A group of transgender actors from TV shows like Transparent, Looking and Shameless have filmed an open letter asking Hollywood for better trans representation.
In the video, actors Alexandra Billings, Ian Harvie, D’Lo, Trace Lysette, Alexandra Gray, Rain Valdez, and Jazzmun call for fairer casting for trans roles and remind the entertainment industry it can help support a community disproportionately suffering violence and discrimination.
“Dear Hollywood: You have the power to educate, to change minds, shape public opinion, and open hearts. So we need you to show us as we really are. Tell our stories with the creativity, dignity, humor and depth that make us real people,” the actors begin.
“Let us help you tell those stories. Or better yet, help us tell them ourselves, and then put us in them. And in everything else. In all kinds of parts.
“Yes, you’ll be giving us a job, and thank you for that. But you’ll also be making the world a little bit safer for an intensely maligned, underrepresented, and vulnerable population. Hollywood, we’re here and we’re so ready.”
The video comes ahead of the release of a new film called Anything which has drawn controversy with the casting of Matt Bomer as transgender sex worker Freda Von Rhenburg.
Trans actors Jen Richards and Laverne Cox were among those criticised Bomer’s casting, which they say in the long term creates doubt about the authenticity of transgender identities.
Cox explained to radio station SiriusXM: “Jen Richards believes that when cisgender men or non-transgender men play trans women it sends a message to people who don’t know trans folks that trans women are really men.
“And then, as brilliant as Jeffrey Tambor is, as brilliant as Jared Leto is, and all these actors who play trans women, when people who don’t know anything about trans folks and trans women see the very sexy Jared Leto and his beard accepting an Oscar for playing a trans woman, the message that it sends is that trans women are really men.
“When men find themselves attracted to trans women they have anxiety about that because of their own internalised homophobia and transphobia. They’ve gotten this message that trans women are really men and then this leads to violence.
“I would never want to tell another actor that they should or shouldn’t play a part. Art is art and artists should have the freedom to do whatever we want. But there are consequences to that.”
Last year, Jeffrey Tambor won an Emmy for his role as a transgender woman in comedy series Transparent and noted in his acceptance speech that historically, high profile transgender roles have almost always gone to non-transgender actors.
“Please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story,” he said.
“I would not be unhappy to be the last cisgender male to play a female transgender role. I think we are there now and I think the powers that be and the creators and writers need to tell these stories and hire these people.”