, Sarah feels she can drop the “hard script” and embrace the “fun” in her career.
Sarah said she was worried that her sense of humour would be affected during her transition, as she felt she neglected it whilst coming out.
She said: “It feels like the pressure is on me more a little bit sometimes.
“The Guardian article [in which she featured in] came out – the way it sounded was like, ‘ I became a woman and I’m happy now’” she said, “but I just don’t want people thinking I’ve lost my satirical edge, you know?”
However, she says she has received a huge amount of support from both friends and strangers, particularly online.
“In this day and age, you’re actually rewarded for coming out.
“I’m like, ‘f**k, this is spreading like wildfire,’ and I’m so behind on e-mails of people just thanking me or congratulating me and sh*t. It’s pretty surreal.”
Even with the encouragement, though, she still lives in a temporary state of fear, worried what others in the trans community will think of her.
She worries that, without the operation, others in a similar position will consider her a “fraud.”
Ms Franken also frets over relationships as a lesbian transgender woman, saying: “I thought, ‘I’m going to be alone the rest of my life’.
“You’ll never have anybody, because if you like women and you’re like this, then you’re gonna encounter all that!”
She recalls a comment an ex-girlfriend of hers made – that transgender individuals only want attention.
“I mean, on stage, pay attention to me, that’s what it’s all about – but, in my day-to-day life, I would love just to be more anonymous.”
Currently living in Bethnal Green, Ms Franken actually feels more comfortable in smaller towns such as York and Sheffield, rather than the city.
Her issue with London is the overpopulation, which includes both open-minded individuals and bigots.
She said: “I’m in East London and it’s like, ‘f*ck, here it goes again.’
“I feel like I’m on stage. I feel like I’m doing a show all the time sometimes.”
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While her relationship with her parents is estranged, her sisters are the ones who helped her open her eyes to her sexuality.
She said: “I just know I’ve always been trans and it was something that, where I grew up in Missouri, it was just like – I would have been beaten within an inch of my life, you know?”
She has always intended to settle in England, though, saying: “By coming out here, it’s like my way of saying, ‘This is me. I’m home.’”
Ms Franken says her next challenge involves working towards being alone and embracing a “spiritual, metaphysical” strength.
She explained that one of the toughest parts of her transition is learning to remain positive on her own. She says keeping the loyalty of her friends and the love of a higher power in mind helps her cope.
Ms Franken’s next bit is a free show at Square Tavern Comedy on July 29.