Stars of Transparent, Sense 8, Drunk History, more call for visibility

By Joey Nolfi
June 20, 2017 at 10:05 AM EDT

As LGBTQ Pride Month draws to a close, ScreenCrush and GLAAD have amassed a diverse roster of transgender actors for a moving PSA that serves as a powerful reminder that the fight for trans representation is an ongoing battle that will rage on for the foreseeable future.

“You know we’re real people, right?” Drunk History actress Alexandra Grey asks in the clip, which debuted online Tuesday. Blunt Talk star Trace Lysette adds, “We’re not all serial killers and hookers,” a sentiment to which When We Rise costar Jazzmun responds: “Even if we were, we could be [in], you know, Dexter or Pretty Woman.”

The video goes on to stress the importance of casting trans performers in roles that don’t objectify their gender identity, noting the strong correlation between visibility and public awareness, as SAG Award-nominated Transparent actress Alexandra Billings points out per a GLAAD study, “In [2015], only 16 percent of Americans knew a transperson,” but that over 84 percent learn about the community through visual media like movies and television shows.

While the same research indicates only one trans character appeared in a major theatrical release in 2015 (a joke is made at the expense of a transwoman at the beginning of the Reese Witherspoon comedy Hot Pursuit), Billings also discusses the history of transgender characters in major movies like The Hangover Part II, The Silence of the Lambs, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Crying Game, and Stonewall is reflective of dangerous mentalities in the entertainment industry, ones that see people like her “reduced to plot twists and punchlines.”

“When you see a transwoman off-screen, she is still a woman,” Jazzmun explains, with Grey describing her life as “not a costume.”

Nashville costar Jen Richards, who wrote the PSA, also says she “lost parts for transwomen to men because [she] doesn’t look trans enough. When cis people play trans parts, they’re focused on playing trans.” Continuing the point, Billings elaborates, “When we play a trans role, we play the character.”

As for the age-old excuse that there aren’t enough big transgender names in Hollywood, the group comes up with a solution: Cast trans people in smaller roles (“Nurse #3? Totally in my range,” Billings quips) and allow them to build their careers up – just like everyone else – while also hiring trans producers, writers, and directors to tell stories that don’t focus solely on “coming out” narratives.

“So, Hollywood, we are here,” Lysette asserts. Billings concludes: “And we are so ready.”

For more information on how to help foster the creation of authentic trans characters, visit GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program online here. Watch ScreenCrush’s latest video, unveiled as part of its ongoing Our Hollywood awareness series, above.