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Transgender actor frustrated with lack of roles

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By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing author

No one ever doubted my acting talent, says Tori Clay, who has struggled to find work since coming out as a transgender woman six years ago.  Photo/Jane Keller Gordon
No one ever doubted my acting talent, says Tori Clay, who has struggled to find work since coming out as a transgender woman six years ago.
Photo/Jane Keller Gordon

SOMERVILLE — Born Victor Campisi, as Vic Clay, he found success as an actor, but life has been tougher in the past six years since stepping out as Tori Clay. My agent dumped me. I had 90 credits as Vic Clay and I had two as Tori Clay in the last four and a half years, she said. No one needs to hire a transgender actress with a male voice, the 68-year-old Somerville resident explained. And especially if she is not young and beautiful with beautiful hair. And then you add to the mix the fact that I’m so hard of hearing that I wear hearing aids.

On the plus side, Clay said, I’m the first transgender female art model in the world to sign an agency deal. I posed for artists. I’m also a graphic designer with gallery exposure, a published author, and a transgender rights activist.

First name change

As for the original name change, one day this name came to me out of the blue. I was watching a play and happened to be sitting next to the playwright. I said my name was Vic Clay, and he said, that’s an amazing name for an actor, Clay said.

I’ve done just about everything above and below the line. I have packaged top-tier feature films, directed, produced, written, shot, privately coached, coached on set, performed stunts, stunt driving, precision driving, fighting, stand-up and improvisational comedy, sung and danced. I had a hit commercial on ESPN, Clay said.

Nobody ever doubted my talent as an actor. I’ve worked with A-list stars, interacted with them, had my own trailer on set, got tricked by them and stuffed them back, Clay recalls .

One of Clays’ highlights was playing an incarcerated child molester in the movie What Doesn’t Kill You.

When the doors to my cell opened, Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo were standing there menacingly, and we argued. Then they came into my cell and beat me, Clay said.

Enter Tori Clay

    Recently Clay started playing guitar and singing into open mics and is now paid to perform.  Photo/Sent
Recently Clay started playing guitar and singing into open mics and is now paid to perform.
Photo/Sent

The pandemic has made it even harder for Clay as Tori to find roles. The LGBT Production Company Quarantined Players Facebook Page includes some of his recent work. In a real teardrop that pulls the heart called 30 Deep, I played a Vietnam veteran from Texas, Clay noted. Last year I had a lead role in a short film called Stuffed, Clay said.

In addition to becoming an actor, growing up, Clay dreamed of playing tennis and guitar. As Vic and Tori, he and she did both. Vic and Tori played competitive tennis at clubs in the Boston area. His game has been sidelined in recent years by a rotator cuff injury. As far as guitar goes, Clay recently started playing with open mics and now gets paid for his gigs.

gender spectrum

I spent most of my life thinking I was a normal straight man who liked to cross-dress, Clay thought to himself. I started to tossing between that and feeling like there was a woman I should let out. I thought maybe I was lying to myself for most of my life. I realized that I had the ability to live my life as I had to live it.

She had prepared the financial and psychological documents for the gender reassignment surgery, but used the funds to care for her elderly mother. I kept putting it off and lost the psychological moment. said Clay. I wondered if that was what I wanted to do.

Now, out of desperation to get roles, Clay said, I’ve told all the local casting actors that I’m willing to work and audition anywhere on the genre spectrum.

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