Why Does Transgender Talent Exist?
According to a report published in 2016 by the Williams Institute (part of the UCLA School of Law), about 0.6% of the US population identifies as transgender. That translates into just shy of two million, when using the end of the year 2016 figure of around 325 million total population estimate of the US.
Late in 2015, a story came out that more people have claimed to have seen a ghost than have claimed to have knowingly seen a transgender person.
Also in 2015, it became apparent to Transgender Talent that there weren’t just a few studies done on the psychobiology of being transgender. (That’s a long word to mean biological origins, or psychological origins.) At first we thought it was a handful, then over 100 were brought to our attention. Then, much to our surprise, two recent books were found on the subject, one citing all the research done – around 3,000 papers, covering a wide range of medical and scientific areas, around 1,500 of which were peer reviewed. So much for transgender being a ‘choice’, as some claim. Science is gradually proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that transgender people really do have a brain that does not match their outer physical appearance.
So where do people get their ideas of what transgender people are like? It must be either directly, or indirectly from various forms of media (film, tv, print, etc.)
Some people confuse gender and sexuality – in fact in some cultures and languages, the two concepts have no way of being differentiated. So in some people’s minds, someone born with one type of genitalia but feels they are the other is ‘gay’. Little do they realize that we’re talking to two different things here. One is who you’re attracted to and the others is who you are. You can be transgender, and yet be attracted to either male or female energy or both. People can have a hard time wrapping their minds around that – if one is born with one form of genitalia, transitions to the opposite, and is attracted to the same gender they used to be, does that make them straight or gay?
Plenty of people still see transgender as part of being gay. In other words, a trans woman is just a drag queen, and a trans man is just another type of being lesbian. Way back in the 1950’s at least one very poorly researched short film came out, warning people about “The Homosexual”. It depicted all (what we now call gay men) as sexual predators, trying to lure young boys into their lifestyle. It seems like that’s the idea that’s been affixed into the minds of some people regarding transgender people – could this type of short film be part of the basis for their fears? Do they feel that all trans people are just part of being gay?
Since the majority of those attacking the transgender community in the US are Christian, we’ll throw in a bit about that in this paragraph. There’s only one verse in the entire Bible specifically talking about wearing clothes that do not match your genitalia – and it happens to be found in Deuteronomy. In reading commentaries, and debates about the issue of it being under the law or under faith, some people go to great lengths to say it applies today, in spite of their professed faith in Jesus. Rather than sink into the depths of the debate, shouldn’t one look at the origins of the teaching, then look at today’s results of some people teaching that it’s evil?
Honestly fear is the greatest motivator. In 2016, many police agencies nationwide looked through their records and found no evidence of charges being filed against transgender people for being predators of any kind. That includes violations in bathrooms or other public accommodations. (We’re not saying there’s none at all, we’re just saying it’s so rare that examples don’t quickly come to mind or are found by research.)
So, it appears that the transgender community is being turned in to a paper dragon that some can create and fight against. Their ‘victories’ are hollow in that there wasn’t a war going on, much less even a battle, or for that matter even a scrimmage. Paper dragons are easy to destroy, right? But it makes those leading the battle look hugely successful to their supporters.
The Results of Fear
The result of the fear of trans people have led to a huge upsurge in local, state and federal legislation against the transgender community. But that’s not all.
2016 saw the largest upsurge to date of transgender people being murdered. Some of them were by hate crimes. Some were by boyfriends or lovers who had been hiding their relationships with trans women, afraid of what their friends, family or society might think if they found out their lover was trans. If only the murderers would think it through! If a murderer is caught, then won’t all the truth be revealed?
We don’t really know how many trans people are being murdered. All too often, a dead body is identified in public record by their birth records, so unless someone who knows the full story can become involved and clarify the person’s identity, the death gets incorrectly reported. Another story came out in 2016 is that the deaths of sex workers are commonly not investigated – and many assume all trans people are sex workers. So how many trans deaths are not investigated?
