Casting male actors as transwomen

What could be wrong with that?

It's an old story by now. Creative Hollywood types decide they need to make a production about transgender issues, so they look around for a cisgender actor to play a transgender character: Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, and now Matt Bomer in the Mark Ruffalo production Anything.

Anything was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Timothy McNeil. Per Variety, the film co-stars John Carroll Lynch as a man “suicidal over the death of his wife [who] moves from Mississippi to Los Angeles, where he can be under the watchful eye of his protective sister, played by Maura Tierney. He then begins an intense friendship with Bomer’s character, a transgendered sex worker. The unlikely new couple must reconcile their vastly different backgrounds as they fill the void in each other’s lives.”

I’m very happy to be part of this daring project. Love is at the essence of great storytelling and transcends all discrimination and politicization.


A Twitter storm erupted about the casting of Bomer.

Cis audiences reward (cisgender actors) because they see being trans itself as a performance. Trans actors rather perform THE STORY, not our gender. Richards continues that casting cisgender actors feeds into violence against transgender people, while cisgender actors are rewarded for playing them, such as Jared Leto and Eddie Redmayne's lauded turns in Dallas Buyers Club and The Danish Girl, respectively.

--Jen Richards

if you're a cisgender actor please don't take trans roles. representation matters but trans characters should be played by trans actors.

--Jamie Clayton

stop casting "pretty" white cis boys for roles that belong to trans women. it's not groundbreaking.


Meanwhile Michelle Rodriguez' new film (Re)Assignment is scheduled to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11. In that film a hitman is forced to undergo sex reassignment to become a hitwoman.

It's been accused of transphobia and implying that sex reassignment would be a punishment rather than a choice.

the deplorable new movie formerly known as "Tomboy: A Revenger's Tale" starring Michelle Rodriguez (@MRodOfficial). It has now been renamed "(Re)Assignment". Apparently "Tomboy" was to insensitive of a title. Written and directed by Walter Hill (from a story by Denis Hamill), the film centers on an expert assassin who is double-crossed and transformed into a woman (Rodriguez) by a rogue surgeon (Sigourney Weaver), and then sets out for vengeance. This movie is a remake of "Johnny Handsome" with a Gender bending twist.


It's excusable for people on the sidelines thinking that a bunch of transgender actresses are just pissed because they didn't get the roles.

But that would miss the point. What transgender people are concerned about is that Hollywood is promoting the idea that trans women are really just men.

I auditioned for this (a different role in the movie). I told them they shouldn't have a cis man play a trans woman. They didn't care.

First, there's the practical/economic reason. It denies actual trans women opportunities, jobs, resources, which hurts entire community.

It will result in violence against trans women. And that is not hyperbole, I mean it literally. Cis men playing trans women leads to death.

Here's why. I've spent years looking at violence against trans women, particularly who does it & why. I talk to survivors. There's a pattern.

Straight men are attracted to trans women. They always have been, always will be. We are some of the most popular sex workers. It's a fact.

BUT they are afraid that being with trans women makes them gay/less masculine. They seek us out, enjoy us, then punish us for their anxiety.

Let's be more direct: They have sex with us, worry that makes them gay, then reassert their masculinity through violence aimed at us.

Back to the point. WHY do men, who aren't attracted to men, who only date women, think being with trans women makes them gay/less masculine?

Because culture as a whole still thinks trans women are "really" men. Decades of showing us that way in shows. It's been internalized.

Again & again cis men play trans women in media with the furthest reach, are rewarded for it, & tell the world trans women are "really" men.

And that is going to lead to violence. Not to me, likely, but to girls already most at risk. Any cis men who do this have bloody hands.

--Jen Richards

Ruffalo, at least responded. Bomer not so much.

To the trans community. I hear you. It’s wrenching to see you in this pain. I am glad we are having this conversation. It’s time.

Please have a little compassion. We are all learning.

--Mark Ruffalo

While that may be true, Ruffalo’s suggestion (“it’s time”) that this is a new conversation is way off the mark.

While Ruffalo comes across as a person whose intentions are good, it’s very difficult to believe that it did not cross his, or any other decision maker’s minds, that perhaps casting Bomer as a transgender woman was problematic.

--Ellen Killoran, Forbes

While I agree that portraying sex reassignment as a nefarious punishment is off the hook wrong, At least in (Re)Assignment the so-called trans woman is portrayed by a woman actor. One has to wonder why Hollywood thinks we should be portrayed by male actors instead.




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