A coalition of more than 45 groups, talent agencies, and production companies released an open letter Tuesday demanding that the film industry depict transgender characters more often and in more flattering ways.
A joint project of the gay lobbying group GLAAD and the Time’s Up group’s 5050by2020 initiative, the letter’s signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Color of Change, the Sundance Institute, Sony Pictures Classics, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the production companies of J.J. Abrams, Shonda Rhimes, Judd Apatow, and more.
“As a community, trans people are fighting every day to be seen and accepted as human beings,” the letter declares, citing policies such as keeping gender-confused individuals out of the military and letting businesses restrict bathrooms by biological sex, and unrelated ills such as transgender unemployment, murders, and suicides as evidence that trans people are “struggling to survive” in an “unsafe” world.
The group claims that Hollywood has the power to cure America’s alleged ignorance of and bigotry toward trans people by telling empathetic stories, but chides the film industry for portraying them “almost exclusively as tragic victims, psychotic killers and one-dimensional stereotypes.”
To alleviate the situation, the group asks “to be brought to the table” to provide input on “rich and diverse stories” that will contribute to “changing America’s understanding about who trans people are.” Accompanying the letter is a “guide to creating trans-inclusive culture,” containing suggestions such as having “experienced trans people” review scripts and source material on trans-related projects, holding transgender sensitivity training for casts and crew, and hiring trans people “in every area of your project, from directing, to costumes, to lighting, to craft services, to accounting” even when making content that isn’t specifically about transgenderism.
In particular, the guide declares that “today it is a mistake” to cast non-trans actors in trans roles out of a need to anchor the project with a recognized star. “It simply isn’t cost effective to take this risk,” it claims; “recent projects which cast cis actors to play trans roles have felt the tide of public opinion turn against them and have taken a hit at the box office.”
It could be argued that those films’ performance issues had more to do with audience disinterest in the subject matter rather than casting, however. Last month, Scarlett Johansson dropped out of the lead role in a biopic about a cross-dressing 1970s kingpin following outcry from transgender advocates; rather than recast an obscure trans actor in the role, however, the production is currently in limbo.
Despite imitating another person’s characteristics and experiences being the essence of acting, the guide argues that trans roles must be reserved for trans actors to push back against society’s “belief that trans people aren’t real,” that “your chromosomes are more important than your own knowledge of yourself.”
Full story at LifeSiteNews.