Give transgender talent a chance

Tambor with his Emmy addressing Hollywood

screenshot by Ariette Reynaldo

Tambor with his Emmy addressing Hollywood

Ariette Reynaldo, Staff Writer

With the 2016 Emmys over and most actors given their credit due, usually people lie in anticipation for the Grammys and Oscars. This time, however, Jeffrey Tambor’s speech about accepting transgender talent into the acting industry has made waves in social media. “Please give transgender talent a chance,” Tambor said after receiving his reward. “Give them auditions. Give them their story.”

Hollywood is no stranger to discrimination. Recent films and TV series have begun to expand the range of character diversity, but have failed to do the same with their casting choices. It would only make sense to allow transgender actors to play transgender roles, yet there’s a strong stigma in the industry that prevents that.

Hollywood is no stranger to discrimination.”

Actors like Tambor, who won an Emmy award for his role as a transgender woman in the TV series Transparent are given these roles despite not being trans themselves. Trans actors of similar caliber are pushed aside in favor of more famous cisgender actors. Such a system is unfair and degrading to transgender actors who work just as hard for the same role. Though the genre of shows like Transparent are comedy, having cisgender actors play transgender roles to enhance the comedic effect is a not so subtle stab at the transgender community.

Transgender actors have been successful in Hollywood. Laverne Cox, Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black is a famous trans actor known to be an activist for the transgender community. Cox has advocated for transgender acceptance in the acting industry and agreed with Tambor’s view. “Give trans a shot,” Cox said. “I would not be here tonight if I was not given that chance.”

Jeffrey Tambor along with the cast of Transparent
Via wikimedia under Creative Commons licence
Jeffrey Tambor along with the cast of Transparent

The transgender community has been more prominent in society thanks to activist like Cox, but it hasn’t always been like that. Unlike other minorities, such as people of color, the transgender community lack an extensive background that enable them more coverage for their cause. According to Cox’s bio on the official Emmy website, she was “the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show” and was nominated for an Emmy in 2014. This was only two years ago, and the transgender community has been around for way longer than that.

Some argue that there are already enough transgender actors in Hollywood and that pushing for more is unnecessary. However, it’s not just about giving more trans actors jobs, it’s also about providing representation for the trans community.

There might be more transgender actors and roles on screen than before, but many are just side characters with little importance or screen time. Trans actors also need larger and more prominent roles to be able to reach out to others. It’s really important to have someone a viewer can identify with and look up to on TV.  Seeing people similar to oneself on shows and movies is reassuring and helps people be more comfortable with their identity.

…there are almost 700,000 transgender Americans…”

— timesunion.com

According to Timesunion, there are almost 700,000 transgender Americans; so it’s not as though there aren’t enough to be on the radar for casting purposes. Tambor and Cox acknowledged that trans people should be given more auditions and generally more chances in the industry. The trans community has struggled for the awareness they have today in society, but the fight doesn’t stop there. In the words of Tambor, “We have work to do.”