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Transgender actors and actresses are constantly passed up for playing transgender characters. But in a new video, nine stars are fighting back, showing how Hollywood can make more inclusive changes.
In ScreenCrunch and GLAAD’s “Why Hollywood Needs Trans Actors,” transgender stars from such shows as Transparent and Drunk History explain why Hollywood needs to write more positive trans roles for trans actors. In 2015, only 16 percent of Americans knew another trans person, and 84 percent of Americans were mostly exposed to trans people via TV and movies.
Seeing how most depictions of transgender people are negative, that rate is daunting. From The Hangover Part 2 to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, deeply transphobic representations of transgender people can breed mistrust, contempt, and disgust towards transgender men, women, and non-binary people in the U.S.
The video also points out how positive transgender roles are often played by cisgender characters, particularly cisgender men starring as transgender women. This sends the message that trans women are really men, or that transgender women’s experiences are comparable to cisgender men’s lives.
“I have lost parts written for trans women to men because I don’t look ‘trans enough,'” actress Jen Richards, the video’s writer, says during her interview. “When cis people play trans parts, they’re focused on playing ‘trans.'”
How to Get Away with Murder‘s Alexandra Billings also points out how most films and TV series starring trans characters are coming-of-age tales, focusing on gender transitioning while ignoring the experiences of transgender people beyond their coming out. This can feel alienating to trans people, who want to see themselves represented beyond their transitioning.
“Imagine if all the movies in the theater were coming-of-age stories,” she says.
“That’s what it’s like for us,” Shameless‘s Elliot Fletcher replies.
As the transgender population continues to grow in visibility and numbers across the United States, representation in mainstream media is more important than ever. The New York Times reports that over 1.4 million Americans are transgender, doubling previous numbers. And as more people feel comfortable coming out and transitioning, accurate portrayals of trans people will only help in their fight for equal rights.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.