This is why trans actors can't get work in Hollywood

This is why trans actors can't get work in Hollywood

There was recently a significant controversy when Scarlett Johansson was cast in the role of Jean Marie Gill, better known by the name Dante 'Tex' Grill, in the Rupert Sanders-directed film Rub & Tug.

First news outlet published the announcement of the casting like any other movie, but things soon changed once the internet caught on to the fact that the subject of the film was a trans man.

Johannson has previously gotten herself into a similar predicament in Ghost of the Shell, also directed by Sanders, as she was cast in the role of a Japanese woman.

It's fair to say that people weren't pleased.

When reached for comment, Johannson's publicist told Bustle to "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment".

While this is probably not the statement's intention, it does highlight the fact that this is an ongoing issue rather than a wholly new one. Cisgender actors - whether it be the aforementioned actors, or Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, or Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club - have consistently done the same thing in the past.

On Tuesday, trans actress Trace Lysette spoke out about the casting, pointing out that it doesn't go both ways.

"So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all? Hollywood is so f**ked," she wrote. "I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case".

This raises the question: why is it that trans actors aren't cast in the same roles?

From the experiences shared by trans actors and actresses over the last few years, it seems that the issue comes down to casting directors having unrealistic expectations of filling trans roles - while they aren't even considered for cis roles.

Oddly enough, it seems that actual trans performers are often deemed as 'not looking trans enough', while cis actors such as Jared Leto or Jeffrey Tambor are cast with ease.

Crystal Frasier, a trans author and game developer, touched on this issue in April. "There are trans actresses out there TODAY who can't get work playing trans women because casting directors insist they 'don't look trans enough,'" she tweeted. "It isn't an accident that Hollywood keeps casting men to play us, because that's what they want you to think we are."

And this isn't an isolated experience either. Dana Aliya Levinson, a trans actress, wrote an article for the Huffington Post where she wrote about the phrase 'You don't look trans enough', which she's been told countless times in the audition process. She wrote:

"Stereotypes exist as ways that the minority ‘other’ can be distilled to a majority audience in a quick caricature. Stereotypes are familiar. Stereotypes give some audiences comfort.

"Somewhere along the way these studios got safe and realized that confirming their audience’s preconceived notions sells more tickets in the short term. Or at least it used to"

It seems that trans actors are faced with the problem of movie stereotypes like other underrepresented groups have done in the past, but with the added complexity that they can be portrayed by others - without mainstream audiences noticing or realising it's a problem.

This may be turning around, as the success of shows that address trans experience (such as Transparent) have been successful, while the inclusion of trans characters such as the one played by Laverne Cox in Orange Is The New Black is helping to educate audiences about their world.

Hopefully, this problem will be addressed over time, with more genuine representation of the trans community both on screen and behind the scenes.