Last week it was announced that out actor Matt Bomer would play a transgender prostitute in the upcoming film Anything, produced by Mark Ruffalo.
The film, directed by Tim McNeil, is based on McNeil’s play of the same name, about a trans sex worker named Freda (Bomer) who befriends a lonely Southern widower (John Carroll Lynch).
Not surprisingly, the choice to cast yet another cisgender male actor in a trans role has riled many.
@NewNowNext yet another cis person telling a trans story getting Everything wrong. It's a painful reminder we have to make our own stories
— candis cayne (@candiscayne) August 30, 2016
“It’s yet another painful reminder that, in the eyes of so many people, transgender women are really just men,’ GLAAD’s Nick Adams wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. “That message is toxic and dangerous.”
It also keeps trans people from working in Hollywood: Cis actors Eddie Redmayne and Jared Leto were showered with awards for playing trans women in The Danish Girl and Dallas Buyers Club—or rather Hollywood’s interpretation of what a trans woman should be.
Actress-activist Jen Richards addressed the new film—and why it’s so problematic—in an insightful YouTube post.
She also revealed she had auditioned for a small part in the film and was told Bomer was pre-cast in the movie—meaning no other actors were considered.
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) August 28, 2016
Like Richards, Adams feels trans actors don’t just deserve to play trans roles—they do it better.
“They don’t have to spend weeks or months ’preparing and researching’ to play a trans person,” he points out. ‘They can walk in the door on Day One, ready to deliver an authentic, nuanced performance.”
But there aren’t any trans actresses, goes the response. To that we say: Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton, Candis Cane, Michelle Hendley, Jen Richards, Trace Lysette, Alexandra Billings.
These aren’t just talented trans actresses, these are women helping to carry major productions like Sense8, Orange is the New Black and Transparent.
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor gave powerful performances in Tangerine, a film that made many critics Top Ten lists.
Movie studios are a business, and getting people in the theater is always going to be their primary goal. But, says Adams, then maybe a movie like Anybody doesn’t need to be made.
“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,” he says. “We would rather be left out than be constantly portrayed as something we’re not.”
Bomer has not addressed the issue, but Ruffalo responded to the controversy on Twitter.
“To the trans community,” he wrote. “I hear you. It’s wrenching to you see you in this pain. I am glad we are having this conversation. It’s time.”
Given that the film is done, is there still a conversation to be had?
“I really hope you both choose to do some actual good for the trans community one day,” Clayton tweeted to both Bomer and actress Michelle Rodriguez, who portrays a trans assassin in the upcoming movie Re-Assignment.
"I hear you" is insulting
— candis cayne (@candiscayne) September 3, 2016
The real question, though, is does Hollywood really want to tell real trans stories or does it want to show us more men in dresses?