In yet another case of Transgender misrepresentation in Hollywood, Matt Bomer in Anything shows cisgender actors will likely always be chosen first.
Cisgender actor, Matt Bomer has had quite the career. From Guiding Light’s Ben Reade in the mid-90’s to playing Lady Gaga’s boy toy in American Horror Story, Bomer has been showing off his assets for decades.
Despite his illustrious career and beautiful blue eyes, Bomer has recently found himself in hot water. The Transgender community has expressed outrage over his acceptance of a role playing a transgender sex worker in the new film.
In the film, John Carroll Lynch plays a man who is suicidal after the death of his wife and moves from Mississippi to Los Angeles. He later begins a deep friendship with the transgender sex worker, played by a cisgender Matt Bomer. The unlikely new couple must reconcile their vastly different lives as they fill the void in each other’s lives.
Many people within the Transgender community have spoken out against film. So often Trans roles in movies are played by cisgender actors, erasing the opportunity for proper representation of trans people in movies.
Sounding off on Twitter on Sunday, filmmaker, activist and Emmy nominated trans actress Jen Richards explains several reasons why cisgender actors should not be cast in the role of trans women:
- “First, there’s the practical/economic one. It denies actual trans women opportunities, jobs, resources, which hurts entire community.
- Then there’s an aesthetic. Now, I agree, in principle, that anyone can play anyone. As an artist, I want that kind of freedom myself, but having trans people play trans people allows for more informed, subtle, authentic performance. It makes for BETTER ART, which is the point.
- But all of this pales to the main reason not to have cis men play trans women. This is the reason that is making me cry as I type this… It will result in violence against trans women. And that is not hyperbole, I mean it literally. Cis men playing trans women leads to death.
“Here’s why. I’ve spent years looking at violence against trans women, particularly who does it & why. I talk to survivors. There’s a pattern. Straight men are attracted to trans women. They always have been, always will be. We are some of the most popular sex workers. It’s a fact.
BUT they are afraid that being with trans women makes them gay/less masculine. They seek us out, enjoy us, then punish us for their anxiety.
Let’s be more direct: They have sex with us, worry that makes them gay, then reassert their masculinity through violence aimed at us.
Back to the point. WHY do men, who aren’t attracted to men, who only date women, think being with trans women makes them gay/less masculine?
Because culture as a whole still thinks trans women are “really” men. Decades of showing us that way in shows. It’s been internalized.
Again & again cis men play trans women in media with the furthest reach, are rewarded for it, & tell the world trans women are “really” men.
When Jared Leto plays Rayon and accepts his Oscar with a full beard, the world see’s that being a trans women is just a man performing.
@MattBomer plays a trans sex worker, he is telling the world that underneath it all, trans women like me are still really just men.
And that is going to lead to violence. Not to me, likely, but to girls already most at risk. Any cis men who do this have bloody hands.”
In fact, Richards does have a point – violence against trans women has seen a massive uptick in recent years and most of that violence has been targeted at transgender women of color. This year alone 19 transgender people have lost their lives to transphobic violence. In 2015, that number totalled a whopping 21 trans women who were murdered in the U.S. alone.
Bomer’s former co-star and the film’s executive producer, Mark Ruffalo spoke up on Twitter to point out that he was responsible for the casting choice.
In all honesty I suggested Matt for the role after the profound experience I had with him while making “The Normal Heart”.
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) August 31, 2016
Ruffalo — who worked with Bomer on The Normal Heart — is responding to online criticism that a cisgender actor was cast instead of a transgender actor.
Aside from his roles in films portraying gay characters, Ruffalo has been a long-time advocate for social justice issues facing marginalized people. Two years ago, Ruffalo attended Netroots Nation in Detroit where he spoke out for equality and marched along with thousands protesting the Detroit Water Shutoff.
This is not the first time Hollywood has found itself at the center of a Transerasure controversy. Most recently was last year’s film Stonewall. A dramatized retelling of the real life events that led up to the Stonewall Riots in 1969. These riots were a tipping point that many believe launched the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.
A boycott was formed over director Roland Emerich’s choice to cast a white, cisgender male in the lead role. It was the opinion of many that the omovie should be focused more on the Trans people of color who were involved directly in the riots. More than most, Marsha P. Johnson was the person believed to be the best suited as central point for this film.
From Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry as real-life Brandon Teena to Felicity Huffman in TransAmerica, the Transgender community is extremely vocal against Cis actors playing Trans characters.
It is unclear as to when or if Hollywood will get the message.