Transgender actresses have hit out at Scarlett Johansson after she defended her decision to play the role of a trans man.
The Avengers star will reunite with Rupert Sanders, who directed her performance as a canonically Asian character in Ghost in the Shell – a film which was also accused of queerbaiting and straightwashing – to take on the role of real-life trans man Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug.
Transparent star Trace Lysette and Sense8‘s Jamie Clayton both condemned Johansson, with Lysette calling her decision “a mess” and “so twisted.”
Writing on Twitter, Lysette said: Oh word?? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all?
“Hollywood is so f**ked… I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case. A mess.
Lysette, whose stand against co-star Jeffrey Tambor’s alleged sexual abuse of her led to Tambor’s exit from the show, then clarified: “I ❤️ Jlaw btw… no shade.”
And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived… so twisted. I’m so done…
— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) July 4, 2018
She continued: “And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived… so twisted. I’m so done…”
Clayton, who was the first trans actress to play a trans character that was written by a trans writer on Sense8, wrote in mostly capital letters as she voiced her anger directly at Johansson and Sanders.
“Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THATS THE REAL ISSUE,” she said.
Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THATS THE REAL ISSUE. WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM. Cast actors WHO ARE TRANS as NON TRANS CHARACTERS. I DARE YOU #RupertSanders @NewRegency #ScarlettJohansson https://t.co/RkrW8MeGcG
— Jamie Clayton (@MsJamieClayton) July 4, 2018
The actress, who also criticised cisgender actor Matt Bomer for playing a trans sex worker in Anything, added: “WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM.
“Cast actors WHO ARE TRANS as NON TRANS CHARACTERS. I DARE YOU #RupertSanders @NewRegency #ScarlettJohansson.”
After being widely panned for taking on the role of Gill – a massage parlour and sex work business owner in 1970s and 80s Pittsburgh who self-identified as a man and told people to call him Mr Gill – Johansson responded.
She said in a statement to Bustle: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
All three of these actors are cis people who have played trans characters – Tambor in TV show Transparent before he was fired over sexual misconduct allegations this year, Leto in 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club and Huffman in Transamerica, a 2005 comedy-drama.
None of the actors name-checked by Johansson have responded to PinkNews’ requests for comment.
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And instead of dismissing the controversy, the statement appeared to pour fuel on the fire.
Lesbian stand-up comic Rhea Butcher also made a good point about the issue, writing: “The main reason it’s wrong in 2018 to cast cis actors as trans characters, in two sentences: ‘He plays a transwoman.’ ‘She plays a transman.'”
The main reason it’s wrong in 2018 to cast cis actors as trans characters, in two sentences:
“He plays a transwoman.”
“She plays a transman.”
Perpetuates the “confusion” around trans identity which leads to violence against trans and gender nonconforming people.
— rb (@RheaButcher) July 4, 2018
Butcher added that this “perpetuates the ‘confusion’ around trans identity which leads to violence against trans and gender nonconforming people.”