Actors Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and
Alexandra Billings cover Variety's Trans Hollywood issue.
Cox is best known for playing
transgender inmate Sophia Burset on Netflix's Orange is the New
Black, while Billings portrays Davina on Amazon's Transparent.
Bono, the son of Sonny Bono and Cher, transitioned in 2010. He
shared his experience in the 2011 film Becoming Chaz. Bono
appears in the upcoming superhero-themed television action series Adi
Shankar's Gods and Secrets.
Brian Michael (Queen Sugar),
Jennifer Richards (Nashville) and Trace Lysette (Transparent)
also participated in Variety's first transgender actors'
round-table and cover story.
When asked whether cisgender actors
should never play transgender roles and vice versa, Cox
answered: “I think if all things were equal, then everyone
should be able to play every character. But all things are not equal.
As an artist, I don’t ever want someone telling me that I shouldn’t
play something. But the reality is, 84% of Americans do not
personally know someone who is transgender. So most Americans learn
what they learn about trans people through the media. Right now in
this country, in the first days of this year, 10 states introduced 21
pieces of legislation targeting trans people, mostly trying to limit
our ability to go to the bathroom. The current president is trying to
ban us from the military. Our unemployment rate is three times the
national average. So in this cultural environment, when we see
representations of cis people playing us over and over again, that
reinforces the idea that trans women are not really women and trans
men are not really men and nonbinary people don’t exist. That is
the basis of the discrimination that trans people experience.”
“For the trans community, with our
previous president so much progress really happened, and most of the
progress has been rolled back [under the Trump administration]. So
what scares me for kids is that there really are no protections in
schools. In places like Mississippi, there are states with laws that
are criminalizing trans folks. I’m worried there’s no recourse
now. I’m worried there’s no protection,” she added.
“It's never been about the bathroom,”
Richards said, referring to policies that prohibit transgender people
from using the bathroom of their choice. “They don't want us to be
here at all. And the reason I have hope is because we are still
On Caitlyn Jenner's standing in the
transgender community, Richards said: “I was also a little
resentful of the amount of attention that Caitlyn was getting at the
time, when I felt there were so many of us who had already been
working behind the scenes to increase the public understanding of
trans issues. Ultimately, regardless of how I feel about her
personally, the fact is after the show, every time I got in a Lyft,
someone would recognize me. And then the conversation usually went
something like, 'I’d never really thought about trans people
before, but I watched it with my kids.' I think it’s too easy,
because of her politics, which I find reprehensible – we don’t
want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. That show put this
conversation in places it wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.”
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