Pride Month: These trans men are taking film and TV by storm
Trans representation in the media has entered the cultural conversation in the past several years as a major issue regarding the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
Not to say there haven’t been plenty of trans stories in Hollywood: Boys Don’t Cry won Hillary Swank an Oscar back in 1999, and Amazon Prime’s Transparent won Jeffrey Tambor several industry awards for his performance.
However, all this prestige has been critiqued by the LGBTQ+ community, as it is a strange blind spot in Hollywood: Should non-trans actors be allowed to play trans characters and reap the benefits of it?
The concept of actors playing characters of other races has been ousted from popular culture, so why is portraying trans characters considered different? And why are cisgendered actors allowed to prosper from portraying the pain of the trans experience while trans actors struggle to find work?
All these questions have led to the tide turning. Trans women & men and non-binary individauls have slowly been receiving more work in the mainstream and receiving immense praise for their bravery and their acting skills.
Trans women such as Laverne Cox and Trace Lysette have paved the way considerably, but trans men had still faced some intense casting discrimination even in recent years. Until now.
We are highlighting the contributions and stories of transmasculine actors who are currently taking the industry by storm, and paving the way for future generations of trans actors and actresses to have as much of a shot as anyone to make it in Hollywood.
The son of Cher and Sonny Bono, Chaz has been in the limelight since childhood. Appearing as himself in a number of guest roles on series such as Dancing with the Stars and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, before becoming an actor proper in series such as Ryan Murphy’s hit American Horror Story, and even a cameo in Rob Zombie’s recent 3 from Hell.
Bono has yet to star as a trans character, though he has hinted that he may do so in the future. But for now, he prefers to portray a wide variety of characters who are as far removed from his own life as possible.
The son of voice actors John DeMita and Julia Fletcher, Elliot Fletcher has had a steadily rising profile in the last few years. First appearing in MTV’s high school series Faking It, Fletcher has since received prominent recurring roles in The Fosters and Showtime’s long-running hit crime comedy Shameless.
Fletcher also recently appeared in a guest role on Hulu’s Marvel Cinematic Universe series Runaways. Fletcher has been outspoken about trans representation in the media, and his belief that cisgender actors should not deprive trans actors of trangender characters and roles, and the difficulties trans actors may face on set.
Ian Alexander stars on Netflix’s acclaimed mystery series The OA, featuring his portrayal of a trans male high school student named Buck Vu, who is dealing with his ignorant parents and peers.
Alexander took the role without an agent or acting experience based on a random casting call posted to Tumblr, of which he fit the description. Alexander sent in a tape and impressed the creators so much he was offered the part.
Alexander has since taken on a dual role in the series, expanding his acting range. Alexander has been open about the similarities and differences he has with the character of Buck Vu, such as his more open and non-traditional gender expression in contrast with the character.
Brian Michael Smith
Brian Michael Smith had a long history on the stage before his jump to the screen, participating in off-Broadway theater companies and various forms of live comedy, even joining the Gotham City Improv troupe.
Beginning his acting career with bit parts in high-profile series such as HBO’s Girls, Smith found minor roles in Blue Bloods and Chicago PD before finding steady recurring roles in Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar and on The L Word: Generation Q. Queen Sugar was Smith’s first role as a trans character, and offered him the opportunity to infuse his own life experience into the role.
Smith has been involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy for several years, mentoring young people via the Gear Up Program at University of Michigan and the Tribeca Teaches Program at New York’s Tribeca Film Institute.
In an interview with NBC News in 2018, Smith spoke on his experiences in mentoring young trans people: “I worked with young people and I just saw how important it was for young LGBT people, no matter where they were in their experience, to see what is down the road for them.”
Smith has used his newfound fame and platform as a result of Queen Sugar to advocate for trans representation in the media, and continues to encourage young LGBTQ artists to create their own films, music, etc.