Casting a woman as a transwoman

(207 Posts)
Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 10:33:15

So there is a show about to air on the Australian ABC about Carlotta who is an incredibly well known and important entertainer in Australia. She Les Girls, was the first transexual in an Australian soap opera. An icon, someone whose very being has made changes to the Australian cultural landscape. She was original born male and very early on had surgery

So the person they have picked to play her is a ciswomen. Surely there was a trans actor who could have taken the role. My feeling is that a women has been cast because she can be sexy in the Les Girls numbers without making people feel uncomfortable about seeing her as sexy.

Am I over thinking this? Is it gender equality to have a ciswomen plan a transwomen?

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 22:24:58

LRD, but the better way to get around that would be to cast trans women in general parts, like the Bond girl, not to create a division where trans women must be played by trans women.

And from the photos, there are plenty of other characters in the movie who are being played by people who are not gracile in appearance (I don't know how else to word that, people who would be assumed to have been male at some point?), but are wearing sexy dresses etc and dancing.

kim147 Fri 06-Jun-14 22:25:26

I've only ever seen two films about transwomen.

I can't remember one of them but it's the one with the older one waiting surgery and having to tell her son. The actor was a woman so for me was not believable.

The other was the true story of Gwen Adurjo. Played by a woman but the story was so powerful it left me in tears. She was exposed and murdered - the defense was that finding out she was trans was reason to get angry and to murder her.

Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 22:27:12

AlmondCakes Thanks. It;s great that Carlotta is happy with the choice. I still I'm allowed to question the casting which I think ibn this case is a political act. It wouldn't be if there was lots of transpeople on telly already but I think it says there wasn't any transactors who are good enough to play this role. A bit like in Glee when they cast a non wheel chair user as a wheel chair user when surely there are actors who are wheel chair users who can sing.
It is that coupled with the reinforcement that only only ciswomen can be sexy which I think is increasing rather then decreasing.

kim147 Fri 06-Jun-14 22:27:48

It would be nice to see more trans characters on TV and in movies. Normally the only ones you see are dead ones who have been murdered and are usually sex workers.
It would be great to see someone who is trans just doing their job and being trans is completely irrelevant to their part in the film.
But transwomen are normally portrayed as victims.

almond - oh yes, totally agree that would be better. I'm not saying it wouldn't be, though?

What would, of course, be absolutely lovely would be if you could do gender-blind casting. They did colour-blind casting for Grey's Anatomy, and I was reading about how people found it amazing at the time (it is a while back) that they'd just written characters and not 'the black girl' or 'the latino man'.

You could do that with gender, but it's not going to happen, is it?!

motherinferior Fri 06-Jun-14 22:29:33

Otoh, Kim, I think there might be a point in having transwomen characters played by women (whether trans or cis) who bust the conventional ideas of what a transwoman looks like? Just wondering.

Chopsypie Fri 06-Jun-14 22:30:33

LRD I used the term NT as it's how I would describe the majority of people with no 'issues'. It's not the best, and in certainly no expert but seemed to fit for a quick and easy explanation without using the word 'normal'

motherinferior Fri 06-Jun-14 22:32:40

Olympia Dukakis was inspired as Mrs Madrigal.grin

chopsy - I just have a slight issue with it, because loads of people are not NT without being 'cis', aren't they?

I admit, I'm uncomfortable with 'cis' because I associate it with being reasonably content with the body you were born with, and I think many women are not that, without necessarily being trans.

I know there's an issue of not having enough shorthand explanations though, so I don't mean to have a go - I just don't see that it's a neuro thing?

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 22:37:49

That isn't what I'm saying though LRD. Although I'm not objecting to it - Cate Blanchett played Bob Dylan which was great.

I am saying that a black actor should be able to play a black character from any cultural background, and a woman actor should be able to play a woman character from any background.

I am not arguing for colour blindness or gender blindness. I think it is a big problem that characters are written who have no racialised aspects to them, because people's lives are racialised, and there is no netural - the neutral is really just culturally white.

It may be better for characters to be written as gender neutral, and the nearest is perhaps Purdy in the Avengers, written as a male character but then played by a woman. But the actual reality of women's lives as women is written out, which may be better than the reality being written badly I suppose.

