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10 Trans Actors Who Could Have Played Jared Leto’s Role in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

10 Trans Actors Who Could Have Played Jared Leto's Role in 'Dallas Buyers Club'

I was going to start this article by saying that I don’t want to take anything away from Jared Leto’s performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”. But in a sense, I do. The performance certainly holds up as a piece of art, but as a part of our culture, I believe it needs contextualizing.

I am not the first person to suggest this. Chelsea Hawkins wrote in PolicyMic that “Dallas Buyers Club” fails trans actors while Paris Lees in the Independent was perhaps more equivocal but still asked “Why can’t we cast trans people in trans roles?”Of course, nobody wants to limit trans actors to trans roles, but in the context of the status quo and general acceptability of handing the role to an actor such as Leto, it would be an undeniably liberating move.

But wait, you say – Leto was playing a pre-op trans woman. Surely it would be appropriate for the character to be played by a biological male? This doesn’t strike me as exquisite logic. Laverne Cox famously spoke out against the objectifying focus on the status of trans people’s genitalia, while Janet Mock talks about the obsession with “passing”, pointing out that in her mind she is not passing as anything, but simply being herself.

The concept of “passing” betrays a corrosive misunderstanding that being transgender is in some sense a performance as opposed to a reality. By casting a well-known cis actor in a trans role, it makes it all about the performance. Anyone who has watched “Orange is the New Black” will know that watching a real trans actor in a trans role has an entirely different, utterly compelling and humanizing effect.

With that in mind, I thought it worth highlighting ten actors who could have played the role of Rayon. This is not because they meet the specifics that Leto brought to the character. The role was a fictional one, not based on a real-life person like Matthew McConaughey’s Ron Woodroof, a fact which would seem to afford a great deal of freedom and possibility. In this case, the filmmakers chose not to pursue that route. But that doesn’t stop us from imagining.

1. Harmony Santana

Santana’s role in “Gun Hill Road” led to a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards, the first trans actor nominated for a major acting award and a hugely significant milestone.

2. Laverne Cox

Breakout star of “Orange is the New Black”, passionate trans advocate and exceedingly eloquent educator of Katie Couric, Laverne Cox’s star is rising fast and is a delight to witness.

3. Jamie Clayton

Clayton hosted VH1’s TRANSform Me alongside Laverne Cox, but she is also an actress of note, with perhaps her most high profile gig to date being her appearance in two episodes of HBO’s “Hung”.

4. Stephanie Michelini

Fellow Francophone director Sebastian Lifshitz showed “Dallas Buyers Club” director John-Paul Vallee how it’s done by casting a trans actor in his feature film “Wild Side”. The film won the Teddy at the Berlinale and a clutch of other festival awards, including a Best Actress trophy for Michelini.

5. Alexandra Billings

With roles on “E.R.” and “Grey’s Anatomy” among her credits, Billings made history as the first trans actor to appear in a transgender role on American television.

6. Elizabeth Coffey

OK, so she hasn’t done any screen acting for a while, but let’s pay our dues regardless. Known as a “Dreamlander” as one of John Waters’ regular cast of actors, Coffey played a transgender role in the iconic “Pink Flamingoes”. Two years later, she returned to play a non-trans role for Waters in 1974’s “Female Trouble”.

7. Calpernia Addams

Addams first made the news for tragic reasons when her soldier boyfriend was murdered by his colleagues on discovery of their relationship. A subsequent fiction film of events led to her meeting Jane Fonda at Sundance and conceiving the idea for an all-transgender production of “The Vagina Monologues”. Addams was later invited to perform in the 10th anniversary edition of the play alongside Fonda, Glenn Close and Salma Hayek.

7. Eva Robin’s

Robin’s considers herself androgynous rather than transgender, having been born male and then developed feminine features naturally. Her most famous role was in Dario Argento’s horror film “Tenebrae”. While the film’s politics are certainly thorny, a non-cisgendered actor playing a female role for a celebrated director is a shamefully uncommon occurrence.

9. Bibi Andersen

Competition for a place in Almodovar’s stable of actresses is fierce, but Bibi Andersen clocked up no less than four credits in Almodovar feature films in the late eighties and early nineties. It is also rumoured that it was Almodovar’s desire to attend the 1988 Oscars with Andersen as opposed to his leading lady Carmen Maura that caused the 18-year professional rift between Maura and the director.

