In the wake of Scarlett Johansson’s decision to leave the upcoming film Rub & Tug, where she was slated to play a transgender man, many activists, stars and influencers have applauded her decision to do so. The actress announced her exit in a statement to Out.com, where she said, “I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.”
After the star’s decision following a public outcry for her to leave the role, The Hollywood Reporter interviewed 21 transgender actors, directors and writers about what it means to be transgender in Hollywood in this day and age. Transgender creators like Drag Race’s Peppermint, Sense8’s Jamie Clayton and Tangerine’s Mya Taylor spoke to the magazine.
While many of those interviewed applauded Johansson’s decision to step down from the role, a number of people continued to critique the systems in place that allowed the actress to be cast in the first place. “I’m holding the director responsible. I’m holding responsible the casting agent that did not bring in enough trans folks or didn’t believe enough trans folks could do that part,” said Jazzmun, star of NBC’s When We Rise. “Everyone is responsible for that, everyone.”
Zeke Smith, a two-time contestant on CBS’ Survivor, added that part of the reason this situation is so important to talk about is because of the complete lack of visibility for trans men in America. “Transgender men are so invisible that a guy whose biggest accomplishment is being on two seasons of a reality show is considered a worthwhile voice to comment on transgender men in Hollywood,” he said. “No one’s writing for us in a positive or negative light.”
When asked what still needs to be done to make Hollywood more trans-inclusive, Clayton said that if Hollywood wants to tell transgender stories, then transgender people need to be involved both in front of and behind the camera.
“How many crime procedurals are on TV?” she asked. “On every single one of those shows, they have consultants like ex-cops, ex-FBI agents, ex-private investigators, ex-morgue people … What makes you think that you can tell a story of a trans person if you’re not trans and you don’t know any trans people and you don’t hire any trans people?”
Many of the interviewees gave examples of how Hollywood is taking steps forward, but some added that it’s about more than just including trans characters in stories — especially if those characters are the stereotypical prostitutes or drug users that so many trans actors have come to expect. “If you were a trans person, a trans woman on screen, you were probably the prostitute that was either going to get arrested or get killed,” said Drag Race star Peppermint. “I honestly never thought there was any other reality that they were trying to explore.”
Zackary Drucker, a writer and producer on Amazon’s Transparent succinctly said that she wants to see more well-rounded trans characters in film and television, not just stereotypes. “I’m sick of seeing us die,” she said. “Yeah. I’m sick of that. I want to see us live. I want to see us surrounded by abundance.”
Read the original set of interviews here.