THE BLOG
01/14/2014 10:41 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Being Transgender Is Scarier Than Being a Pirate

AP Photo/Focus Features, Anne Marie Fox

Before I say anything else, I want to get one thing established right away: I thought Jared Leto was very good in Dallas Buyers Club. In fact, I felt he was so good in the movie that despite all the warranted criticism about how problematic it is to consistently cast straight cis actors to play transgender or gay roles, and then laud them with statues -- and despite the fact that he definitely wasn't my first or second choice -- I wasn't that upset that he won the Golden Globe. I think that merits inclusion right up front here, because while attempting to have a more casual conversation on my Facebook page, I immediately had people responding defending his performance. That is not really the issue here.

Like I said, I don't hate that he won the award, but I hate the reason why he won the award. I hate that the knee-jerk response I've already gotten from people who think I'm criticizing him as an actor is that he was, as they say, "so brave." Do you really, in this decade, in this century, even, not understand how incredibly insulting and condescending that statement is? And hey, also, pretty much a load of bull. Jared Leto has played a character who is punched in the face so hard, with such fury, rage and brutality, that it left that character permanently disfigured. But this movie is the one he gets called brave for, because he's wearing a dress and makeup? Have we all forgotten those corn rows from Panic Room?

I do not think it is unfair to say that the fact that Rayon is transgender is entirely why Leto was nominated and awarded for Dallas Buyers Club. While Leto has talked about the challenges of playing around the physical aspects inherent in portraying a woman, he does seem to focus on mostly costuming and wardrobe details, such as tights and lipstick. But while Leto discusses not letting those things get in the way, I would argue the contrary, that if anything, they are contributions to his performance. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that to criticize his acting, only to suggest that what he's doing is mask acting, a worthy skill to have, and one that is not often recognized come awards season. One need only look at how frequently Andy Serkis has been overlooked for his performances as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, or as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Granted, I am gender-fluid, so perhaps that is why I personally don't find the idea of portraying a woman all that scary, I'll admit, but if we're talking about the subject of bravery in character choices, I personally would be much more likely to give that type of credit to Michael Fassbender or Barkhad Abdi, who were nominated in the same category. Both are playing men who do very terrible, destructive things, and to do so, they had to live in and embody those roles, while finding a way to feel sympathetic towards them enough to do the part justice. And both men managed to do so in ways that made the characters compelling and rise above a standard villain. Both men took parts that could have been monsters and made them human. Apparently, a much less daunting task than being a woman.

Would Leto have won, or even been nominated, had the character, created for the film and not based on a real person, been written as a man? It's impossible to know for sure, but the cries of bravery, likely wouldn't be here. And while Leto has stated how badly hopes to find the same courage that Rayon embodies to him, so far when he's given the chance to show it, he's chosen to pay lip service at best to the women who actually live in the role he played every day, and instead decided to spend the significance of his time on jokes about his butt, his hair and the hair on his butt.