10. Candis Cayne

Following a role on “Nip / Tuck”, Cayne went one further by becoming the first ever transgender actress to play a recurring transgender role on primetime as Carmelita in ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money”.

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Just because the role was a transgender character,
does not mean it had to be played by one, Jared Leto
was phenominal, whimsical, and a joy to watch
he made the character loveable and easy to relate to.
The innoscence he put into a demonized role could not
have been done by anyone other than him.

jimmy palmieri

And not one of them would have had his box office pull. Be happy that he got the cponversation going. I was and contniue to be happy when people like Sean Penn and James Franco bring the conversation of the love of gay men into their work, starting conversations. AN OLD ENGLISH WOMAN COULD HAVE PLAYED MARGARET THATCHER…..BUT MERYL STREEP DID. This is mean spirited and is not advancing the conversation.


Why is this movie such a big deal? No one was arguing about Felicity Huffmans role as a transgendered MTF in Transamerica and shes a biological woman. Why is this any different? Are we expect directors to only hire gay actors for gay roles no matter their abilities to play the part? Or not to hire people of mixed race to play the part of a white person? Its ridiculous to say only trans people can play trans roles its no different than saying trans people cant play nontrans roles. And as pointed out above obviously trans actors and actreses are getting roles just not this one so whats the big deal?


Calling Sébastien Lifshitz "Sebastian Lifshitz" is a good example of United Statesian neo-colonial MINDSET and cultural appropriation.


Jared Leto's performance was stellar. He did it with such subtly and grace. Truely deserved his award. I have seen 6 out of the 10 actresses listed above – and none have his skills. None. The director chose the person he felt would be best. Period. Actually being trans doesn't mean you automatically get to play trans roles over better actors. That is total nonsense.


Jared Leto is perfect. He brought attention to the film and an important topic for our generation. While the above actresses are beautiful in their own right, they are not as well known and likely wouldn't have drawn as big of an audience.


I can't believe the trans gender community is making this into such a stupid issue. Don't you folks have bigger issues to speak out on, or are you just doing this to get attention for your cause? Regardless, it's hypocritical, immature, and is really giving you idiots a bad name. Don'y dirty up the reputation of other trans genders who aren't whining like the few of you. None of these actors/actresses would have done a decent job. The director's reply, when asked such a stupid question, was honest and appropriate. It's one thing to make penises out of your vaginas and vice verse, but to make an ass out of your whole self is pushing it.

Sean Clancy

Would any of those transgendered actors have been willing to put their bodies through the punishing ordeal of having to lose 40 pounds in order to portray a person with AIDS, and for that matter a pre-op MTF transgendered person with AIDS?

Science fiction writer David Gerrold posted on his Facebook feed about this topic recently. A transgender friend of his emailed him to offer a bit of perspective on why it would likely have been quite difficult, if not impossible, to find an actual transwoman to play the role. He quotes her with her permission; edits are mine to avoid potential annoying comment overmoderation.

"…this transwoman already has enough body and identity s**t to work thru. Having to lose all that weight would really screw up anyone’s metabolism. On a transwoman, hormone [breasts] will disappear and implants will look like tennis balls glued on. I had to work years to get here. Why would I want go back to looking like a boy?"

Interesting insight, indeed.


So… you want transgendered actors and actresses to be type-cast as only transgendered people for their whole careers? Sounds like a step in the wrong direction to me…


I keep hearing this argument from the trans community and I think that an opportunity is being missed. Jared Leto as a trans character in a story that originally didn't have a trans character does feel a little bit like they were stacking the Oscar deck but it gained attention. He is a big enough box office draw to get viewers to the theater and because he won an award, a discussion is opened up. I say use the discussion to talk about important issues, not which actors should play which roles. Sometimes straight actors play gay characters, sometimes gay actors play straight characters, some non trans actors will play trans roles and some trans actors will play non trans roles. That's acting. The creation of a movie through acting, writing, directing, etc. should pull a viewer into a world where they are not worrying about how the actor lives and who they are. The actors should become the people that they are playing and through that, new ideas and new discussions should begin. Don't labor over the wrong points. Use this moment to talk about the dangers and the discrimination that trans people face. Talk about the changes that you hope to see, the language that you want people to use. Laverne Cox is doing a wonderful job by taking part in this discussion, but I also don't demand to know that she is a member of the trans community. I thank her for talking about that to help inform people. If she chose not to, however, I would still love her in that role because she is a good actress and she is written well. These characters are being written now. They are making it into mainstream shows and movies. Don't be so quick to call a foul. If a community continually tells people that they are failing and have offended everyone then you have ended a conversation before it could begin.

