Halle Berry drew the righteous ire of the LGBTQA+ community over the weekend when she announced she might be playing a trans man in an upcoming project. Cis actors playing trans characters has been an issue for years, from Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl to Scarlett Johansson’s casting in Rub and Tug. Somehow, Berry missed out on all of that and announced her consideration of a trans role as if she’d get applause for it.
The reveal happened during an Instagram Live interview conducted by hairstylist Christin Brown, who asked Berry if she’d ever go back to having super short hair. Berry’s response was yes, because she’s planning on playing “a trans character…a woman who transitions into a man.”
“I want to experience that world, understand that world. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did Bruised (her directorial debut about an MMA fighter). Who this woman was is so interesting to me. And that will probably be my next project, and that will require me cutting all of my hair off…
That’s what I want to experience and understand and study and explore… it’s really important to me to tell stories. And that’s a woman. That’s a female story - it changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that. I want to get into it.”
Heres’s video of this interview excerpt:
Still trying to understand why Halle Berry would be interested in playing the role of a transgender man. Sigh! pic.twitter.com/S7W2y8SMfd— A.J Raven (@tempest071990) July 5, 2020
Okay. One more time for the people still following J.K. Rowling on Twitter: Trans women are women. Trans men are men. So, describing this unnamed project as a “female story” is flat-out wrong.
On Twitter, some, including trans activists/entertainment journalists Serena Daniari and Oliver Whitney, expressed frustration that cis creators seem to think the only trans story worth telling is one of transition.
It absolutely is NOT a female story, it is a story about a man. And why is the aspect of physical transition the focal point for her? Cis peoples' understanding of trans issues is really myopic. Girl watch Disclosure on Netflix.— Serena Daniari (@serenajazmine) July 6, 2020
cis actresses’ constant fascination with ~understanding the experience~ of ftm transitioning (and it’s always transitioning!) and continually misgendering us is so disgusting. our lives are not for your artistic exploration. fuck off— oliver whitney (@cinemabite) July 6, 2020
Actors don’t have to limit their education to research for the roles they play. If Berry wants to learn about trans experience, she can read a book or several. She could also watch Netflix’s doc Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which looks at trans representation in Hollywood.
Through social media and press like Pink News, the LGBTQA+ community expressed to Berry the ways she was getting trans experience wrong. To her credit, the Academy Award-winner didn’t do the ScarJo double down offering some self-serving philosophy about how actors should be able to play any role (even trees!). Instead, within 48 hours of her announcement, Berry released an apology on Twitter.
“Over the weekend I had the opportunity to discuss my consideration of an upcoming role as a transgender man, and I’d like apologize for those remarks. As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.
I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the cameras.”
In response, Berry was showered in thanks for listening.
To learn more about trans representation, check out Disclosure, now on Netflix.
Header Image Source: Getty