Following a distressing and inappropriate tradition, a cisgender actor, Diego Luna, is playing the role of a transgender woman in Berlin, I Love You; a film due to premiere on February 8,2019. It is neither responsible nor excusable for a cisgender actor to portray this role.
The New York Transgender Advocacy Group and Equality New York condemn this casting as yet, another example of transgender lives being portrayed poorly, and as an object of ridicule. It has never been ethically or politically justifiable for cisgender people to play transgender roles; not only because cisgender actors have been unable to portray the complexity of a transgender life, and because it is taking the opportunity away from those of transgender experience.
The continued casting of cisgender actors in trans roles (specifically the casting of cis men to play transgender women) perpetuates the myth that transgender people are ‘performing’ gender. Actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox puts it this way: “As brilliant as Jeffrey Tambor is, as brilliant as Jared Leto is, and all these actors who play trans women, when people who don’t know anything about trans folks and trans women see the very sexy Jared Leto and his beard accepting an Oscar for playing a trans woman, the message that it sends is that trans women are really men.”
Another leading actress who is transgender, Jen Richards, says that, “transface casting can lead to violence, because when men find themselves attracted to trans women they have anxiety because of their own internalized homophobia.”
The entertainment industry must stop casting cisgender actors to play trans roles until TGNC actors have equivalent opportunities as their cis counterparts. We will continue to remove each barrier to equality. We will continue to speak out against inappropriate casting choices. Therefore, we call for a boycott of “Berlin, I Love You” and all such productions that use transface casting rather than hiring actors who are transgender.
It is also our hope that cisgender actors will begin to see the damage caused by accepting transgender character roles. It is the responsibility of all cisgender actors who are allies of the TGNC community to speak out against the inequalities of the industry, and to demand appropriate representation for minority groups.
On Tuesday, January 15, 2019 after over 17 years of fighting to include gender identity in codified legislation in New York State, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) passes in both the Assembly and State Senate. Historically, many LGB-led organizations and advocates have told the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) community to wait their turn as they passed similar legislation to protect sexual orientation. However, many TGNC advocates have been at the front lines since the bill was first introduced, refusing to wait for their right and protection to be added to New York State Law.
After so many years of hard work and advocacy, Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried and State Senator Brad Hoylman brought in the needed votes to clinch this victory. Governor Cuomo who has had GENDA in place via executive order since 2015 also announced the legislation was on his first 100 days 2019 Justice Agenda. The current leadership in New York State is both refreshing and foreshadowing that the new democratic majority will get passed.
In true New York Transgender Advocacy Group fashion, we would like to highlight the TGNC advocates that have been on the front lines fighting. Centering and highlighting the voices of the TGNC community is so important in the fight for equal protections. Below you can read how GENDA will change the lives of advocates here in New York State:
“Yesterday New York made a monumental step towards Equality by voting in and passing the Gender Non Discrimination Act in Albany. The law that I fought 18 years for has been passed and I can now live and feel safer. I will now be able to reach the goal of self actualization as in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs. Go to a restaurant, the gym, movies, school, and Doctor and feel protected by codified law, that states that I now have the right to self determine my own gender identity.”
Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, Policy Liaison New York Transgender Advocacy Group
“As an older, transgender woman I’m grateful beyond words for the passage and signing into law of GENDA, something for which so many worked for so many years. It’s a true step forward, a milestone in the battle to create and ensure equality for transgender and gender non conforming people everywhere. GENDA immediately brings protection to New Yorkers, but what starts here quickly spreads nationwide, and I’m hopeful that this big step here will mean that, across the nation, people who know their gender isn’t congruent with what was assigned at birth will breathe easier, knowing that they have a path that can not be blocked by discrimination on the basis of their sex.”
Kristen Browde, President, LGBT Bar Assn. of Greater NY, Co-Chair, National Trans Bar Association
"Tuesday was a tremendous victory for TGNC New Yorkers from Buffalo to Staten Island. The community as a whole had to wait for 17 years for this moment. Yet unlike 2012 I didn't see the celebration from LGBTQ+ folks it shows we have so much work to do and we still need to educate those why this moment was so needed and wanted and meant to be celebrated"
Bryan Ellicott, Staten Island, Trans & Bisexual Advocate
“As a transgender person in her late 40s I have lived discrimination of all kind. The passage of GENDA gives me peace of mind and helps me understand that time brings positive change. It also reminds me of the value of community work. We could not have done this if it wasn’t as a family and WE DID IT!!!!”
Cecilia Gentili, Managing Director of Policy at GMHC and Community Organizer
“Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming New Yorkers have always been at the forefront of any fight for liberation. GENDA is no exception the TGNC community in New York has spearheaded the fight for GENDA from the very beginning and now after so many years of being denied protections we can celebrate our hard won efforts.”
Kiara St. James, Executive Director, New York Transgender Advocacy Group
"Today knowing that there's protection in place for Trans people puts me at rest. Now the job to enforce GENDA, making sure all people adhere to it & be held accountable is the next step."
Jevon Martin, Executive Director of Princess Janae Place
“It’s refreshing to see in this political climate New York State to recognize GENDA as Law. Transgender individuals now have the freedoms and protections like every other American in NYS”
Dina Marie, Activist and Co-President of the New York Coalition for Preventing Gender Discrimination
“I have been advocating for trans civil rights for over 20 years. The passage of GENDA will ensure that future generations of trans people will have a legal system that will protect them from childhood onward. Being trans can be very difficult, but having the protection of New York will add a new important tool for the journey.”
Melissa Sklarz, Former Assembly Candidate, 30th District, Queens