Mark Peyton

Maybe it was in the script but after seeing Dallas Buyers Club I don't recall any mention that Leto's character Rayon was transgendered. I took the character as someone who loved to be in drag. That was the director's intention–to not put a label on that character and I don't think you can put a label on an actor either.

With Leto's face especially his eyes, the audience knew he was a man. I couldn't help but wonder throughout the movie what is this guy's backstory. Is he a drag queen, or a transgendered woman? And that wondering is good, cause you're wanting a juicy bit of dialogue that's gonna explain everything, right? But that doesn't happen. We get a tense scene with his father. And that's it. We don't know much about Rayon, but because of Leto's eyes, the character is likeable. The director probably chose Leto because of what he could communicate with his face, not because of his gender.

All that aside, I think it's great this article put the spotlight on all these up and coming transgendered actors. And I hope someday someone hires a transgendered man or woman to play the everyman, or everywoman.


This argument is silly! it's a movie you can't have it both ways you want transgender actors only to play transgender people yet you also want transgender people to be able to take regular roles also can you say hypocrite? Also that's why it's called acting folks and as a heads up when you see aliens in the movies there not real aliens either. Leto did a amazing job good enough for a Oscar so he deserves not only his award but the respect of everyone. 20 years ago a serious transgender role would never have been shown let alone arguments against the actor.


I wonder which of these "10 Trans Actors Who Could Have Played Jared Leto's Role" had star names that would have brought funding to the film back in 2008 when it was finally cast. Oh, none of them.

Now let's acknowledge two facts:

FACT #1: this movie has been kicking around since the mid '90's, with the lead role offered to folks like Brad Pitt, Woody Harrelson, and Ryan Gosling. Jared Leto was SENT the script back then, but he didn't even read it.

FACT #2: Hollywood is unfair and and not a meritocracy. So, let's continue to support our transgendered actor community in building careers where they can pick and choose roles like Jared Leto does.


Too bad none of them tried out then huh? :P


Needs contextualizing? Why? So the movie can be about you? I cannot believe how much time otherwise smart people spend slicing up the categories of human nature and obsessing with how they and only they can discuss their self-identified slice. This is the direct opposite of the civil rights movement. we're all people. What people think or feel about gender or sexuality is their own business. Who cares? I don't. But there is no more oversensitive hyperactive reactors out there than the LGBTQAXYZ crowd.


This is absurd. It's acting. I suppose only Greek actors should portray the Spartans in 300? Only Marines should have portrayed Marines in Full Metal Jacket? Actual gay men should have portrayed the main characters in Broke Back Mountain, right? A real super hero should have been cast to play Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy, correct? Only vampires may be cast to play vampires in vampire movies to be fair.

Do you see how absurd this stance is? Actors portray things they are not. They act.


if none of these actresses auditioned for the role, then there is nothing else to be said about this list, sorry


Jared i think, he didn't get the real point of the character .He was acting good as trans women , but on the end. The point was not there ,was just acting trans with not going deep into it .The feelings and real picture i think was lost on the end of the movie , forgotten .Didn't stay in mind and make you think about character as trans person with all that historic story .And also after the oscar Jared, said this is for my MOM… and why ? He didn't said anything about Trans community ( that was hiss roll ) i think he didn't put the character first ..He was always first ,and all about him , his mom ..The movie and the acting point was about the marginalize trans hiv+ women, and the message was not sent out there after the wining oscar ..It was all about him and the oscar . I think real Trans person could putt more up the character ,and make it real and to stay remember the character of the movie ..Sorry Jared i like you , but me not happy specially with your Oscar speech .


Are these actresses full-females – meaning have they transitioned genders through surgery? If so, then they aren't appropriate for the character since Rayon is still waiting to have the surgery.


