Scarlett Johansson recently decided to “respectfully withdraw” from a project that would’ve seen another instance of a cisgender actor portraying a transgender character on screen. However, there’s more work to be done in leveling the playing field for trans actors.
On Tuesday, GLAAD ￼￼and 5050by2020 released an open letter to Hollywood to promote the advancement of opportunities for trans people in the industry and even created a TRANSform resource guide with “best practices” on how to do so.
The letter was signed by 45 different agencies, production companies, and organizations — all vowing to support the inclusion of the transgender community. These groups include J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Alliance, Greg Berlanti’s Berlanti Productions, Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland, Ryan Murphy’s Ryan Murphy Productions and Half Initiative, Judd Apatow’s Apatow Productions, Norman Lear’s Act III, Time’s Up, SAG-AFTRA, and talent agencies CAA, UTA, and WME.
“We know that the best storytelling is diverse storytelling, and it’s clear that Hollywood is at a tipping point,” the letter, which debuted in Variety‘s print edition, begins. “Studios and production companies are bringing more people into the creative process, hearing their stories, and creating better films and TV shows because of it. It is time for transgender people to be included in this conversation.”
The letter goes on to cite alarming statistics surrounding the trans community in America: “At least 44 trans people have been murdered in the U.S., almost all of them trans women of color” in the past 18 months, “30 percent of trans people live in poverty,” “one in three trans people has been verbally harassed by the doctor or denied medical care,” and “40 percent of trans people report attempting suicide.”
“In the U.S., 80 percent of people say they don’t know a trans person in their family, workplace, or school. That’s where Hollywood comes in,” the letter continues. “Hollywood tells the stories that help people understand how to feel about themselves and how to feel about people around them who are different.”
When Johansson’s casting was announced for the film Rub & Tug, about the life of trans man Dante “Tex” Gill, trans actors like Trace Lysette (Transparent), Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black), and Jamie Clayton (Sense8) mentioned many of these points when they spoke out. They also argued that trans actors rarely get the chance to even audition for cisgender parts and therefore are limited to playing trans roles. Yet, many of them have gone to the Jared Letos, Jeffrey Tambors, Eddie Redmaynes, and Felicity Huffmans of the world.
Hollywood is already making moves to be more inclusive, but it’s largely been on television. FX’s Pose made history in bringing the largest ensemble of trans series regulars to the small screen, while The CW’s Supergirl is about to introduce the first transgender superhero with Nicole Maines.
“This is about more than diversity and inclusion,” the letter reads. “It’s about empowering trans people and sharing with us the tools and access that have been offered to you throughout your career. It’s about offering people who are different from you the confidence and the sense of belonging that inspires the very best art. We know Hollywood is a business as well as a creative community. We are not asking you to stop making money. We are asking to be brought to the table, so that our knowledge, talent, and stories can help improve your work and increase its value.”
Read the whole letter below or click here.