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Sean Bean takes on trans role for BBC drama

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  1. Yes it’s a good storyline. Yes Mr Bean is a good actor but why oh why can’t they use real trans people?

    1. Agreed!

      1. What is a ‘trans’ person?

        1. Kay from NZ 12 Jan 2012, 12:09pm

          @lisa A trans person is short for a transgender man or woman or sometimes for a transsexual man or woman. A trans woman, as Bean would play, was identified as male as a baby based on physical attributes but self identifies and lives as a woman.

          1. We don’t all live as our chosen gender. I present as straight male, despite identifying as gay female.

    2. Because it’s acting – and just how many Transgender actors are there – who Identify as post op on a CV – you sad bitch!

      1. Kay from NZ 12 Jan 2012, 12:10pm

        Tell me JD how many? How on earth would you know? Plenty of actors don’t share their gender history with everyone.

    3. Oscar Watson 12 Jan 2012, 2:48pm

      I support the principle of your objection, but the main issue is, (surely?) the quality of the acting to get the story across properly. I’m not aware of any professional trans actors. -Just an opinion!

      1. We’re all over the place, but have to FIGHT for recognition/screen time…

      2. Another Hannah 12 Jan 2012, 11:01pm

        I have been doing training via LAMDA for years but it’s just too hard dealing with what is a very bigoted industry. I’ve given up hope of professional status after getting bullied on the No4 Drama degree in the country. I pursue music and dance now, and I’m hoping to write a pantomime shortly – i’m reduced to stereotypical dame stuff because it seems that’s all thereis hope of. prejudice was endorsed by NODA and it’s patron the lord Lloyd Weber.

    4. Jason Brown 13 Jan 2012, 10:46am

      I agree, but it’s not just trans people this happens to, for example the wheelchair user in Glee.
      It’s very difficult to get roles due to being trans or in a wheelchair or something else and when those roles come up they just give them to a white man who gets all the parts anyway.

    5. This, this, this – a thousand times this.

  2. Jock S. Trap 12 Jan 2012, 11:49am

    Good on Sean Bean.. a great actor.. a surprising role but am sure he will do all justice.

  3. Kay from NZ 12 Jan 2012, 12:08pm

    I think it will be a pity if the show uses the trans woman’s gender transition as an indication of mental illness and links this to her killing someone in a violent rage. This seems to be foreshadowed by the summary.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. The “crime of passion” will either indicate trans=crazy if she is the perpetrator, or trans=pitiable [or worse] if she is the victim. And both of *those* stories we’ve had plenty of before on maintstream tv, I think.

    2. It might be very sensitively done …

      It might just be a genuine crime of passion that happens to involve a person involved in transition … and the transition just be part of the complex weave of issues and identities that the character experiences, but not have any significance to the crime (other than explaining some of the background of the character) …

      1. theotherone 12 Jan 2012, 2:28pm

        or it may be a crazy tranny with a knife.

        We shall see but I don’t hold out much hope.

        1. Maybe this portrayal of a story will be the one that demonstrates empathy, understanding and integrity …

          Not holding out hope because of past experience by other producers, actors or screenwriters is pessimistic, defeatist and judging one set of artists on the standards of other artists …

      2. Yes, my fears exactly Fay, this could either really help the trans community if the character is portrayed sympathetically – or set it back a decade.

  4. You can bet your life that ‘Tracie” is looking for love with another WOMAN. Emphasising the fact that Sean Bean is a STRAIGHT man- nothing gay about trannies! Most trans people I know are looking for MEN. Get real Jimmy McGovern.

    1. Why? What on earth gives any indication that the character is a lesbian?

      And for that matter – yes, the majority of trans people are straight (i.e. interested in the sex opposite the gender they identify as), just like the majority of cis-gendered people are straight. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who fall in all realms of the spectrum, or that they matter any less.

      1. Reliably recent stats indicate that 2/3 of trans people (slightly higher proportion of trans women, slightly lower proportion of trans men) are gay or bisexual.

  5. Sarah Brown 12 Jan 2012, 12:31pm

    A recurring issue with casting trans women roles is the use of men, perpetuating the idea that trans women are “men in drag”. In reality, the late amount of oestroge we take and the removal of facial hair result in complexions and muscle tone comparable to a cis woman.

