For TIME’s second annual Firsts project, trans actress Candis Cayne opened up about her transition, being a performer, and the problematic ways Hollywood casts trans actors. Cayne explained how the first part of her acting career was comprised of prostitute, drug addict, or drag queen roles.
“I would go to these auditions, and I would say I’m trans,” says Cayne, who first made a name for her self as a performer and drag queen in New York in the 1990s. “Tried to pitch myself, you know, even though nobody really wanted to talk about it.”
In what Cayne calls a “Meryl Streep moment,” she booked a major recurring prime-time role as Patrick Darling’s love interest Carmelita Rainer on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money in 2007, the first trans woman to ever do so.
“The trans community can be more than just a prostitute or a drug addict or a killer,” Cayne advocates. “There have been a lot of trans killers.”
Watch the video above.