In Matt Bomer’s newest film, Anything, he plays Freda Von Rhenburg, a trans woman who’s also a sex worker. The film comes out May 11, and early reviews have been positive. But some activists are calling for a boycott of Anything, claiming they’re sick of seeing cisgender men continue to be cast as transgender women. Here’s the backstory of this Anything trans boycott.
Bomer's movie is being released in May. The film is an affront to the trans community, particularly to the dignity of trans women.
The organization Trans Narratives posted a meme to its Facebook page on April 9. The meme took off with over 3,400 shares. It posted several times this week about the film, addressing people’s concerns and complaints.
One common complaint that always comes up when transgender activists complain about cisgender actors taking trans roles is “They’re actors, they should be able to play whomever they want!” Trans Narratives takes that line head on. Firstly, it’s not like there aren’t trans actors.
Support Trans Actors:Boycott the movie "Anything" staring cis gender Matt Bomer as a man in a dress.Support the movie "A Fantastic Woman" featuring trans woman Daniela Vega as an authentic trans woman.
As Trans Narrative helpfully points out, we long ago realized that casting white actors to play other races isn’t acceptable. (Well, mostly — now it seems when Hollywood wants a white actor in a person-of-color role, they end up just changing the character to be a white person instead of putting them in makeup Mickey Rooney-style.) Why is it still acceptable to cast cis actors to play trans roles?
It’s not like the trans community has been silent on this issue, either. Trans Narratives asked its followers what they think about this sort of casting, and the responses were almost uniformly negative:
On Trans Narratives I asked the trans community what they thought of cis men playing trans women. The vast majority of…
Mark Ruffalo, the executive producer of the film, spoke out about a potential Anything trans boycott in 2016, when Bomer was first cast. Trans actresses Jen Richards of Nashville and Sense8‘s Jamie Clayton both spoke out.
Richards even auditioned for the film — she posted on Twitter, “I auditioned for this. I told them they shouldn’t have a cis man play a trans woman. They didn’t care.”
Clayton, however, called out Matt Bomer and Michelle Rodriguez with a tweet: “I really hope you both choose to do some actual good for the trans community one day.” (Rodriguez was cast in The Assignment, a film about an assassin who transitions from male to female.)
At the time, Ruffalo replied in two tweets, “To the Trans community. I hear you. It’s wrenching to you see you in this pain. I am glad we are having this conversation. It’s time. In all honesty I suggested Matt for the role after the profound experience I had with him while making The Normal Heart.”
In a third tweet replying to a critic, Ruffalo added, “The movie is already shot and Matt poured his heart and soul into this part. Please have a little compassion. We are all learning.”
Anything, however, does have at least one openly trans person involved. Associate producer Kylene K. Steele was brought into the project by another producer, Louise Runge, who asked Steele to read the script and offer input. The script was rewritten based on Steele’s notes, and Steele met with Bomer to talk about being trans. Steele told Indiewire,
Matt did an amazing job, and he’s a phenomenal actor. It was amazing what he did, I was blown away by his performance. Myself, I think the part should go to the actor. I think that trans [women] should play women. You shouldn’t be judged by who the person’s gender is, if they can pretend and be the person that’s fit for the role, then that’s the way it should be. You don’t necessarily have to be trans to play a trans character.
Steele does say she likes the rise in visible trans actors, but “we still need more. There’s so many more out there. We need more, but it takes time. Every civil rights movement wasn’t just, change happened immediately.”
You know, we’ve got an idea for getting more visible trans actors out there — maybe cast them in your movie?
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Jen Richards auditioned for Matt Bomer’s role. This was incorrect; Jen Richards auditioned for another role. Bomer was pre-cast.