    Transamerica may have been problematic, but it did provide a breath of fresh air in casting a woman inn a trans female role.

    1. But what about Olympia Dukakis as Mrs Madrigal in Tales of the City or the woman who plays Hailey in Coronation Street?

    2. Why would a woman be cast to play “Simon the English teacher”? It seems like this role is a trans person in the beginning of their transition pre hormones.

      1. Sister Mary Clarence 12 Jan 2012, 5:00pm


      2. Sarah Brown 12 Jan 2012, 5:29pm

        That demonstrates a misunderstanding of how many women transition these days. It’s not at all uncommon to take HRT and have hair removal prior to social transition.

        1. You’re right people transition in many different ways, including the way this character seems to be portrayed (although neither of us have yet seen the show).

          Many people are not fortunate enough to have access to HRT prior to social transition, or chose not to go that route and they deserve to be represented as well.

          Even if you think they perpetuate “the idea that trans women are ‘men in drag'” doesn’t make their experience less worthy of portrayal on TV.

  6. Oh dear… This one worries me. He’s a good actor and I respect him for wanting to take on a role like this, but the crime of passion (yup, I agree – sounds like another crazy trans story), visible beard shadow and overly glitzy dress make me concerned that this is another of the BBC’s stereotypical depictions of LGBT people.

    I do hope it will be a positive portrayal, but I’m not holding my breath.

    (A sad note on the comments so far: What a shame that only 11 comments in, we have some very unfriendly comments, including one abusive one and one use of the derogatory term ‘tranny’. Sigh.)

    1. Might be worth judging it when its actually broadcast and not prejudicing it with your presumptions – you might be presently surprised at the ability of the production team and artists …

      1. I agree, Stu. I’m trying not to judge it before seeing it, just airing my concerns and fervently hoping that the BBC do a good job of it. As mentioned, though, the picture posted in the article and the hints regarding the storyline have left several trans people here with concerns about it being yet another stereotyped trans story.

        Fingers crossed it will be handled sensitively! :)

        1. @Emily,

          Thats fair enough. I hope a good job is done by the production team, artistes and BBC. I hope its evocative and provocative.

          It might be that the BBC have released a poor choice on image in their media pack…. Having done a simple google images search on Accused BBC Sean Bean, I found the samne image several times (suggesting it has been circulated by the BBC or others) and another couple which were less “in your face” than the sparkly number…

          Also, even if the character is, at times, stertotypically dressed does not mean the character themselves are a cliche

          Lets hopes the drama is well produced, acted and received …

    2. I totally agree that there is a risk of too much stereotyping in this program (judging by the photo). Most of us trans girls just want to pass as female, to walk down the street without people staring at ‘the man in a dress’. Yes, sometimes we want to wear something more glitzy…just like GG’s do, but mostly it is about matching how we appear on the outside with how we feel inside.

      As for trans folk being gay, thankfully the community covers all spectrums…some like guys, some like girls, some like both; some like guys before hormone therapy and girls after. The point is that stereotyping what we do and what we like still means that a lot of trans people are afraid to be open about their feelings!

      I will watch the program with an open mind and hope it does us all justice!

      1. Thank You, Jessica …

        A measured and open minded response – not quick to reach conclusions before the drama (note drama – fiction – art) is broadcast … hopefully it will be both sympathetic and evocative …

  7. Why can a trans character not be played by a non-trans actor?

    Why can a gay man not be played by a heterosexual?

    Why can a trans actor not play a non-trans role?

    Why can a gay actor not play a heterosexual role?

    Its up to the casting director, producer etc etc and it is an artistic decision to be made … if the actor is good and reputable then they will both research and bring reality to the role …

    If we insist on trans roles only being played by trans actors, then how far does this go – that a actor can only play their own gender, orientation, age, nationality, economic background …???

