Should Non-TG actors play TG Characters?

04TRANSGENDER-blog427Photo from NYTIMES

Yes, they should.

The question, and my response, arise in response to a recent New York Times article discussing the casting of Eddie Redmanye and Elle Fanning to play transgender characters even though neither publicly identifies as being transgender.  Some groups and individuals have raised concerns, saying only actors who identify as transgender should play transgender characters..

I can summarize my feeling on this issue pretty simply:

  1.  We are not our bodies
  2. We are not what other people tell us
  3. We do not have to choose to identify as anything
  4. No one should be pressured into “outing” themselves.

To focus on item three, the pressure to put myself into a box and slap a label on my forehead tortured me throughout my life, and the need of others to label me created conflict where there didn’t need to be any.   I do not like labels, and I do not think we need to live in a world where every character and every actor has to be assigned a label and put into a box–  oh, that’s that transgender actor… or that gay actor… or that ingenue, or whatever.  Because people couldn’t figure me out they labelled me with things like girly boy, or they lisp he’s sensitive at me like being sensitive was a crime.   Some people called me a freak and a deviant.   That was where the drive for labels took me.  Do I want to be labelled?

NO.  We are are all more than labels, we all contain multitudes.  Am I a girlish boy?  A boyish girl?  I don’t have to choose.   I feel different things different days and different times, and my dream would be to live in world with more choices, more freedom and less labels.

The film makers can and will cast the actors they want to cast.  That is their right.   They want to make the best movie they can.  Some will not like those choices, and they have a right to express their feelings as well.

But I, for one, will never raise my hand and scream,  “LABEL ME!  Give me a bar code!  Put me in on a box on a shelf!”

I transcend all labels.  And you do, too.

New York Times on Casting

Wild Cards, a princess and a pregnancy (Spoilers)

wildcards

How would a man react to being turned into a pregnant woman?

The Wild Cards series of books, edited by George R.R. Martin was set in a version of our world in which a strange virus mutated some of the population, giving super powers to a few and making others into grotesque outcasts.  In Book 9, Jokertown Shuffle, things got TG to the extreme when the very male Dr. Tachyon is switched into the body of a teen-age girl by his own sociopathic son.

The story line delved into some ugly realities faced by women–  Tachyon is raped and abused by his son– in way I had never seen up to that point, and it juxtaposed that story line brilliantly with a fairy-tale princess vision of reality, with Tachyon finding himself a damsel in distress, having dreams where he is in a Alice in Wonderland fairy world, passively hoping to be rescued by a mysterious figure known as The Outcast.

The combination of these various very feminine/female fears and fantasies being imposed on a man fascinated me, delving into those questions of behavior and the line between biology and free-will.  Tachyon, initially horrified to have something growing inside him, quickly becomes overwhelmed by his body’s maternal instincts, and helpless and desperate, he just as quickly embraces his role as a pretty young princess, dependent on a man to rescue and protect him.

At the time, I felt the book very clearly fell on the side of biology.  It seemed to say–  put a baby in a man’s belly, and he will become a mother, put a man in a woman’s body, and he will start to have female fantasies.   I feel now, re-reading the book, that I may have misjudged.  Tachyon does not just find himself in a young woman’s body– he is subjected to brutality and abuse, rape, physically and mentally tortured and imprisoned.   Could many of the behaviors that I thought were biological actually be the result of the experiences he suffered?

Clearly, these things all would have an impact, so that whatever the biology and brain chemistry he found himself swimming in as a man in a pregnant woman’s body, the abuse and imprisonment also shaped his reactions and feelings.  Abortion wasn’t an option.  He had to carry the baby, and so he chose to dedicate himself to being the best mother he could be to his unborn child.

I remain fascinated by the fairy tale elements of Tachyon’s journey into motherhood and the impact being turned into a damsel in distress had on him and might have on other types of men. It’s something I have explored and continue to explore in my own writing.  Many of my stories use fairy tale tropes and Jungian archetypes, and I continue to like to write about the interaction between biology, environment and culture when it comes to gender identity.  I think there are some men out there who would become good mothers, but my feeling is that most of them would not primarily due to fear and ego.  Maybe I’ll write about that sometime soon.

Check it Out on Amazon!