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08/08/2018 11:34 am ET

Hollywood Needs To Improve Trans Representation, Say Nearly 50 Organizations

"The best storytelling is diverse storytelling," a powerful open letter reads.

Nearly 50 LGBTQ organizations, production companies, film studios and talent agencies, called on Hollywood Tuesday to represent more transgender people on the big and small screens.

“We know that the best storytelling is diverse storytelling, and it’s clear that Hollywood is at a tipping point,” an open letter written by LGBTQ organization GLAAD and Time’s Up initiative 5050by2020 reads. The letter, published in Variety, is signed by organizations including the ACLU, Shonda Rhimes’ production company Shondaland, the Geena Davis Media Institute, Sony Pictures Classics and the Sundance Institute.

“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,” the letter continues. “It is time for transgender people to be included in this conversation.”

“We believe that we are at an unprecedented cultural moment — a moment when we can ask Hollywood to use its power to improve the lives of trans people by changing America’s understanding about who trans people are,” the letter reads. “We want to help you tell our rich and diverse stories, and we need your help to do it.”

We believe that we are at an unprecedented cultural moment — a moment when we can ask Hollywood to use its power to improve the lives of trans people by changing America’s understanding about who trans people are. open letter from GLAAD and Time's Up initiative 5050by2020

Trans representation has long been an issue in Hollywood. Trans actors playing trans or cis roles have been far and few between. A whopping 80 percent of Americans say they don’t know a trans person, according to the GLAAD and 5050by2020 letter. 

“That’s where Hollywood comes in,” the letter reads. “Hollywood tells the stories that help people understand how to feel about themselves and how to feel about people around them who are different.”

The rallying cry from GLAAD and 5050by2020 comes in the wake of the most recent trans representation controversy. Last month, Scarlett Johansson dropped out of a transgender role in the upcoming film “Rub and Tug” after facing harsh criticism from media and fans alike. 

“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 sense of belonging that inspires the very best art.”

Created by the Time’s Up initiative, 5050by2020 is an intersectional strategy that hopes to make the entertainment industry better reflect the diversity of America.

“Transparent” creator and 5050by2020 co-founder Jill Soloway told Variety that Hollywood is beginning to realize that diversity and inclusion matter. 

Transgender actresses Trace Lysette and Laverne Cox at the 2017 Grammy Awards.
MARK RALSTON via Getty Images
Transgender actresses Trace Lysette and Laverne Cox at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

“This feels like a historic moment for me, in terms of the access to power that trans and non-binary people have,” Soloway said. ”... We’re creating a moment where a producer or a studio might think to cast a cis person in a role as a trans person and say, ‘I read that letter and it’s actually not okay anymore... the moral code has changed around this.’” 

The letter ends on a powerful note, asking the collective entertainment industry to help elevate trans actors and characters.

“We believe that when trans people are empowered to help future makers tell our authentic stories, it will improve how we are treated in the real world,” the letter reads. “... Let’s work together to create a beautiful, diverse and inclusive world in which trans people are fully accepted as equal human beings.”

Head over to Variety to read the full letter.

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