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Here’s How Virgin Atlantic Made a Huge Fail for the Trans Movement with ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

Here's How Virgin Atlantic Made a Huge Fail for the Trans Movement with 'Dallas Buyers Club'


I recently made the return trip from London to San Francisco. It’s a schlep I do a fair amount and I always fly Virgin Atlantic. Yes, they promote a grating nostalgia with their weird 50s ads, where women are hot, always be-skirted attendants on the arm of the suave man-captain. But you know, they also have one of the best safety records around and I’m a nervous flyer. So I hit the limits of my feminism at about 30,000 feet above sea level, I guess. Virgin are also, usually, the best when it comes to inflight entertainment. After nervously reading through the safety instructions I get through take-off by obsessively reading the entire contents of "Vera", their inflight listings guide.

Well, this trip "Vera" was certainly a distraction. But not in a good way. As I scanned through the films I noticed "Dallas Buyers Club". I’ve seen it before and wouldn’t really watch it twice, but before I moved on I noticed something odd in the film’s description. It starts off fine – it’s "rich and compelling, the direction "bold and absorbing" – and Matthew McConaughey is praised for "giving what is by far the best performance of his career". It then goes on:

"That he’s matched in intensity by Leto as a cross-dressing fellow patient is testament to the quality that goes right through this richly satisfying film".

Um, sorry? For one, Leto’s character had a name – Rayon – and she was a trans woman, not a cross-dressing man. Right here, right in this mistake, we see exemplified so many of the problems of carelessness around trans narratives.

During Oscar season Leto pissed off a number of people by eliding the differences between being a man who cross dresses and being a transgender woman. Jared Leto might have had to "cross dress" in order to play Rayon, but Rayon, the character he was portraying, was not a guy who, for whatever reasons of self-expression, dressed in conventionally "feminine" clothes but still self-described and self-understood as a man. Let me say it again: Rayon was a trans woman.

This mistake from Virgin gives a new perspective on the now old objections to Leto’s casting. The point is that some media and some audiences confuse Jared Leto’s act of transforming himself into a male actor playing a trans woman with the lived reality of what it means to be a trans woman. To be sure, the Rayon character is not the spokeswoman for all trans-identities, as this excellent op-ed from Parker Marie Molloy pointed out. But by referring to Rayon as a "cross dresser" Virgin, and all of those media outlets who have made a similar error, reveal just how far we have to go in the conversation about gender identity.

We don’t have to stay silent about this. Tell Virgin Atlantic this is not okay on Twitter, let them understand the mistake that has been made, and, if you’re flying with them, engage in a little DIY activism of your own (just make sure to send us pictures – we’ll publish any that come in!)

This Article is related to: News


Comments

More bees with honey

"The point is that some media and some audiences confuse Jared Leto's act of transforming himself into a male actor playing a trans woman with the lived reality of what it means to be a trans woman." – The Rayon character was never positioned as a representation of what it means to be a trans woman… it was but just one story based on a composite of a few trans women in Ron Woodroof's circle during the 80's, in Texas. That's it. It isn't possible to have a single representation for all trans women any more than it is to have a single representation of what it means to be a cis woman/man/lesbian/gay man/etc. You reference Molloy, but does Calpernia Addams' perspective not merit equal consideration? She has said she knew trans women like Rayon. The op-ed writers and other self-appointed advocates themselves do more harm with amped up outrage and aggressive responses that leave no room for dialogue. Keep going this way and we'll be seeing fewer and fewer trans characters in film and tv … because who needs another headache (says the studio exec)?

Rick

This seems like mostly an innocent misunderstanding that could be corrected by some education. This article seems to want a more aggressive stance.

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