Dear Mark Ruffalo, Timothy McNeil And Matt Bomer: Why Is Matt Bomer Playing ATrans Woman?

08/31/2016 02:45 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2016

Dear Mark, Tim, and Matt,

Your new movie, Anything, purports to tell the story of a trans woman. However, in doing this, you forgot the most important part of these kinds of stories: actual trans women.

Analogously, yesterday I read a few interviews from Boze Hadleigh’s Hollywood Gays, in which the author interviewed legendary closeted leading men, now deceased. There seemed to be consensus that any gay-leaning role, going back to at least the ‘40s, was to be played by a straight man as a “challenge” for Oscar bait, leading many gay actors to both lose compelling roles and to become victims of subsequent homophobia, driving them deeply into the closet, personally and professionally. 

Straight, cisgender people playing queer characters unfortunately remains the Hollywood norm. And as you are no doubt aware, openly gay cis actors are often denied the same breadth of opportunities as their closeted or straight peers. While this is lessening somewhat for the portrayals of gay cis men, in the realm of trans women’s portrayals, the idea of cis men “stretching themselves” to play a “challenging trans role” is as alive and deadly as ever.

There are many qualified trans actors and writers who could have played in and advised on the construction of the scenes you’re about to edit into a motion picture. They will lose more work because of this. You are going to see a massive social media backlash from the people you purport to represent in this film. Most important, if you release this film, statistically speaking, trans people will likely be attacked or killed because of the stereotypes it contains, especially by casting Matt Bomer as a woman.

Historically, anytime Hollywood says, “Oh, trans women are just men in drag,” and portrays them as such, there is a marked ― and measurable ― uptick in so-called “trans panic” killings, harassment, beatings, discrimination, and suicide rates. It gives bigots a leg to stand on.

We know you have good intentions. But those intentions have far-reaching after-effects that you, as cis men, don’t experience. For instance: Have you been chased down the street being threatened with violence and called Danish Girl? I know several folks who have. And this is just the tip of the harassment iceberg we experience when media like this comes out.

In short: Trans women are women, and if our recently increased media visibility hasn’t already told you loud and clear that it is beyond inappropriate for a cis man ― gay or straight ― to play a trans woman on screen or stage, it soon will. If you have questions about what exactly I’m speaking to, I suggest you talk with Nick Adams of GLAAD (Director of Programs, Transgender Media, based in Los Angeles). He has plenty of information that could support your learning process and help you understand the anger and frustration you’re hearing from the trans and queer community.

With respect to your skilled work and sensitive portrayals of characters in the past, I beg you to shelve and scrap this film before you begin post-production. That act will send a message to the Hollywood establishment: “We were wrong. We all need to do better and we have decided to set an example for others in our position.”

This act, more than any movie you put out, will give you back more than your investment. You have an opportunity, right now, to change the status quo. Lives and careers truly hang in the balance. Please do the right thing ― and be the ones on the right side of history. Moreover, be the ones to make history, by owning your error and making a statement that this is no longer an acceptable practice for mainstream media.

 

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