Open letter calls on Hollywood to represent trans people fairly

JJ Abrams and Judd Apatow among signatories

by Jennie Kermode

Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman
Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman

A open letter initiated by GLAAD has called on Hollywood to improve its representation of transgender people in film. The move, which has attracted high profile signatories including JJ Abrams and Judd Apatow, follows Scarlett Johansson's decision to drop out of playing a trans man in the forthcoming biopic of Dante Gill, Rub & Tug, as well as GLADD's finding that there were no trans characters at all featured in films made by major studios last year.

"Hollywood tells the stories that help people understand how to feel about themselves and how to feel about people around them who are different. As Roger Ebert said, film is an empathy machine," says the letter, which has been supported by talent agencies CAA, WME and UTA. "Recently, women and people of colour have made it clear they want more authentic stories about their lives in films and on TV. Trans people feel the same way."

It goes on to argue that trans people have been "portrayed almost exclusively as tragic victims, psychotic killers, and one-dimensional stereotypes," and calls on studios to give trans people a seat at the table so that their stories can be told authentically.

For a long time, filmmakers have hesitated to cast trans people in trans roles because of the belief that they need bankable stars to succeed, creating a situation in which trans actors don't get enough exposure to become stars, and struggle to make progress. Attitudes are beginning to change, however, following the success of A Fantastic Woman and the rise of trans television stars such as Orange Is The New Black's Laverne Cox, who made it to the big screen this year with a small role in Trudie Styler's Freak Show.

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