21 Transgender Stars, Creators Sound Off on Hollywood: "I Want to Portray These Characters, and I'm Ready"

Transgender actors, directors and writers break down Scarlett Johansson's casting (and un-casting) in a trans male role, audition horror stories, the perils of being "too passable" and the progress that is still needed behind the scenes and onscreen: "I'm sick of seeing us die. I want to see us live. I want to see us surrounded by abundance."

Scarlett Johansson's announcement that she was exiting Rub & Tug — the feature biopic about transgender mobster Dante "Tex" Gill that was to be helmed by her Ghost in the Shelldirector, Rupert Sanders — hit hard and traveled fast throughout Hollywood when it broke Friday. "I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project" following ethical concerns about her participation as a cisgender actress, read the star's statement, in part. "Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I've learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive." 

In that moment, trans actress and producer Rain Valdez (Transparent) was seated in front of a camera in The Hollywood Reporter's Los Angeles offices for an interview about trans representation in entertainment. Informed of the news with cameras rolling, she paused to catch her breath and push back tears. "That actually makes me a little emotional," she said, her voice shaking. "It’s not an easy industry for trans women. It’s not an easy industry for trans men."

Visibility and acceptance have seemed to be on an upward trajectory since 2014, a year that introduced Jill Soloway as a champion of trans-centric storytelling with Amazon's Transparent and saw Laverne Cox break through with an Emmy nomination for her work on Orange Is the New Black. Ryan Murphy, long a champion of LGBTQ+ talent, doubled down this summer with his FX drama Pose, which employs more trans actors and storytellers than any series in history. Nick Adams, director of transgender media and representation at GLAAD and one of the organization's trans staffers, praises Hollywood for helping change "how Americans understand gay and lesbian lives," noting how the business can do the same for trans people. "The public outcry from both trans and nontrans people, along with the media attention given to this issue over the past few weeks," he adds of the ScarJo casting controversy, "should be a game-changing moment for transgender portrayals in media." Read more and watch interviews via the Hollywood Reporter