The newest trend in Hollywood is not matte lipstick or ombre hair. It is something much more troubling — cis men are taking on the roles of trans* women in major blockbuster films and television shows. The most recent instance is in the film, Anything, yet to be released, in which Matt Bomer plays a transgender sex worker. This film is preceded by numerous films and shows where cis men play trans* women. Even when only looking at films from the 21st century, the list is too long: Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl (2015), Jared Letto in Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Tom Wilkinson in Normal (2003), Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl (2003), and John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001).
Casting cisgender men to play the part of trans* women is problematic because it teaches the public that trans* women are actually just cis men playing dress up. Whether intentional or not, casting cis men to play trans* women shows viewers that trans* women are not women; they are men who shave, tuck, and throw on some heels. This is problematic because trans* women are not men. They are women. And anyone who wants to argue the opposite is wrong.
Another prominent argument for casting cis men is that trans* actors aren’t big enough stars to carry a major blockbuster film. The issue with this argument is that it is cyclical. There are no big Hollywood names who identify as trans* because they are denied roles in which they could become huge stars. Trans* people will never be able to become big enough stars to carry a blockbuster film if they are not given the opportunities to get in the limelight.
But, as a cisgender person, I don’t want to speak for trans*-identifying individuals. Instead, I will give my platform and audience to Jen Richards, actress, writer, producer, and activist, and trans* woman. She turned to Twitter to explain her anger about cis men taking the roles of trans* women (These tweets are to be read in columns.):
Richards goes on to say more:
Richards further explains her tweets in this video. While it is a bit lengthy, it is well-worth the watch if you want to get a deeper understanding of her argument and her personal connection to this issue.
Hollywood needs to stop taking away the ability of trans* people to tell their own stories, to allow them to be in control of their own narratives. Only then can we, the public, stop seeing trans* people as “playing dress up” as another gender. Hollywood casting won’t end transphobia, but it sure as hell is a step in the right direction.
(Featured Image Source: Wikipedia)