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Hollywood Keeps Casting Cisgender Actors to Play Trans. Here’s Why That’s Toxic.

Casting cisgender male actors in trans roles leads to violence and discrimination against transgender women.

Hollywood Keeps Casting Cisgender Actors to Play Trans. Here’s Why That’s Toxic.

More transgender characters have appeared in mainstream film and TV in the past two years than Hollywood has seen in decades. Yet at the same time as trans women like Laverne Cox, star of Orange is the New Black, and Caitlyn Jenner, part of the Kardashian empire and star of her short-lived reality show I am Cait, have become household names, Hollywood continues to cast transgender roles, particularly trans women, with cisgender male actors —people whose gender matches the biological sex they were assigned at birth. Movies like Dallas Buyers Club, The Danish Girl, and the forthcoming Anything all feature cisgender male actors playing trans women, as does the show Transparent, though the latter takes place at the beginning of its lead character’s coming out. While many within Hollywood argue that “acting is acting,” transgender actors and activists strongly disagree.

Jen Richards, an Emmy-award nominated actor, writer and activist, with roles in the forthcoming new legal show Doubt on CBS, alongside Laverne Cox, and ABC’s Nashville, among many others, tells Second Nexus that she feels “exasperated and disappointed” every time another cisgender actor gets the part for a trans woman. “Trans women see themselves as a type of woman. I am a trans woman, not the same as every other woman, but I am a type of woman. When you cast Matt Bomer, Eddie Redmayne or Jared Leto [as trans women] you are saying that a trans woman is a type of man,” she says. For that same reason, she takes far less issue with women actors playing trans women, despite issues of authenticity, because, “If women were playing trans women, it would reinforce the notion that trans women are women.”

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