It is 2016; society has caught up, and transgender issues are finally receiving national visibility. So why is Hollywood still portraying inaccurate representations on-screen?
This year the studio has announced Walter Hill’s film, Re (Assignment), which follows the revenge story of a male assassin forced into gender reassignment surgery; and – as of last month –revealed that Matt Bomer is set to portray a trans sex worker in the upcoming Timothy McNeil film, Anything.
There is certainly no denying that the A-Lister cast will fill cinema seats, but the truth of the matter is by placing yet another transgender role into the hands of a cisgender actor we are causing more damage than good.
Cisgender actors are capable of considerately and realistically depicting trans people, but this doesn’t mean that they should. Such a casting choice can feed into Hollywood’s vicious cycle, where the predominantly white, cisgender A-listers continue to take precedence over newcomers with a minority background. Ultimately, this cycle leaves no room for development in the industry and denies transgender actors with work opportunities in an already limited casting pool.
On top of this, the motion can be self-deprecating for members of the trans community. Actor Jen Richards explains it best,
“When Matt Bomer plays a trans sex worker, he is telling the world that underneath it all, trans women like me are still really just men.”
A man is never cast to play a cis woman (unless it is for comedic purpose or a Shakespearean play in the late 1500s), so why is it okay for a man to play a woman just because she is transgender? The continued enforcement of such a belief offers little respect to the community and reignites the idea that a woman or man who is transgender is not a real female or male.
While it is not right to consign a transgender actor to only portraying trans-specific roles, it’s also crucial that our screens grace us with the stories of real trans people. The community deserve the right to tell their stories, and it is only through their eyes that we can gain an accurate insight and understanding.
In many ways, representation is the missing piece to our social puzzle. When voices stop being mimed and cultural stories start being heard, real change can occur!
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