September will witness television history when the CBS legal drama Doubt debuts with Laverne Cox playing the first main cast transgender character for a scripted network TV series. The web series Her Story featuring my homegirls Angelica Ross and Jen Richards received an Emmy nomination.
Another reality show series featuring a trans cast in the Whoopi Goldberg produced Strut will debut September 20, and we are waiting to see if I Am Jazz gets renewed for a third season.
Tangerine, a move featuring two trans actresses in Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez garnered attention for the Oscar campaign that was run for its two stars.
The indie movie Boy Meets Girl that’s on Netflix right now, featured a trans feminine character named Ricky that surprise, surprise was played by trans actress Michelle Hendley, also got some well deserved buzz and attention
You would think that with all the interest in trans people’s lives, that Hollywood would be planning to whet that appetite with movies that have transgender characters being played by trans actors.
And now after hearing Matt Bomer is going to be the latest white cisgender male to play a transwoman on the silver screen in an attempt to parlay that into an Academy Award nomination a la Jared Leto and Eddie Redmayne, it’s time for Hollywood to have several sections of seats at the Rose Bowl about that transphobic practice.
As a matter of fact, here’s a Change.org petitioncalling for the movie Anything to not even be released.
That’s how fed up the trans feminine community is about this irritating pattern of seeing white cisgender actors repeatedly get to play trans characters on the silver screen to mine and our community’s displeasure, and especially the displeasure of the trans actresses trying to make a living in Hollywood.
Jen Richards calls out the problemswith why it’s a big deal with cis men playing trans women and I agree with many of the points she made in her Twitter chain that is featured in the Mic post I linked to.
As for cis women playing trans characters, since I was asked about it at Chautauqua, I’ll repeat what I said there. Personally I don’t like it simply because I want my trans sisters to have first cracks at those roles, and there is no equity yet in Hollywood in terms of trans actresses getting fair shots to play cis feminine characters.
But if it’s done by the cis actress in question with respect for our lives, I can deal with it. If I’m forced to choose, I prefer a cis woman playing a trans woman instead of the reprehensible transphobic pattern going on right now.
One example of a cis woman who is respectfully playing a trans woman and nailing it is Karla Mosley, who plays model Maya Avant Forrester on the CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful.
I’ve been impressed by how Mosley and the B& B writers have handled the nuances of Maya’s character living as a trans woman, and the added bonus of that is it is the first time we have seen it play out in a Black family on network television
As for the tired trope of ‘transwomen are men’ trope that’s a relic of disco-era second wave feminism, past time to give that crap a rest. especially in Hollywood. Some of you Hollywood peeps need to show up at a trans pageant or a trans convention. When you do so, you’ll note that some of my trans feminine sisters will give Miss Universe a run for her money in the beauty department.
But even having a cis woman playing a trans woman has bumped into at times the entrenched Hollywood transphobia about trans women.
Several years ago Kerry Washington played a trans woman in the 2009 movie Life Is Hot In Cracktown, and she said in an interview in the runup to its release at the time she didn’t get the part at first because the director thought she was ‘too beautiful to play a transwoman’.
Even some of the cis women actresses playing trans women have had some interesting reactions and revelations about what we deal with while walking in our trans feminine pumps for their roles.
Chloe Sevigny admitted in an interviewthat when she played Mia in the British series Hit and Miss, because of the prosthetic penis she had to wear for the role, she not only cried every day when she had to put it on, she felt unattractive and questioned her desirability when she was in character.
Kerry Washington said this in an interview about her Marybeth character.
“The biggest thing I learned is that these are individuals who are born as women. They are women but their biology/anatomy has betrayed them in some way and that’s the fundamental thing to understand. I am not playing a man who wants to be a woman, I am playing a woman who has been born with a physical inconsistency so my body doesn’t reflect my emotional truth. That’s key to understanding who this person is.”
Too bad the rest of Hollywood doesn’t get the fundamental truth about trans women that Kerry Washington so easily grasped.
That being said, I still have a major problem with cisgender males playing trans women in Hollywood when there’s a long list of trans women like Alexandra Billings, Trace Lysette. Jamie Clayton, Mya Taylor and countless others ready, willing and able to do the job if given the opportunity to play these roles.
But the key reason I have a problem with it is because as Jen and other trans women across our community have stated, it reinforces the stereotype that ‘transwomen are men’, and that has negative life or death consequences for us.
The ‘that’s a man’ stereotype repeatedly spat at trans women of all ethnic backgrounds is also negatively affecting the human rights of trans people and our allies around the country as HB2 and the repeal of HERO were Exhibits A and B of.
And with the Republican Party and conservative movement revving up bathroom fears of trans people in order to attack human rights laws and demonize trans people for their own political gain, we trans women of color are paying in blood for that and the desire of Hollywood cisgender men to get an Oscar.
So it’s why I have had it up to here with lazy Hollywood directors and casting directors repeatedly putting cis men in drag to play trans women.