Trans-Blackface!

Yeah - that's a white dude

Yeah, that’s a white guy

There’s a row that’s been going on for three days over Mark Ruffalo’s movie about a trans sex worker. Jen Richards, who I have a secret crush on (only for her smarts. Damn! She’s wicked smart) took the actor, producer and seemingly good guy to task for casting a cis-man in the role of the trans character. She makes really good points. And while Ruffalo extends an olive branch in his own way, both the twitterverse and the transcommunity have a new bone to chew on.

I understand the frustration. When I first heard about this new film, my first thought was “I hope they put a transwoman in the sex worker role.” Bummed they didn’t. But really, not surprised: A lot of hollywood is about making money. It’s not surprising that it’s using the spotlight on the transcommunity as a money-making whore. After all, they did the same thing with black people.

Back then, when blacks were sweeping trash and staffing white bathrooms handing out towels, white actors (men) played black roles. They smeared their face with black paint (called blackface) leaving their white eyes, big lips and white-gloved hands starkly contrasting their pitch-black faces. It took many years before blacks finally wrested black roles from white men wearing black paint.

I think the same thing is going to happen with transgender roles. The Universe delivers on every desire, spoken or unspoken. Hollywood is not exempt. Yes, it seems to make sense to decry the fact that trans roles are being portrayed by men. Jen says it leads to violence against transwomen. That’s an overreach IMO. The real reason for (especially) male on transwomen violence is masculine insecurity. But that’s a whole other story.

I love films because they tell stories of all kinds that have all kinds of societal effects. Many films catalogue our collective cultural canon. But life is the real story telling stage. And we’ve seen this story before. Remember transcommunity. It took many years before black artists wrested black roles from white men in blackface. The same will happen here. Don’t fret too much. You only make the present moment worse for yourself. The Universe is creating a world for you. Focus on that.

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