I believe that people are looking at this in the wrong way. As an actor or actress, you shouldn't tie yourself down to a specific kind of character. Leto did a fantastic performance in that role, and by not playing a character he could immediately relate to he showed his versatility as an actor. The same would go for anyone else; it is easy to play a character who you can relate to immediately (whether it be the characters gender, mindset, or sexual orientation), but by only sticking to that specific subgroup of characters you are showing a lack of versatility. If the people in this article were a better fit than Leto because of their acting ability than it is a completely different story, but saying that a person should be cast because of they are already immediately relatable to the character? That is ridiculous.


Responding to the comments below,I think it is important to recognize that cis-gendered people occupy a huge place of privilege in society. In show business, this translates to cis-gendered actors having many more roles available to them as they are not discriminated against on the basis of their cis-gendereredness. However, transactors have much fewer roles available to them, as is, in part, a reflection on the rampant transphobia in our society and the lacking depiction of trans-characters. It is certainly a positive sign that more trans-gendered characters are popping up in movies and on TV but there needs to be an active effort to also recognize the transgendered talent in Hollywood and to make sure that these roles provide opportunities for transactors that otherwise experience much more adversity in show business.


Not a single one of those actresses on that list is nearly as talented as Jared Leto. I'm glad he was cast over all of those people.


In early February, Leto attended a Q&A at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, when a heckler suggested he not be shouldn't have played a transgender person, Leto, keeping his calm, said that by that logic,
gay people wouldn't be allowed to play straight people.

Think about that; here is a small list of gay actors who’d be out of work using that logic:
Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Rosie O’Donnell , Wentworth Miller, John Barrowman, Stephen Fry, John Glover, Neil Patrick Harris, Tom Hulce. Jim Nabors, Jim Parsons, David Hyde Pierce, Zachary Quinto and Portia de Rossi…just to name a few.


personally I really enjoyed his performance as Rayon.
I just wanted to ask and please if this is misinformed or ignorant I am sorry but haven't the advancement in recent years made it so much easy to make someone who feels they are a woman inside look a woman outside.
Rayon obviously was not well off and talked in the film about wishing she could afford the operation and the breast but couldn't.
Personally I hope in years to come that transgender women will not just be playing transgender women, but women
as the transgender people I know would tell you they are a woman and if pressed part of the transgender community rather than being transgender as a woman.
please forgive me if I am mixing up transgender and transsexual or if I offend.


So by this logic, Matthew McConaughey shouldn't have been cast for the role because he doesn't have AIDS, and Jennifer Garner shouldn't have also been cast because she's not a real doctor.

They're actors. Their job is to portray a character.
It's about talent and skill–neither of which is a product of gender.
You're only ostracizing your gender if you factor it in.

Rebecca Benoit


If you're angry that a straight male played the role of Rayon, get over yourself. It's called acting. Did we cast a mentally challenged man as Forest Gump?

As for him not thanking the "transgender community" during his acceptance speech… If he had, someone would have had something to say about that, too. You WANT equality, you DESERVE equality. Great! Don't bitch when you get it. He didn't personally thank everyone with curly hair either.

My final rant ends where it began. I'm sure that there ARE a lot of wonderful, transgendered actors and actresses out there, but to assume that when a role like this opens up, ONLY they should be cast in that role (or that they should be firstly considered), undermines what acting is all about.

Some people always have a problem


Jared did great in the role and that is all that matters in my eyes. Just for the writer of this articles info though it was Calpernia Addams who worked with Jared on his role, she was mentioned in his thank you speech during the Oscars


This is so stupid.

Do these people have any idea how hard Jared Leto worked on the role? He essentially starved himself to LOOK LIKE SOMEONE DYING OF AIDS.

Not to mention he's a better actor than the rest of these people put together, and newsflash, kiddos: movie executives will ALWAYS cast the highest-profile actor they possibly can to play a part. That means more money. Duh. If one of these other people had been cast, the audience would have dropped dramatically.

And don't tell me the SJWs of tumblr would have rode in to watch it and boost ratings and views, because the majority are broke 15 year olds who would much rather pirate it.