If you take the ratio of those killed that are trans to it’s tiny community size, and apply that percentage to the general population, we’d be seeing around 4,500 being killed in hate crimes per year. So would that mean people wearing crosses around their necks? Or, people of color? Wouldn’t we have a national crisis going on right now if that were the case?
If you substitute ‘transgender’ with ‘gay’, this whole story sounds like it’s a couple of decades old. If you substitute ‘transgender’ with ‘black’ this sounds just like what went on for decades, or even centuries up until the 1960’s or so. It’s pretty much the same fearmongering. All one has to do is read old anti-gay and anti-black sermons from long ago.
For over 50 years, the common way transgender people were presented as characters were as sex workers, criminals, and/or child predators, and of course were the butt of lots of really nasty jokes. The vast majority brought in a stereotypical image that only slightly resembles a small minority of the trans community.
In reality, transgender people are a cross section of society, with people of all races, cultures, ages, education level, abilities, dreams, hopes, and accomplishments. Transgender Talent is intended as a vehicle to provide access for that to Hollywood in any way possible.
Transgender Talent Summary of 2016
The focus of Transgender Talent’s efforts are to educate. First, we educate production staff, typically the casting director, but many times producers, writers, directors, and more. Many have no idea what transgender people are like and what we face daily, and most are wanting to learn as much as they can. This equates to a lot of phone time, as that’s almost the only effective way to reach them.
We insist on scripts, which we read and approve, before submitting actors or other talent for projects. This applies to all productions, whether large or small. We rejected around 7 productions last year, and gave them our reasons. A couple of productions refused to give us scripts in advance, so in all, around 10 casting calls got no submissions from Transgender Talent last year.
On the flip side, the vast majority were accepted. We had as many as 6 casting calls per day come in last year, and had as many as 30 trans actors in for auditions per week last year. Typically we have between 3 and 6 actors in per week for auditions. This resulted in hundreds of auditions for trans people at locations all over the US, including but not limited to Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Vancouver B.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco. It was and remains not uncommon for transgender talent to contact us afterwards, in tears, thanking us for the opportunities to finally have their dreams realized. Some landed roles, and in a wide variety of productions.
2016 included our first out transgender child actor appearing on a major tv show on a major network. (Way to go, Jackson!!!) Also, our first actor to land a costar lead role in a feature film finished shooting, and the film will be out in 2017. We have helped land roles for lots of trans men and trans women. The vast majority have been transgender women of color. Our highest paid performer for 2016 was a black trans woman.
We began offering management contracts to certain key performers in 2016, and among those, we are beginning to get them signed with major talent agencies nationwide.
We saw an upswing in interest for transgender models this year, and some of our people landed those gigs. We’ve also seen an increased interest in voice over actors for animated work, from small productions to the major studios.
Trans Actors Playing Cisgender Roles
Since the very beginning, Transgender Talent has looked for and successfully booked transgender actors into cisgender roles. In a very interesting turn of events, as word has spread within the industry, multiple productions have been cast using as many transgender actors as possible to fill as many cisgender roles as possible.
In an increasing number of cases, Transgender Talent was contacted privately by casting directors looking to do this, even after breakdowns were published with no indication of this being the case. This has included many small independent productions, including shorts and new media, and major studios, including one major feature film.
The media visibility Transgender Talent has received in 2016 has been phenomenal, with mentions in a wide variety of articles including the New York Times and other major media. To get a feature article in Rolling Stone capped it off as a great year for Transgender Talent.
The support of so many in the industry has been huge. Russel Boast has been one of many key players in this. His continued support has meant a lot to our community, and made a huge difference in many transgender careers. Together with he and other members of the Casting Society of America as well as SAG, Transgender Talent facilitated the very first Diversity In Casting classes in CSA history.
2017 promises to be fantastic, with several documentaries nearing release covering everything from productions Transgender Talent is involved in, to documentaries fully focused on our company and our founder, Ann Thomas.
The future looks bright for transgender people in Hollywood, New York, and all the other areas where productions are being done.