LGBTQ+ advocates are frustrated and upset after news broke that Matt Bomer is set to play a transgender woman in an upcoming indie flick. Unfortunately, Bomer is just one of many cis-celebs, including Eddie Redmayne, Jared Leto, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Elle Fanning, who have portrayed transgender characters on the big screen.
“To all those writers, directors, producers and showrunners out there, let me say this: If you don’t see the dangerous real-world implications of casting men to play transgender women; 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,” Nick Adams, the director of GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program, wrote in a powerful op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter.
The film, titled Anything, stars Bomer, who identifies as gay off-screen, as a trans female sex worker, according to Variety. Timothy McNeil directed the movie, based on his play of the same name.
“For more than 40 years, Americans have sat down in front of their TV screens or in movie seats and seen male actors ‘pretend’ to be trans women,” Adams wrote, “Viewers receive two strong and wrong messages: 1. that being transgender is an act, a performance, just a matter of playing dress-up; and 2. that underneath all that artifice, a transgender woman really is a man.”
Adams brings up an important point. Hollywood directors seem to be so entrenched in casting big name actors for roles that films like Anything can come off as insincere and insensitive to the very same demographic they’re portraying.
Mark Ruffalo, who has been a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and who produced the film, joined Bomer in the hot seat after expressing his support for the film, but has since Tweeted an acknowledgement that he was open and ready for a discussion on the topic.
To the Trans community. I hear you. It’s wrenching to you see you in this pain. I am glad we are having this conversation. It’s time.
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) August 31, 2016
Hopefully, in light of this public outpour, the film and TV industry will begin to reconsider how to properly cast actors for roles like Bomer’s. Talent on the big screen certainly isn’t limited to cisgendered actors and actresses.