    Its acting – and the key principle of acting is portraying a role that you are not …

    1. theotherone 12 Jan 2012, 2:31pm

      you may as well ask why we insist on having women in acting or black people or the disabled…

      1. @theotherone

        Oh I think you misjudge what I say …

        Of course there are some physical characteristics which should be protrayed by people with those physical characteristics as far as is reasonably practicable eg a black person should play a black person (the Black and White Minstrels were inexcusable) … However, even though I have pretty good gaydar I can not always tell who is or is not gay, bisexual or straight – I have been wrong on occasions … Also, some trans people are not obvious visually, some are …

        I shall say again acting is about playing a role … that is what acting is … they should be employed to use their talent and artistry …

        If there is an aspect to a character which is not obvious by physical appearance eg orientation, economic status, age, some disabilities, political views – then we should not expect that the actor must have the same orientation, economic status etc etc – surely we judge them on their talent and artistry to portray the role …

        1. theres a physical difference between a trans and cis person (post hormones etc) and a character can only be identified as gay because of what they say or what they do so id suggest that cis people playing trans is closer to blackface than straight playing gay and vice versa.

          1. @Xaria

            Not always is the physical difference obvious (sometimes it is, but not always) … and thus I would contend cis portrayal (sensitively done) is entirely appropriate … although, I would accept it would not be appropriate for every trans character to be portrayed by cis artistes …

    2. It’s not so much “why can’t a trans character not be played by a non-trans actor?”, it’s more “why are trans characters almost exclusively played by cis actors?”

      There have been some excellent cases of cis actors playing trans characters (Cillian Murphy’s Breakfast on Pluto and Felicity Huffman’s Transamercia spring to mind). Unfortunately, there are so many cases of men with quite masculine images playing trans women. Sean Bean’s a great actor, but he’s typically seen playing fairly masculine roles and I worry that this will carry over, emphasising the ‘bloke in a skirt’ image that the BBC likes to portray.

      You’re right: It’s acting and a key part is portraying a role you’re not. However, we’ve all seen how damaging the stereotypical portrayal of gay characters can be when played by straight actors. Why is it so difficult to understand that trans people feel concerned that this is happening when cis actors play trans roles?

      1. @Emily

        Don’t get me wrong … I am sure that are some great trans actors out there (not sure I can think of any, and that may, in part, be due to lack of opportunity) and they should be given the opportunities to play both trans roles AND cis roles.

        As you rightly say there have been some powerful and sensitive trans portrayals by cis actors – and I am sure there will be more …

        As much as there have been some poor acting portrayals of gay men (and women) by straight actors – there have also been some very successful portrayals of gay characters by straight actors and of straight characters by gay actors …there is no reason the same can not be true, and continue to be true, of trans characters … Nor should even the most laudable and sensitive depiction by a cis actor stop there being a desire for more trans actors in BOTH trans and cis roles …

    3. There’s no reason at all why men can’t or shouldn’t play trans-women. But I have to admit that my heart sank a little when I saw Sean Bean’s name involved in this. Good actor though he is, his very masculine and high-profile image suggests that the portrayal will be considered a bloke in drag. Well, we’ll have to wait and see.

  8. I hope this is set a decade or so ago… I mean, my gods! look at the top….

    1. I have to say, one of my trans friends still wears a similar top (although in orange – yikes!) … I have advised her that there are better options, but she likes it …

      1. if its personal choice I worry not so much… it’s when it’s on screen my concerns get raised about tired old cliche’s. not that my dress sense is amasing to be fair.

        1. @Jessica

          Fair play. Although (as with my friend) some people do actually live out a life that (maybe not all the time) fulfills those cliches … and surely one of the points of drama is to reflect life, so some of those cliches will be shown … if its purely cliches and no imagination that goes beyond the stereotype, I agree that is concerning – but we have one picture of this drama – it might be one example of what the character wears and the rest may be surprisingly different (in a good way)

  9. Suddenly Last Bummer 12 Jan 2012, 3:15pm

    If that wig were black he’d look like yer wan from Dragon’s Den. On the plus side Sean Bean is a pretty good actor.

  10. Oh, hello “pathetic transsexual” stereotype. I haven’t seen you in a while. (total lies).

    1. Erm … have you seen the programme yet?

  11. Can I be selfish here?

    A “straight” can NEVER know what it’s like to be trans, so their portrayal will not match the true emotions needed. But then again, it’s all up to the casting director.

    Being a trans actress, I have been turned down for roles of a genetic girl (GG) and/or a mother. It’s REALLY a bitch for trans actors to be cast in “straight” roles–so this seems to be a double-standard.

    What did I do to get around the problem? I wrote and star in my own screenplay” Transsexuals from Space”

    So, is it selfish for me to fight for castings? Perhaps, but you gotta what you gotta do!

