Dozens of Hollywood organizations have cosigned a call to prioritize transgender storytelling in the filmmaking industry.
In a letter published Tuesday, GLAAD, Time's Up's 50/50 by 2020, and 45 other groups called on the entertainment industry to include trans voices in their work.
"We know that the best storytelling is diverse storytelling, and it’s clear that Hollywood is at a tipping point," the groups wrote.
"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. It is time for transgender people to be included in this conversation."
The letter was a reflection of "trans people and our allies speaking up about the need to see our true, authentic experiences reflected in film and TV," Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of transgender media and representation, said in a press release.
The letter pointed to TRANSform Hollywood's resource for tips on inclusion, such as casting trans roles authentically, engaging experienced and trained trans creators as a work develops, and making projects trans-inclusive even if they don't specifically focus on trans people.
The call arrives at a time when trans actors are speaking up about the difficulties of securing roles in the entertainment industry. Recently, Scarlett Johansson stepped down from the film Rug & Tug after news of her casting as a trans man triggered a backlash online.
Trace Lysette, a trans woman most known for her work on Transparent, who criticized Johansson when the news initially broke, told Variety that she intended to point out the "double standard."
"I’m not getting into rooms for cis roles," Lysette said. "I started my career auditioning for those roles, and then I went to play trans roles. And now, I feel boxed in."
Audiences are certainly eager for onscreen trans stories. Ryan Murphy’s Pose, which is set in the late '80s at the height of the New York City ball scene, boasts the largest cast of trans series regulars on a network show and was recently renewed for a second season.
Read the complete letter below:
Dear Hollywood, We know that the best storytelling is diverse storytelling, and it’s clear that Hollywood is at a tipping point. 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. It is time for transgender people to be included in this conversation.
First, some things you should know. As a community, trans people are fighting every day to be seen and accepted as human beings. The Administration in Washington D.C. is trying to erase trans people from our culture by banning us from serving in the military, allowing health insurance companies to deny us medical care, and refusing to protect trans youth in schools. In the past 18 months, at least 44 trans people have been murdered in the U.S., almost all of them trans women of color. The unemployment rate of trans people is 3 times the national average – and 4 times for trans people of color. Thirty percent of trans people live in poverty – twice the national average. When visiting the doctor, one in three trans people have been verbally harassed by the doctor or denied medical care. Transgender Americans face bullying in school, discrimination on the job, and violence on the street. Perhaps most alarmingly, because the culture is so transphobic, 40% of trans people report attempting suicide, compared to 4.6% of the general population.
That’s a lot of negative information, but we hope it helps explain why transgender people are pushing so hard to be heard. It's because we are struggling to survive.
The world is unsafe for trans people - and we can do better.
In the US, 80% of people say they don't know a trans person in their family, workplace, or school. That’s where Hollywood comes in. Hollywood tells the stories that help people understand how to feel about themselves and how to feel about people around them who are different. As Roger Ebert said, film is an empathy machine. We know projects like Ellen, Will & Grace, Brokeback Mountain, Milk, and Moonlight helped destroy stereotypes about gay and lesbian people, and the timeline for marriage equality would have been remarkably different without them. Recently, women and people of color have made it clear they want more authentic stories about their lives in films and on TV. Trans people feel the same way.
We are grateful that Hollywood is starting to embrace these myriad points of view. We also know that some people feel we are being overly sensitive about exactly how these trans stories are developed and told. As trans people, we have grown up watching stories told about us by people who haven’t done their homework when it comes to the trans community. We have been portrayed almost exclusively as tragic victims, psychotic killers, and one-dimensional stereotypes. We have been confused with drag queens, seen our history erased in historical films, and been ridiculed for gender expressions that don’t conform to social norms.
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. We want to help you tell our stories - and we need your help to do it.
This is about more than diversity and inclusion. 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 the sense of belonging that inspires the very best art.
We know Hollywood is a business, as well as a creative community. We are not asking you to stop making money. We are asking to be brought to the table, so that our knowledge, talent, and stories can help improve your work and increase its value.