"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Here We Go Again

You may have heard that Matt Bomer was cast as a transgender woman in the film Anything.

As you can imagine, the trans community -- or at least, a vocal segment of it -- is up in arms. On social media, of course, because that way you don't actually have to think about what you're saying. This is one of the least hostile tweets:

Jamie Clayton Retweeted Trans Hollywood

I really hope you both choose to do some actual good for the trans community one day.

Bomer blocked her on Twitter, temporarily (apparently, he has now unblocked her). I would too -- this is the kind of condescending crap he doesn't need to put up with. Bomer, as a matter of fact, has been a strong supporter of trans rights, which makes Clayton's tweet even more offensive.

The idea that trans characters must be played by trans actors is, on its face, ludicrous. These are actors. They make their living pretending to be someone else and if they make us believe they are that other person, we consider them good actors. As for what considerations go into casting a role, I've been there: you're looking for the actor who is a fit for the character. You're not thinking of the actor's real-life sexual orientation or gender identity -- those are irrelevant; you're looking for the actor who is capable of moving into this character and making the character real. When I was in college I was routinely cast as old men; I was skinny, had an angular face that would take age makeup well, and I could move the way an old man moves. I was nineteen or twenty. Hollywood has the added burden of name recognition: they have to have something to draw the audience, and casting a high-profile actor is one of those somethings.

But back to the core complaint: visibility of trans people. The fact that the film is being made at all, or that other films with trans characters have been made and been successful, seems to elude this group. They're not registering on what this actually means. I realize that at this stage of the game, when the trans community is coming under attack from the "Christian" right (now that gays and lesbians are pretty much mainstream), they want real trans people to be more visible. But this set of circumstances shows us that we're dealing with a two-pronged issue: resistance and inertia.

When I was a kid -- and I knew from a very early age that I liked boys -- there's wasn't even such a thing as a "gay man." There were only "queers," who were shady, diseased, and dangerous, and universally despised. You never saw gay characters on TV and seldom in films, and when you did, they fit the stereotype: sick, pathetic, and just barely people. I was hungry enough for any representation of people like me that even that was a plus: at least we existed. It took fifty years, but that's changed a lot. And it was the same process: overcoming first inertia, and then overcoming resistance.

And I have to say, these representations of trans characters are a lot more sympathetic than the early representations of gay characters in film. I can't stress how important that is: it means that the inertia of the status quo -- the stereotypes -- is already a thing of the past. So in that regard, Trans Hollywood's tweet is flat out wrong.

So, however much you may hate it, changing people's perceptions of marginalized groups takes time. It means you have to overcome the inertia of the status quo and the resistance of those who need someone to hate to justify their own existence. Having a very public snit because it's not happening the way you think it should doesn't help -- in fact, it's as likely to damage your cause as anything else, because you've shown yourself to be immature and not ready for prime time.

When we have trans actors and actresses playing cis characters in major motion pictures, then we're there.

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