    1. @Brina

      I don’t think is selfish for you to fight for castings … I can’t view video clips where I am at the moment, but when I can I shall look forward to seeing what your screenplay and performance is like … I think as an actress you should (and probably do) actively seek out roles …

      I don’t think you should restrict yourself to trans roles (and from your comments its clear that you do not) …

      I can understand why you perceive this as a double standard and I do, genuinely, empathise.

      I do not agree that it requires KNOWING what its like to be gay or trans or a murderer to successfully portray and demonstrate emotion as an actor delivering a gay, trans or murderous role …

      I wish you well for your future Brina and hope you get cast in many successful productions, hopefully across a diverse range of roles that test and stretch your artistry

      1. Thank You for your kind words and support!!!

    2. I too sympathise with your plight Brina it’s not right or fair that people discriminate against you because you are trans, if you are the best actor for the role you should be given it regardless of any other factor.

      I respectfully disagree with you on this point though:

      “A “straight” can NEVER know what it’s like to be trans, so their portrayal will not match the true emotions needed.”

      It sets a dangerous precedent, which could be turned against you i.e. you will never be able to play a “GG” because people perceive you can not “match the true emotions needed”.

      Or more extremely it’s a bit like saying only a serial killer can play a serial killer because only they know what it’s like to live with an uncontrollable blood lust.

      Anyway you’re not selfish in the least you should continue to fight for your rights and pave the way for others.

    3. Brina, when you wrote “straight” in your post you meant “cisgender” ? The opposite of trans would be cis, not straight.

      I am a transgender myself and I agree a cisgender, even within the LGBT community itself can never know what is to be like us. There are some great transgender actress out there, like Candis Cayne, and check out the Brazilian actress Maria Clara Spinelli; and it’s a pity most of the time they don’t get to play female cisgender roles, but there is no need to be so radical. I don’t think real feelings about knowing how to be the character one is playing is needed for an actor, actors play roles they never experienced in their own skin all the time. I mean, Al Pacino played very well the role of a blind man in Scent of a Woman despite not being blind, and it gets me all the time when people say a real disabled actor should have been cast in the role of Artie Abrams in the TV series Glee (despite not liking the series).

    4. And don’t worry about sounding a little selfish Brina, we all do sometimes in moments of strong emotions, I did myself in the article “UK trans artist offers to play any pride event in 2012 for free” about Chrisie Edkins.

  12. I should be happy about this, but I’m actually quite nervous. Please, PLEASE don’t screw this up, BBC.

  13. there are transsexual actors out there. and crime of passion? great, violence inflicted on a trans person. thats original.

  14. Alice Denny 12 Jan 2012, 5:02pm

    Ok, so a group of us had this debate on Christmas day2010. It’s called acting. “Trans” actors should get work by auditioning and displaying their suitability and talent. Whatever the role. Do we want a world in which only lesbian actors can play lesbians? I don’t think so . And before anyone gets hot around the collar, it would surely follow that gay actors would be excluded from ‘straight” roles. Is it obligatory for Richard 111 to be played by an actor with a damaged back? No No no. Equally why should major roles be out of bounds for a disabled actor however good an actor they are. Answer, they should not. Some of the best performances I have seen in past few years has been from wheelchair users playing roles for which there was no mention of wheelchairs in the script ( unless a Shakespeare scholar knows otherwise) (eg a fantastic drunken sot of a Toby Belch played by Neil Hancock in last summer’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Taking Flight.No more space)

    1. @Alice

      Absolutely, entirely concur.

      The only issues that should be considered in determining who to cast for a particular role, should be acting ability, suitability for the role (artistic context) and the ability to perform any specific tasks that may be required in the particular role eg horse riding, driving, swimming etc (with acceptance of an ability to learn if this is reasonable). Of course there may be some physical characteristics that are considered eg its unlikely you would consider David Jason to play Margaret Thatcher, Joanna Lumley to play Winston Churchill, Rupert Everett to play Desmond Tutu or Morgan Freeman to play Samantha Fox … but the reasons for not casting Rupert Everett as Tony Blair or Suranne Jones as Angela Eagle would be more artistic than due to factors relating to appearance …

      Let actors prove how good they are at playing people they are not (with emotion, sincerity and honesty) …

      Lets not prejudge their performances …

      Lets also respect

    2. Another Hannah 12 Jan 2012, 11:10pm

      Yeah great – except I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they have made sure there are no trans. actors. I don’t like the idea but it’s necessary because of the sheer lack of opportunities and the nasty things that straights do.