On a separate note, Carlotta is very beautiful. Few women from any background are very beautiful. There are very few trans women and so very few trans women actors and so very few beautiful trans women actors. The likelihood of finding any female actor who is very beautiful and bears a striking resemblence to Carlotta must have been slim, if narrowed down to only trans women actors, incredibly difficult I would have thought. The actor chosen is very beautiful and looks very much like Carlotta.

kim147 Fri 06-Jun-14 22:38:20

I personally think it would be nice to see more transwomen in the media who are known to be trans. I still think people have an image and a perception of transwomen which is damaging.

But...I was offered the chance to be interviewed by Eddie Mair on Radio 4 in light of Lucy Meadows. I did it - but anonymously because I feared repercussions.

I would love to be a role model to show people that we are "ok" but I fear a backlash.

Yes, I know it's not what you're saying. It's what I was saying, as a response to you - and I don't see that it has anything to do with queer theory? I am not a big theorist, though, so you're likely seeing things I'm not seeing.

calmet Fri 06-Jun-14 22:42:53

I agree a MtoF should play a MtoF.

Dysfunctional Fri 06-Jun-14 22:43:42
almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 22:49:24

I'm not sure what all the different theories are, and wouldn't claim to understand a lot more than you, but the ideas that

a. gender is determined by gender identity
and
b. trans women are women

are from queer theory.

And I assume that is what the OP believes.

I think what is confusing me is that you are talking about it not mattering whether a character is played by a man or a woman, or a black or white person - gender and race blindness which is all interesting. But the OP is talking about whether a woman can play a woman from a different group, which isn't about being gender blind, because both have the same gender - woman.

calmet Fri 06-Jun-14 22:51:25

Almond, depends whether you think a MtoF is a woman.

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 22:53:11

Yes Calmet, but I am assuming that the OP does think trans women are women.

Oh, I follow.

Yes, I don't think I'm so fussed about those aspects. But in her OP, she made the point about people not seeing transwomen as sexy, and to my mind that is both an issue to do with whether or not people in one group can play people in another group, and also an issue to do with the significance society attaches to each group. Society expects only women born women are the sex class, IMO.

I think it is possible to feel uncomfortable about the same issue from different theoretical perspectives, though, which is presumably what she and I are doing.

I mean, regardless of your position on gender identity, the fact that there are men out there who think transwomen cannot be sexy tells you something about how those men understand their relationship to women, doesn't it?

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 22:59:10

And sorry LRD and everyone else, that I'm making such a mess of explaining and following what different people are saying. I don't mean to seem argumentative and repetitive.

I think it is very different with the Jared Leto casting, because he is a man and he is playing a trans woman.

Hey, no, don't apologize! It's probably me. And if I'm coming across as rude I'm sorry. blush

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 23:03:36

LRD, I don't know men don't find trans women sexy. My only direct experience of it was being in a straight club that a lot of women (who most people would assume to be trans) frequented, and they were getting a huge amount of male attention. The issue isn't that they're not seen as sexy but that are seen as sexy in a very particular way.

I take Kim's point about older trans women not being shown in the media, They don't fit into that sexy category, but then neither do other older women generally.

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 23:05:19

No, you are not coming across as rude! I'm just trying not to be confusing.

Dysfunctional Fri 06-Jun-14 23:07:24

"I think it is very different with the Jared Leto casting, because he is a man and he is playing a trans woman"

But perhaps there is a case for a male actor playing a pre-op trans woman otherwise you are having to dress the female actor as a man (hardly authentic either as she doesn't have a male body) but then you'd have to use a woman to play post-op.

Gah, I'm going to 'not all men' myself.

I should say - I think there are some men who are violently angry about the idea they might fancy transwomen. And I do think there is a worry amongst people who make films that someone who is trans might not be seen as sexy. I'll try to dig up an interview I read about Orange is the New Black that talks about this.

I agree with you about 'sexy in a very particular way'.

But I think all of this goes back to the fact that there are some men who are fundamentally wankers, and their sense of self would be very disturbed if they fancied someone who was trans. It's similar to the 'eugh, I found out this footballer is gay, now I cannot support his team' bollocks - it's not liking people to be outside the category the patriarchy puts them in.

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