This past weekend, during a conversation on Instagram Live with hairstylist Christin Brown, Halle Berry shared that she’s planning to play a transgender man in an upcoming film.
According to Pink News, Berry said the project came across her path years ago. But was sidelined in order for her to star in and direct her first film, Bruised.
In describing the film, Berry already misgendered the character.
“[The role is] a character where the woman is a trans character. So she’s a woman that transitioned into a man. She’s a character in a project I love that I might be doing.”
She continued, “I want to experience that world, understand that world. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did Bruised. Who this woman was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next project, and that will require me cutting all of my hair off.”
She added: “That’s what I want to experience and understand and study and explore… it’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman, that’s a female story – it changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that. I want to get into it.”
There are a lot of issues here.
One, from Halle’s own admission, there’s a level of ignorance that’s a bit concerning, particularly when telling stories about a marginalized, underrepresented minority. There’s the issue of cisgender characters taking on the roles of trans people. And even the fact that Berry is talking about her transition as a hair cut.
Surely, the role could go to someone who already shared that lived experience.
Just two years ago, actress Scarlett Johansson was criticized for her role as a trans man in Rub and Tug. She ultimately dropped out of the project.
Recently, Netflix released a whole documentary called Disclosure about trans representation in media over the years. Notably, the interviewees spoke about cis gender character playing trans people further lends credence to the idea that being trans gender is not entirely real, that there is still a level of deception to it. They referenced Jared Leto in his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club. For the brilliance of his portrayal, when he accepted the Academy Award for the role, the world saw him presenting as a man.
With so few trans stories being told, it’s time Hollywood focus on getting it right. And there are examples that it can work. (See: “Pose” and Laverne Cox in “Orange is the New Black.”)
Furthermore, if a trans person were awarded the role, they could just play the nuisances of the character instead of having to do the additional work of playing trans in addition to this character’s personality.
After the scandal with Johansson, several Hollywood production companies signed an open letter calling for the industry to “use its power to improve the lives of trans people” by telling stories “authentically” with trans actors and creatives.