  15. One of my favourite an smost underated actors.

    He will do a fantastic job, i too just hope they dont do a poor portrayal.

  16. OMG! Sean of the monotone! Transcrap for the lowlifes of the council estates.
    Is the BBC so desperate it has to look in the tired old themes bin?
    Suppose it will give the Bindel/Burchill/Sarler gang something to crap about.

    1. Does Julie burchill hate trans people? To be honest I’d take that as a compliment.

  17. Helen Wilson 12 Jan 2012, 9:06pm

    I’d of liked to of seen a trans actor do this role and maybe for the orientation to of gone the other way F2M. The worry is this wont be any great departure at all, just a very one dimensional bag of stereotypes.

    1. You maybe right, Helen

      I hope you will be eating your words and saying what a fantastic drama it was – either at fairly portraying a trans person, or making an evocative/provocative performance

      1. Helen Wilson 13 Jan 2012, 11:16pm

        I hope so too Stu, however experience tells me to keep a healthy dose of scepticism. Trans Media Watch has spent a lot of time and effort into educating the BBC, this is a real tester to see if anything has changed.

  18. Another Hannah 12 Jan 2012, 11:03pm

    I have been doing training via LAMDA for years but it’s just too hard dealing with what is a very bigoted industry. I’ve given up hope of professional status after getting bullied on the No4 Drama degree in the country. I pursue music and dance now, and I’m hoping to write a pantomime shortly – i’m reduced to stereotypical dame stuff because it seems that’s all thereis hope of. prejudice was endorsed by NODA and it’s patron the lord Lloyd Weber. The worst insult at Uni was when they gave an amateur trans part to a straight student, and left me with no part, despite being experienced and well qualified

    1. Another Hannah 12 Jan 2012, 11:06pm

      Oh, and yest it does look like the usual stereotypical “were such liberated and progressive people” load of tosh. Mad trannies yet again.

  19. Had better look at that photo accompanying this article. Sorry, but it shouts “DRAG”! Dragtastic blonde wig and glitter top!! Oh dear.

  20. People. We’re all theorising while not being in possession of all the facts. And some of you have just not read the article well enough.

    Re: that image; yes, the character does look a bit over the top. But it’s very well possible that this is her party frock for a night on the town. All of us sometimes overdress for a party. And it does look, and read, as if the character is in her first stages of social transition, so, yes, she would look like a man in drag, because she hasn’t had any HRT yet. Everyone transitions in their own way, let’s be respectful of that.

    As for the crime of passion; what if a man really liked her and his ex-girlfriend threw a hissy fit and killed him? Or what if two men liked her at the same time and one killed the other? There’s more than one possibility, here.

    1. Absolutely, Emory!!!

  21. PumpkinPie 13 Jan 2012, 2:07pm

    All this debate about the lack of visibility trans actors get reminded of the fantastic, Emmy Award-winning Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones), who is a dwarf.

    I’m not sure how many people with dwarfism there are in the world, but it surely can’t be any more than trans people. Hopefully, the trans community will get their own Dinklage in the near future.

    I have nothing against Bean playing this part, I just wish it wasn’t the norm for trans people to be played by straight people, that’s all.

    1. I hope trans actors will be used with more regularlity …

      I also hope Sean Bean makes a meaningful performance in this production

  22. Good on him. I think if anything it’s a good casting.

    He’s an accompished actor and from what I know will research the part well before he plays it. I think it’s important to give him a go.

    I don’t profess to knowing much about the transgender issue to be honest and as a gay man I can only say that I somewhat empathise with transgender men and women. However, I can say that hopefully in a few more years transgender men and women will become as visible as gay men and women. However, these things take time and although that’s frustrating I believe this casting is still step in completely the right direction.

  23. I hope to god he doesn’t wind up with another death under his belt. At the very least he rocks the sequins! Shame they didn’t use an actual trans woman in the role though, but that would be like a sign of the apocalypse if a major network ever actually started seeking out trans* actors and actresses.

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