Also, Rafi, on the off chance you read this, grow a pair.


ok. so… here is my two cents on the topic soley because #1) I have traveled in Rayon circles and #2) as a talent agent in hollywood, I used to book actors in these roles (Willam Belli as pre-op transsexual, Cherry Peck, in Nip/Tuck): most of these trans actors really look too feminine to play a pre-op transgender person in 1985 in.. TX was it? gay men heading to become sex bombs didn't have massive implants available. now.. looks aside, consider the mannerisms. when you change your gender, you change how you act. i did drag for years and after i stopped , all the feminine mannerisms slowly went away too. but to my m2f friends, they were woman, hear them roar. i think (willam bias aside) that the only person that could have pulled this role off already did. years ago, in The Crying Game. #jayedavidson And that year they gave the Oscar to Gene Hackman because during Oscar season, he said he was retiring from acting. We need to stop pointing at all the wrongs (gays were vicious at the Oscars #johntravolta) in major award winning gay cinema and start finding ways to improve it now that these doors are being open. by which sexuality? whooooo cares. #onelove #onemic


Does the fact that Jared Leto understands and accepts that he should not have been cast to play a transwoman mean anything, though? He's acknowledged how problematic the casting was, and did his best to give a thoughtful and sensitive performance anyway because he recognized the context.

Isn't it important to note how his character in the movie's a really negative stereotype and most transwomen wouldn't want to portray themselves in such a terrible light? It doesn't justify the error in the casting at all, but we don't know who else was considered or was sent copies of the script. It's not impossible to believe that any transfeminine people who recieved the script declined going to the audition, you know?

Also, wasn't the character meant to be portrayed as a drag queen, and therefore the casting wasn't transphobic? I'm not sure how or where this rumor came to be, but I've heard it a few times and I'm not sure what to think of it.


As an aspiring actor (who is a straight, white, cis male) I have serious questions about what parts I should allow myself to play, and I really appreciate the perspective on this particular issue provided by this article. I am curious as to what parts all you readers think are acceptable for me to play or want to play. I fully agree that trans* people, people of color, and members of the lgbtqa . . . community are very underrepresented in the media, especially television and film, both in terms of characters and actors, and I really want to fix that, but I'm not sure demanding that every part be filled by a member of that group is the correct response (of course, I am speaking from a position of privilege, so please tell me if you disagree. I don't want to offend anyone, I'm honestly curious what people think). Actors (I use this term for all people who act, regardless of their gender identity unless a specific person asks me to use a different word for them), by their nature, play characters who are nothing like themselves and whose life experiences are entirely foreign to them. While I agree that I have no personal knowledge of the life experiences of a transwoman, I also have no life experience as, say, a Christian man. Does that mean I should only play atheist characters of Jewish heritage (my religious identity)? After all, there are plenty of Christian actors who could likely play the part. If anyone has any ideas about what lines I shouldn't cross (for example, due to the destructive and painful history of white men playing African-American characters through the use of blackface and minstrel shows, I refuse to play an African American character), I'd love to hear them. Thanks!


This character wasn't written to be a beautiful, well adjusted, passable trans woman. this character was intended to be broken, flawed — a hustler. A trans woman goes through thousands of dollars of HRT and counseling — not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars to become passable. Those things weren't happening in 1985 in the same way they are now — and no broken, flawed, broke hustler would have had the money to pay for HRT, counseling, surgery, etc…I think the writer is missing the point of the character — and while I agree that trans men and women should be better represented in Hollywood, Leto's "trashy", broken characterization done by a real trans person may have done more harm than good — not to mention the fact that the story itself wouldn't have gotten the funding to even be made without the star power Leto and the rest of the cast brought.


Benefits for being transgender ? ? . Clear . Now it turns out to be an alleged " mentally ill " is a social privilege.
Turns out to be a transition government will not hire ( quite common ) or have problems at work. And that's normal socially speaking .
Besides ignoring the fact that most transgender people in most movies usually be based on stereotypes intended to mock the reality of transgender women. But nothing . That reality is the obvious Hollywood and Jared Leto. Best treated as the true background of silly criticism (perhaps poorly expressed ) and come with the fallacy of " performance."
Sorry. But it is just search for the suitable to obviate the attitude transfondo pretext evidence .
Outside the words of review were not the luckiest . That does not mean you have a lot to talk about the social hypocrisy to talk about us or calling us .
But yes . Then in the news when it comes to murdered us in our birth gender . Nothing happens. Nobody takes responsibility . Same should be that only cisgender people are entitled to their identity is respected. That must be it .


