A transgender staff member of GLAAD is shedding some light on why Matt Bomer being cast as a transgender female is causing such a backlash.
‘The decision to put yet another man in a dress to portray a transgender woman touches a nerve for transgender people, and rightfully so. It’s yet another painful reminder that, in the eyes of so many people, transgender women are really just men,’ Nick Adams writes in a column in The Hollywood Reporter posted today.
‘That message is toxic and dangerous.’
The film Anything is based on Tim McNeil’s play and Bomer’s character is a trans woman named Freda Von Rhenberg who worked as a sex worker in Los Angeles. Bomer’s The Normal Heart co-star Mark Ruffalo is executive producing the film.
Bomer is the latest in a long list of actors to play transgender women in films. The others include Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, Tom Wilkinson in Normal, Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, and Terence Stamp in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, among others.
In contrast, the two leads in the the acclaimed film Tangerine – about two trans sex workers – were played by transgender actresses.
‘When you hire a trans actor, they don’t have to spend weeks or months “preparing and researching” to play a trans person,’ Adams points out. ‘They can walk in the door on day one, ready to deliver an authentic, nuanced performance.
Adams writes that ‘without a doubt’ Bomer and Ruffalo took the project on with the best of intentions. But he points out that Hollywood’s history of casting cisgender males in trans roles ‘has dangerous real-world implications.’
‘It’s what prompts lawmakers in states like North Carolina to legislate that a transgender woman must use the men’s restroom, humiliating her and putting her in harm’s way. It’s what motivated James Dixon to murder Islan Nettles as she walked down the street, minding her own business. At his trial, Dixon said that he attacked the 21-year-old black trans woman after he flirted with her, then his friends teased him saying, “That’s a man.” Not wanting to be “fooled” and feeling like his “manhood” was threatened, Dixon killed her.’
Adams adds: ‘To all those writers, directors, producers and showrunners out there, let me say this: If you don’t see the dangerous real-world implications of casting men to play transgender women; if you are more concerned with the bottom line or with star power or with how your product will sell overseas, then don’t write transgender characters into your projects.
‘We would rather be left out than be constantly portrayed as something we’re not. Portrayed in a way that gets us killed.’