Should Cisgender People Play Transgender Roles
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Politics and Activism

Should Cisgender People Be Allowed To Play Transgender Roles?

A weigh in on a topic that's very unclear.

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Should Cisgender People Be Allowed To Play Transgender Roles?

When asked during class what my opinion was about Scarlett Johansson's casting, and later abandoning, of the lead role of a transgender man in the movie Rub & Tug, I had only shrugged and said I didn't get why it was a big deal. I believed that the person best suited for the part should win the role. Then someone, more knowledgeable in the matter, spoke.

Transgender people have faced oppression in many ways; ways that I am too inadequate to speak about and ways that my mind could never possibly understand as I have never been in their shoes. Identifying as transgender can be dangerous and is still sometimes treated as an illness rather than what it actually is--a part of a person. It should also be stated that many transgender people have different experiences due to the different types of transgenders there are and the different environments they grew up in. In short, people who are transgender face marginalization in everyday life and the type of oppression that follows them into the workplace.

When I was asked my opinion, I said without hesitation that Scarlett Johansson should have kept the role; she was obviously the best actor and the biggest name. Why should cisgender people be stuck to cisgender roles when transgender people can do both?

The answer is they can't. Cisgender people migrate between roles all the time while those who identify as transgender are left in the dust from the beginning of their career--and not for lack of talent. Many transgender actors have trouble getting a foot into the business from the get-go. From the very start, they are restricted to transgender roles because that is what they are and obviously that is what they must play, but somehow, it doesn't apply to cisgender people.

The closest comparison I can bring into this situation is the portrayal of blackface in theaters. No, this isn't the oppression Olympics and black face poses a very different amount of issues, but it is the closest thing for this situation to be compared to of my knowledge. Cisgender people playing transgender roles can be seen as offensive and limiting, a slap in the face and discrimination towards a certain group of people.

But then again, shouldn't the best actor with the biggest name still get the role? Who cares if they don't identify with the character; as long as they do their research and portray the role properly, there shouldn't be an issue. Directors can choose to change sexualities and races when doing a movie adaptation all the time. But the issue arises when the best actor portrays stereotypes instead of the reality of what they have never lived.

In a system where transgender people are discriminated against, we arguably need transgender people to play transgender roles in order to portray the truth of experiencing the oppression, lifestyle, and even joy of being transgender. But then, should transgender people not play cisgender roles?

There is no clear answer for either of these questions, but I hope you consider yourself an Ally and support productions that are in line with your beliefs.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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