Casting Cis Folk as Trans Characters

Casting Cis Folk as Trans Characters

[TW: slurs, trans erasure, whitewashing]

I even did a video for this one, you can find it here.

The casting of cis people into the role of trans characters is nothing new, but it is becoming more widely opposed these days as people are finally starting to realise that trans people deserve authentic representation too.

Most recently, we have gay actor Matt Bomer taking up the mantle of a trans sex worker, with Mark Ruffalo, who we thought was one of the good guys, as a producer. Going back slightly further in time, we had Jared Leto (seriously, fuck Jared Leto) portraying a trans character in ‘Dallas Buyers’ club’, and then showing up to collect his Oscar with a full beard.

Most noticeably, at least to people outside of the trans community, is Eddie Redmayne being celebrated for portraying Lili Elbe, one of the first people to go through gender confirming surgery.


There are a variety of reasons for this.

1.It takes away jobs from trans actors. It’s a simple as that. The trans community is one that suffers horribly when it comes to careers, as many places still have legal discrimination against trans folx, and it can be really hard to hold down a job. Eddie Redmayne isn’t exactly struggling to find work these days, so he could easily have passed the Lili Elbe part to a trans actress.

2.It puts across trans experience from a cis gaze. Cis people, with all the best will in the world, can read as much as they like about dysphoria or trans experience, and can talk to trans people all day long, but they are never going to be able to pull off the subtle, authentic experience a trans actor can bring to the role. Yes it is Hollywood and yes it is never going to be perfect, but this feels like they’re not even trying.

3.It makes trans look performative. Jared Leto played a trans woman, then turned up to collect his Oscar for is with a full beard. What does that say to society? That trans women are just men in disguise. This is harmful, for a variety of reasons. You will find that Jen Richards explains this all really well in this thread, but the breakdown is this: it has an economic impact, as trans women are seen as frauds, it has a violent impact, as men feel justified attacking trans women for “tricking” them. It’s just a shitty thing to do.

4.It’s erasure. Just as Scarlett Johansson being cast in the Ghost in the Shell movie is whitewashing and erasure of Asian people, casting cis men in the roles of trans women is erasure of these authentic people. Hollywood is good at this, but they need to change. Trans folx deserve representation too.

Seriously, we need to stop erasing people. All people are valid and have valid stories to tell, and these stories should be allowed to be as authentic as possible.



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