Trans People in Trans Roles

Debbie says:

I don’t track broadcast TV, so I didn’t know until the Golden Globe Awards ceremony last Sunday that a cis man was playing a trans woman on The Dallas Buyers’ Club. But Jared Leto’s acceptance speech was somewhat of a travesty (and not in the historical meaning of that word, either*).

Lots of folks have called Leto, and the casting, out, but Monica Roberts at Transgriot is especially concise and scathing.

Those trans women are the reason you have a Golden Globe award.

Leto spent the two minutes of his speech making fun of women, and thus by extension trans women.

Roberts quotes Jaila Simms, whom she attributes with the basic point that Leto couldn’t have the award if it wasn’t for trans women’s lived experience:

CeCe McDonald is being released from 19 months in jail today for defending herself from a hate crime, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock are pioneering in media for trans women, DOMA was just passed, little trans kids are bullied, depressed, and dying!! And it was a platform to honor, respect, and enlighten and that moment was diminished.

I’ve seen a few fine performances of cis people in trans roles, including Felicity Huffman in TransAmerica, and Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. But the quality of their performances doesn’t justify the casting. Trans people in trans roles is no different than disabled actors in disabled roles, or people of color in roles of color. We have fine actors in every sector of the human spectrum, and many of them have few enough opportunities to act at all, let alone bring their experience to their performance.

Besides, if Hollywood cast these roles correctly in the first place, we’d get better acceptance speeches.

* “Travesty” comes from the French travestir (“to disguise”), which in turn comes from Latin trans (“over”) + vestire (“to clothe”). Although “travesty” has generally been used as “ridiculous” or “farcical,” it has very close associations with “transvestite,” as should be obvious from the root words.