Jared Leto portrayed a controversial character named Rayon, a drug addicted and HIV positive trans woman, in the film Dallas Buyers Club. His performance won him an Academy Award. The public’s acceptance of a non-trans person playing the role was varied, with some negative opinions coming from the trans community.
Many in the community felt rejected and hurt when Leto failed to thank or even mention the LGBTQ community in his acceptance speech at the Oscars. The buzz on sites like TSmeet.com was fervent for a while. Others felt that it would have been better if a real trans person played the role and felt that choosing a cisgendered white male was somewhat discriminatory. Trans actors rarely get the types of roles that provide critical acclaim. There were also concerns that having a cis male play the role might perpetuate the stereotype that trans women are really just men in drag.
Positive reviews praised Leto’s acting and thought his portrayal of Rayon would help the mainstream, and those without experience or understanding of trans women, to learn more about their struggles. Of course, the Academy’s recognition was a big help in putting this small-budget film on the map as well.
Whatever you think, the fact that people are talking about trans issues due to a mainstream movie means that trans politics are moving further into the public eye. From this controversy, more attention was brought to highlight that trans actors and actresses often get the short end of the stick in the industry. The movie also portrayed a life that is not too far off from some trans womens’ truths. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much in the media about people outright offended by the presence of such a character in a film. Our society has moved forward from much more conservative times 50-100 years ago, when trans characters in fillm would have been hard for many to accept.