The film is not based on the facts that allegedly says based . Then comes all the way to Rayon Men and even has cheap Graciet . Stereotypes Then … the trans to trans woman comic stereotype women ( the other is the man-eating ) . Regulars at the movies with transphobic dyes.
In addition to not talk much about AIDS . The story seems a conspiracy of the pharmaceutical criticism . And that's all that is real in relation to the real story behind it.
But na . Besides the obviate unwarranted exclusion work … Only few transgender people have been calls for the film to remember . Counted . And yet even less for movies specifically related to those circumstances. Is it coincidence ? . No. Just there is always willing to discuss the situation of trans people without having the same , society account .
Except in a very timely manner , it is almost always the case.
And many films with transgender characters just looking comic stereotype or trans woman devours men (and evil ) . There are very few movies that are dramatic and usually take seriously the background of the story of a transsexual woman .


Whilst I believe there are valid grounds to say a transgender should and could have played the role of Rayon, in my opinion it wouldn't have been any stated above. The film itself is set in 1985 and depicts a 'pre-op' transgender woman. These women would have been very different in appearance to those we say today and you have listed above. The advancement in surgery and hormone treatments, etc alone makes the two vastly different. So whilst there may be many available candidates out there who could fit the criteria as well as Leto, I don't believe it to be any you have named. Jared Leto turns in a great performance which should be enjoyed rather than nit-picked.


I think this article is really unfair. We are all human beings and should not place one gender above another. So lets be honest, the part should go to the one that the filmmaker believes is best for the part. being transgendered does not make you a privileged class.


It is called acting! And he did a wonderful job. As a poz member of the glbtq community it is reprehensible to see this story criticising a wonderful opportunity and chance to spread awareness of the important issues that we faced then and now. They did a beautiful job in this film and we should all be grateful they did.


what about french writter and model Andréa Colliaux ?


You forgot Willam Belli.


The biggest question is, "Would any of the people above had been willing to go through the physical transformation both Jared and Matthew went through for their roles?" If yes, then I feel they should have definitely been considered for the role. I was shocked at how emaciated both Jared and Matthew looked. I understand it's their job but I would have declined the role knowing how much of a dangerous transformation I would have to go through.


I've never heard of the term "cis male" until I came upon this article and the comment section. Is this a new thing? cisgender and cismale? When I looked up the definition, it states "Cisgender is a term used to describe people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth." So I'm really confused about this because that just seems so obviously, well, odd to me. I'm not trying to offend, but to understand: Isn't this basically what many people would think of as "normal", but that's the exact reason people came up with the cisgender term, to avoid the political incorrectness of one group being referred to as "normal" while another isn't? Why would we need to start calling someone, for example, who was assigned 'male' at birth, and identifies as a 'male', yet now we call them a cismale or cisgender? I don't know, just seems like this is getting way too complicated than it should be (i.e. 50+ facebook gender options now is comically ridiculous)


I don't understand why a female should play a transgender role rather than a male, this isn't new men play women, women play men so there is no reason a man shouldn't play someone born male who wants to become a female.
I am sympathetic to the LGBT community but I do think in this case there is no reason.


The name of the guy who made Dallas buyers club is actually Jean-Marc Vallée. Not John Paul. Please correct that, it would be really appreciated from us francophone readers. Also, i really agree with a comment left below about the role being really stereotypical for a transgender. Being a trans actor/actress shouldn't mean only having trans roles as being gay shouldn't mean having only gay roles. I would me happy to see a straight woman played by a transgender woman. It would have a lot more impact than a trans prostitute with HIV played by a trans actress. For example, i think that the role played by Felicity Huffman in Transamerica would have been less impactfull if played by a trans. It would have been great, dont get me wrong, but the whole thing about acting is impersonating someone you're really not. That is what makes it impressive, in my humble opinion. But that doesn't mean a gay actor can't play a gay character or someone with down's syndrom can't play a character with down's syndrome. My whole point is that actors shouldn't be cast as a character because of what they are in real life.


Transpeople are literally men in make up/drag lying to themselves, so Jared Leto was essentially a trans person.



A lot of people commenting on how ignorant this piece is are incredibly ignorant. It's not about whether Jared Leto did a good job, or if the people were well-intentioned, or whether all gay/trans characters need to be played by gay/trans actors. Not once in your analyses have you considered what it's actually like to be trans, and the fact that being trans immediately makes it incredibly difficult to get an acting role in ANY kind of movie. God forbid one of the tons of trans actors who the mainstream culture regularly shuns gets to play a trans character on screen. We're talking about an issue of representation here, and representation is one of the most important factors in eliminating senseless violence against innocent people. Trans people are very often the subject of extreme violence and hatred, and sensitizing the public to them is A) incredibly important and B) something that *they* should have a direct stake in.


