Casting a woman as a transwoman

(207 Posts)
Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 10:33:15

So there is a show about to air on the Australian ABC about Carlotta who is an incredibly well known and important entertainer in Australia. She Les Girls, was the first transexual in an Australian soap opera. An icon, someone whose very being has made changes to the Australian cultural landscape. She was original born male and very early on had surgery

So the person they have picked to play her is a ciswomen. Surely there was a trans actor who could have taken the role. My feeling is that a women has been cast because she can be sexy in the Les Girls numbers without making people feel uncomfortable about seeing her as sexy.

Am I over thinking this? Is it gender equality to have a ciswomen plan a transwomen?

I think it's an odd choice, yes. Felicity Huffman has also played a transwoman, if I remember rightly.

EBearhug Fri 06-Jun-14 11:13:59

Isn't that the same as Hayley in Coronation Street?

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 12:01:05

Why should a trans woman play the part? You don't have to have been brought up in care to play a care leaver, have been raped to play the part of a rape victim or be bisexual to play a bisexual character. Why would you have to be a trans woman to play one?

meditrina Fri 06-Jun-14 12:10:35

If they refused to let trans women audition, then I would agree it was wrong.

But if the part required an actor who identifies as female now, then if any such actor auditions, they should choose the one who is right for the part, irrespective of birth gender.

The character of Hayley Cropper probably did more to advance positive perceptions of trans women than anying else I can think of in UK. What the actor for that role, or any other role, is like in RL isn't the important point.

FloraFox Fri 06-Jun-14 14:23:51

I don't think you're overthinking OP, I just don't see how this would be a feminist issue.

SixImpossible Fri 06-Jun-14 14:31:19

As Laurence Olivier said to Dustin Hoffman, when DH was running himself into exhaustion in preparation for a scene in Marathon Man: "Why not just act exhausted?"

The actor does not need to be what they are acting.

TiggyD Fri 06-Jun-14 17:30:43

The role should go to the person who can do it best. A transwoman would have a big advantage, but I don't see why a cis-woman would be incapable of playing the role. After all, non psychopathic murderers play psychopathic murderers. I believe they're actually preferred.

or Kathleen Turner playing Chandler's dad in Friends.

Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 21:36:38

I guess I'm thinking it's a feminist issue because of how sexy the show will be, lots of very skippy clothes ect and I wonder if the casting is because only "women" can be sexy and titillating.

Yes actors can be anything and I really like the actress they have chosen I guess it's more about having the space in the media for transpeople to be. I wondered if it's a bit like having white people play back people. Sure an actor should be able to play anything but what about the actual talented black actors out there.

I haven't had a chance to chat with anyone in RL who is remotely interested in this so thanks for helping me think it through.

dementedma Fri 06-Jun-14 21:39:18

Whats a ciswoman?

I agree with that - I know that the woman who acts in Orange is the New Black - who is a transwoman in real life as well as on the show - got a fair bit of flack from people (male people) who reacted exactly that way. It just reinforces the idea women are the sex class and nothing could be worse for a man than to discover he fancies someone who might have/have had a penis.

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 21:44:30

The irony of this thread.

I have no words.

If you are serious OP, the actual person the actor is playing wanted this particular actor for the part.

Chopsypie Fri 06-Jun-14 21:49:21

Demented a ciswoman is one who identifies as the gender she is physically.
So most NT women

confused

What's being NT got to do with it? Or is gender dysphoria seen as not being NT (I didn't know that).

almond - forgive me, but I don't see why it's ironic, though I didn't know the real-life person chose this actor and that does change my perspective.

Dysfunctional Fri 06-Jun-14 21:56:12

Caroline Cossey a very beautiful transwoman played a non trans Bond girl. Surely the other way round is fine too.

Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 21:57:28

I'm not sure why it would be ironic. I'm trying to get my head around the casting which I think is wrong.
I did try and find out about Carlotta's involvement in the show and it isn't mentioned anywhere.

kim147 Fri 06-Jun-14 21:58:38

TBH - it would be nice if "transwomen" characters were played by people who - and I pick my words carefully - look trans. I don't quite know how to say that - but many (especially older) transwomen look trans - in others they can be read easily.

It would be nice to have prominent transwomen who are not young and passable like Paris Lees who came out young. The majority of transwomen are older and - well they look trans.

I never watched Corrie - but I did see a bit of Hayley. I don't know how much she talked about being trans when she was Hayley.

I can't think of prominent transwomen who can be read because they don't "pass". It's really hard seeing people like Paris Lees who is so young and has her whole life ahead. But of course - if you are trans, you might not want to play a trans character.

Older transwomen need role models as well.

Dysfunctional Fri 06-Jun-14 21:59:21

Although I should add her role was limited to lounging around a pool in her bikini and when the media later revealed she was trans her career suffered.

Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 22:01:06

LRD I think Almondcake is asserting that Carlotta had final casting say, I'm not sure that is the case.

I'm fine with the other way. Fuck that is really inconsitant and I'm not sure why that is fine and why I'm concerned about the other way. Maybe because we so rarely see transpeople on the screen it seams like a huge missed opportunity.

Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 22:04:53

Maybe that is partly it kim the actress really doesn't look trans, particularly when she is being Carlotta before she was Carlotta. She looks like a young Twiggy in a suit.

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 22:09:33

If this is being approached from a queer theory perspective (and I can’t see what other perspective it can be coming from for the OP to have reached these conclusions), then identity is based on a person’s sense of gender and not on on the gender they were assigned at birth. In that sense, it shouldn’t make any difference what the background of a woman actor is, all that matters is that a woman plays a woman. Trans women actors or what ever other identity women should be playing all women.

The people who definitely shouldn’t be playing women are men. So the casting we should be taking issue with are shows like glee, where a transgender woman is played by a man.

The equivalent racial issue to the OP’s complaint would be one that happened recently where people complained that an African Indian American character (i.e. a black person from heritage in India but who was born in the United States) was being played by an African American woman. This was seen as being racist because the actor had no Indian cultural heritage. This standard is never applied to white people, as white British Actors play white Australians and white Americans all the time. (If people are still confused by this I mean that there are black people in India just as there are in the UK, not that the population of India in general are black).

What the OP seems to be arguing is that what matters is not who someone is capable of portraying on the screen based on their current identity, but what that actor’s background is. This standard is not applied to men (as in Glee) or white people, but to black people and women, whether they are trans or not.

Well, I have very little to do with queer theory, and I agree with what the OP says about it being problematic that society won't accept transwomen as sexy.

This is how the gender binary is reinforced. There are some people out there who have such an ingrained belief that women are there to be fucked, and utterly different from be-penised people, they will not accept that someone who has or used to have a penis could ever be part of the sex class. That's what this is. You look at the way some men talk about transwomen. It's all about what those men imagine is their right - to judge women as sexual objects. For them, the idea they might fancy someone who was born with a penis is upsetting and offensive.

Hazchem Fri 06-Jun-14 22:20:36

I have to admit I'm not coming from any particular theory just my initial reaction.
I wonder if my reaction is that the show will chart the Carlotta's life from when she was Richard.
Oh and to be really clear it is not the actress' ability that I am questioning it is the casting choice.
I understand your equivalence although regularly question casting of anyone other then an Australian as an Australian because they never get the accent quite right. I have however questioned the casting of British Indian and an Aboriginal Australian but that was an AM-Dram so the pool was probably very small.

almondcakes Fri 06-Jun-14 22:21:08

This is the actual quote, I've cut and pasted as it is from the Flail and I don't want to link:

'Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Carlotta said Jessica had, 'done an amazing job,' as 'she really did remind me of me and she was my only choice for the role.'

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