7 actresses who are trans explain why casting cis actors in trans roles is a problem


American Horror Story regular Matt Bomer has been chosen to portray a transgender sex worker in an upcoming film adaptation of Timothy McNeil’s Anything, Variety reported this week. This is frustrating, as it typifies Hollywood’s ongoing issue of casting cisgender actors in trans roles—roles that could easily go to any number of capable, if lesser known, trans performers. Countless trans actors and actresses have already broken down why this trend is a problem. (They’re asked about it in literally every interview they give.) So, let’s revisit what Laverne Cox, Hari Nef, Mya Taylor, and four other actresses have already said over and over and over and over and over again.

1. Jen Richards (co-star, co-writer, and co-producer of Emmy-nominated web series Her Story)

“What people have internalized through things like Eddie Redmayne playing [Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl] is [the idea] that a trans woman is really a man… Behind the character of Maura on Transparent, we see a straight guy, Jeffrey Tambor… Behind the Dallas Buyers Club‘s Rayon character, we see Jared Leto. That’s who the audience knows. So when we see this beautiful woman onscreen, we think, ‘That’s really Jared Leto. That’s really a man.’ That’s the attitude that gets internalized. So when…a straight guy sees me, is attracted to me as a woman…that triggers a crisis in him… He thinks everyone else is going to think [he’s] gay because to everyone else this trans woman is really a man, and this, in certain communities, leads to violence.” – CBC Radio One’s q

2. Mya Taylor (Independent Spirit Award-winning star of Tangerine, Diane from the Moon, and Happy Birthday, Marsha!)

“Of course I’d like to see trans people playing trans roles, but it’s not an issue to me if a cisgender person plays a trans role as long as they play it truthfully. Just be honest about the role and make sure that the story’s being told correctly and truthfully. At the same time, I feel like trans people should get to play trans roles so that more trans people can come into the industry and get work. We’re not given that many opportunities because we’re always being discriminated against.” — Fusion

3. Laverne Cox (main cast member of upcoming CBS series Doubt, recurring cast member on Orange is the New Black, and Daytime Emmy Award-winning producer)

“It’s about business, and we are in, as bell hooks calls it, [an] ‘Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy…’ [Casting] ‘Andrew Garfield the Spider-Man guy’ in an Arcade Fire video is going to make headlines. And people are going to click on it and talk about it. And [you, the media, are] asking me about it, so that’s a business decision… If I were asked to do the Arcade Fire video, I don’t know if it would have the same kind of attention.” — Bustle

4. Hari Nef (recurring cast member on Transparent and IMG model)

“I feel like the clock is ticking in terms of how long can these studios and these producers [can] really get away with casting cis people in trans roles when, like, I’m here… Laverne [Cox is] here. Trace Lysette’s here. Alexandra Billings is here. We’re all here, and we’re trans… We can come to set with years—months of lived experience that a cis actor would have to study for months and months and months… Yes, Jeffrey Tambor kills [the role of Maura on Transparent]. Eddie Redmayne’s a great actor and is fabulous in The Danish Girl… But at the end of the day, trans people deserve the opportunity to tell our own stories, and I hope, moving forward, we can see more of these castings.” — The Huffington Post‘s Queer Voices

5. Shakina Nayfack (Lilly Award-winning stage actress and recurring cast member on Difficult People)

“If you let someone else tell your story, they’re going to get the details wrong. Trans representation is really on trend at the moment. We’re seeing it more and more in pop culture and in national conversations about civil rights and legal protections. So if you introduce trans characters that aren’t played by trans people, you’re not really doing any favors to further trans visibility. It’s not just our narratives that are on the line; it’s our bodies, our presence—our very existence. This past year, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in hate crimes and murders of trans women of color, and it’s no coincidence that this uptick in violence comes at a time of increased trans representation in popular culture and political discourse.” — Next Magazine

6. Trace Lysette (recurring cast member on Transparent)

“Trans talent is not even making it into the audition room, and we’re not even being afforded the opportunity to tell our own stories. I feel that is problematic… If a cis person can be more trans than me, then so be it…but I strongly doubt it. Unless you have lived as a trans person and had to deal with the day-to-day struggles and experienced the cultural flavor specific to trans identity, then there is bound to be some inauthenticity there… Trans folk are so often pushed to the margins and not afforded the resources and opportunities that some nontrans people are. Anytime you give a trans person an opportunity, especially an opportunity to be ourselves, you are promoting a shift in the way society sees us.” — The Advocate

7. Alexandra Billings (Joseph Jefferson Award-winning stage actress, recurring cast member on Transparent, and recent guest star on How to Get Away with Murder)

“Everyone in the community is already angry about [Eddie Redmayne being cast in The Danish Girl], and no one’s even seen it yet. Our [transgender] community needs to take responsibility. We can’t just point fingers. We need to improve ourselves artistically, and show casting directors and writers and creators of TV, film, and plays that we exist. On the other side of the table, the casting directors and writers and producers need to get braver. They need to make some more calls, go out and see more people. I’m certainly not saying everything’s OK. It doesn’t make me happy. Would I prefer that [Elle] Fanning not had been cast [as a young trans man in About Ray]? Of course. Do I know a couple of trans male actors that can do that role? Yes. I do, actually. Do I know a couple of trans actors that are that famous to be able to bankroll a major film? No, and neither do you.” — Cosmopolitan

Bad at filling out bios seeks same.

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