By this article's own logic, Laverne Cox's brother should not have played a pre-op Sophia in OITNB, but Laverne Cox should have…


This is actually the most ignorant piece ever. The point is to find the best person for the role whether they are gay, straight, bi, transgendered, undefined, it doesn't matter. By the logic presented, as one person stated, a straight actor should have played Barney Stinson, A gay actor should have played Will (Will and Grace), a real superhero should have played Superman, an actual God should have played Thor,…I hope you get the point.


Can we get a list of 10 straight actors who could've played Barney Stinson?


Hey, guess what, there were probably dozens of straight male actors who could've played this role too, but did you know that movie roles aren't always filled by the most talented actors? Would 1/100 of the people who saw this movie have seen it if Leto and McConaughey weren't in it? The makers wanted to tell a story, and they wanted people to see it. So they cast great actors that people had heard of. And they knocked it out of the park.


They weren't looking for a transgender woman because that's not how the role was originally written. In the script it was a drag queen. So all these fuss is not valid. Also, a transgender woman ís a woman, I totally agree, and she should be treated as one. The problem here is that the woman is born in the wrong body (Male?) isn't it? And isn't the body one of the 'tools' of an actor? I'm all for emancipation of everybody but I'm also against attacking people who had every good intention.


Almost all of these people are women, so they're called actresses, not actor. They wouldn't have won best supporting ACTOR if they played and been nominated, right?


You do understand that pre-transition Sophia Burset was played by Laverne Cox's cis twin brother, right? I feel like you are trivializing the experience of not passing – it's a real thing that happens that has real consequences for people's lives, not just something you can theorize away. Also, one of the people on your list, Calpernia Adams, has written a counterpoint to this on her facebook.

Aunty Mib

Two other Transwomen actresses who would have been good.

Nina Arsenault who was a transwoman who played a transwoman on Canadian television.

Alexis Arquette.


I'm all for trans women playing trans women roles, but in all honesty, from what I read, what trans woman would want to play a role of a negative stereotype? I think we're missing the bus when we bitch about not seeing a trans woman in that movie instead of demanding trans roles in movies that depict us as the PEOPLE we are. That depiction of what a trans woman is only further demonstrates the way even supposed liberals from Hollywood feel about us and I gotta be honest, if that's the way you feel a boy me and my sisters, I'd rather you kept your shitty roles off screen.

Go for it.

Go make your own movie and hire these amazing actors.


The problem is that there were probably a limited number of people who could realistically fill the role. Rayon was a pre-0p trans* woman in early/mid eighties Texas, and I have no idea if the character was even taking hormones. So for casting they would need not only a trans* actress, but an actress who has not transitioned physically in any way. AND then you'd have to cast an actress who doesn't mind losing a drastic amount of weight. Not everyone is willing to put their bodies through malnutrition for an indie movie role.

So on top of finding someone who physically fits the role and is willing to lose weight, you'd also have to find someone who is a powerhouse actress.

Jared Leto completely stole the movie for me. Heartbreaking performance.

The Arbiter

Let's take the inane stupidity and navel gazing to another level, shall we? From now on GAY actors can ONLY play GAY ROLES! Is that what you morons want? OF COURSE IT ISN'T. You want the gay to be able to do WHATEVER HE WANTS and the STRAIGHT be the one who is limited to straight roles because their is no "truth" or intellectual consistency IN the children of the wicked one!!! But hey, I'm all for limiting gays to gay roles!! Well done, morons.

The Arbiter

THANK GOD you are this stupid. I hope MORE PEOPLE follow your idiocy. As a black actor of medium notoriety I have been black listed (no pun intended) for not wanting to play gay characters!!! Now I have a perfect excuse to show the NAZI INSANE LIBERAL SCUMBAGS that run this business!!!! Thank you so much!!!


Isn't the point that they are acting not playing themselves so why should it be a transgender person playing them? Should all gay characters be played by gay people? Acting and evoking is an art form.


While those ten actresses may be brilliant, they don't drive box office. Sadly (at times) filmmaking is a business, and "who's more famous" is more important than "who's more authentic". Casting is usually the difference between a film being made and it being not made, and I think it's great that this movie got made and it deserves the acclaim it has received. That said, it's great that this can at least be a catalyst for discussion and awareness.


NO ONE questioned Felicity Huffman's TransAmerica nomination in 2005. I wonder why?


I wonder how many of you are dedicated fans of Jared. Again the echelons at work to defend their master.


I am struggling with this article. First of all, I have seen the film and thought Leto's performance was outstanding, sensitive and beautiful. However, I can also understand the questions and critique in that there are many wonderfully talented Transgender actors/actresses that could have been auditioned/chosen – Leverne Cox is outstanding! Should it though be mandatory to cast artists in roles that fit their make-up? Whether that be religion, race, sexuality, gender, disability, age…. ?we need to be open to the art of our artists and NOT force them to make decisions based on ticking every equal opps box as that just limits the art. I will always be in support of equality in casting, equal pay and importantly recognising the diversity in both roles, characters and casting but decisions should still be creatively led. And Jared Leto did a beautiful job in this role and resonated… regardless of his/her gender/orientation.


I think there all the beautiful. the character needed to be seen as trans by the audience and these actors have worked so hard to be beautiful and seen as woman. wouldnt it have taken away from them if they then got asked to play an obvious trans woman.

I think people needed to see it was a man to was trans these women are incredible and the audience would have just assumed they were women.


Dallas Buyers Club has already been made. It will forever have a cis male playing a trans woman. My suggestion is that if one has a problem with this, write your own screenplay and cast who you want in the roles. The only way change can occur is if you force doors open, not complain about ones that have already been closed.


and none have them would have been as good.

Does this mean Trans can only play Trans? Gays can only play gays?


@Connie – amazing post.


lol i love when people use the phrase "alienating allies." dummy.


@ Hollywouldn't: Ha! thanks for the compliment but no, I just happen to write well and know a lot more than you (about filmmaking, societal change, how art and film in particular facilitates change and of course I've seen the film).

MHK, yes I agree the pace of change is really frustrating but it WILL happen, although not necessarily exactly the way we want it to, as long as it happens!


Connie, I don't take major issue with Jared Leto or the film within the article. As I said, it's about contextualising the performance, emphasising the potential of the alternatives and most of all, celebrating the dozens of quality trans actors there, almost all not receiving the acting opportunities they deserve.


Interesting perspective Matthew, but perhaps it is also worth considering a few points before politicizing something that wasn't a political issue in the first place: 1. saying only transgender actors should be considered for transgender roles is advocating for discrimination based on sexual preferences and gender identity… as long as it serves a purpose you believe in. Equity is about eliminating barriers, not creating new ones even if it is to correct an imbalance (the end does not always justify the means). 2. Changing societal views or value systems is like turning around the Titanic, it is only very recently that gay characters (respectfully portrayed) have made it into mainstream film and television… and that is because of actors and filmmakers who are "mainstream" who take the "risk" of featuring gay characters who are not caricatures but real people we can identify with (on a human level? gasp!) Leto, and the filmmakers of Dallas Buyers Club (as well as any other film) are LGBT allies in that they are bringing the trans community into the mainstream awareness. Don't forget it's the film business… key word is business, the ability of a transgender actor/actress to attract an audience is minimal and does not compare to the attention to the film from Leto's transformation. So bashing them for the early push needed to make transgender roles and transgender actors "acceptable" to mainstream movie going public and therefore not a financial risk for the funders of projects is really counter productive. Yes, trans actors should be considered for trans roles… but considered against the same criteria as straight actors…. and they should also be considered for "straight" roles too… this is the goal afterall, for all roles to be accessible to all actors so long as they have the skill level, look, and the other factors that come into play when casting. 3. Acting is about playing a character who is not you, just because you cast a transgender woman does not mean that you would get a performance as good as Leto's, and that is the material point. The reason why he is being recognized for his performance is because he not only made the mainstream audience believe Rayon is a real person (she's was a purely fictional composite character) but actually CARE about someone who is part of a marginalized segment of our society. The point is for people to walk out of a theatre changed in how they look at life and people and be more open and accepting of everyone.

So if you want to take away from Leto's performance to play with a political concept or create controversy, well it's a free country I guess. But know that you are also likely taking away opportunities from LGBT actors as well and alienating those who are allies.

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