Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Actresses Portraying Transwomen

I have a pet peeve: actresses portraying transwomen.

Here are two portrayals that come to mind that are so unrealistic: Rebecca Romijn on Ugly Betty and Famke Jannsen on Nip/Tuck.

Rebecca Romijn Famke Jannsen

Both are television portrayals, but the film industry is just as guilty using actresses to portray trans-woman, for example, Raquel Welch in Myra Breckenridge and Felicity Huffman in Transamerica.

Male actors should portray transwoman. Such portrayals would be more realistic if men filled the T-girl roles. Few actresses are the right size to realistically portray a male-to-female transperson. Their voices are not convincing and in boy mode, their mannerisms are not convincing.

Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto Lee Pace in Soldier's Girl

When male actors do portray transwoman, the portrayals are very realistic. Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto, Lee Pace in Soldier's Girl and Johnny Depp in Ed Wood are examples of successful portrayals of actors portraying transwomen.

Can you imagine someone like Drew Barrymore portraying Ed Wood? I think not.

Source: Venus
Wearing Venus (Source: Venus)

Ed Wood
Ed Wood femulating in the 1953 film 📺 Glen or Glenda.


  1. Agreed. This is a pet peeve of mine, and being an actor myself I try to stand up for this principle whenever I can.

  2. I think trans women should portray trans women on stage and screen. If that's not possible, then cis women should portray trans women. I wish cis men would never again take on trans women roles because I agree that it confirms society's misinformed belief (and anti-trans folks' deliberate fearmongering and lies) that trans women are men and not authentic women, which fuels increased discrimination, hate, and violence against us.

  3. You are so right Stana. I would add Jaye Davidson, who was terrific in The Crying Game

  4. You are right, but these days studios fear a backlash from activists if they donot cast transwomen in transwomen roles. One more example of a cisgender actor being splendid as a transwoman: Terence Stamp in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

  5. We're finally getting a critical mass of trans actors and the public is finally "getting it" about us, given all the publicity our community has these days. Most cis actresses playing trans women make me cringe, and I suspect even the general population furrows their brow, too, now that they've seen "the real thing" so often. The one exception I'd toss out is the fine work of Felicity Huffman in Transamerica. She's a superior actor and clearly did her homework.

    There was much talk about Eddie Redmayne playing Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl -- "Should have been a trans woman", people said. Perhaps, but consider that Einar Wegener was a slightly built man who apparently functioned as a man for his early life. The infamous modelling episode triggered his "inner woman" and we all know the story from there. I argued that having a trans woman in the role of Lili would be a variation of having women play those parts. Better to have a man who can emulate Wegener and can transition to Lili in the way events actually happened. I thought it worked out very well.In the same vein, look what a great job Cillian Murphy did in Breakfast on Pluto and Peacock. Cast the right person for the role, the better the actor, the better the portrayal.

    It's good that society has progressed enough that seeing trans women in roles is no longer taboo, rather the audience sees that casting cis women in those parts is just wrong. They've caught on, finally! All this being said, now let's all watch Season 2 of Pose, starting June 9 on FX. This is the best trans casting ever as far as I'm concerned!

  6. I just watched Transfixed. Many of the characters are trans women, and all are played by either men or trans women. The female lead is played by Robinson Stevenin, who does a very credible job of a "new" woman who is finding her way as a woman. That's not the theme of the film, by any means, but I paid special attention to Stevenin's portrayal of a woman and thought he/she did a fine job. This just underlines Stana's point about having the right person play the right role. Not a great film, but a fine, empathetic portrayal of trans women.

  7. AnonymousMay 07, 2019

    I agree with MikkiB that Felicity Huffman did an excellent job in Transamerica. She really got inside the mind of her character Bree with all Bree's selfish, insecurities and hidden parental feelings. She also managed to look believable as a trans-woman.

    So I wouldn't support a hard and fast rule that trans-actors play trans-roles.

    Penny from Edinburgh.

  8. i completely agree with stana regarding casting biological women in m-to-f transgender roles in films and television shows. i normally avoid such things like the plague due to my disgruntlement with that state of affairs, however i have to admit that when i saw famke janssen in "nip/tuck" (which was not the reason i watched that series btw) i did feel that her height and angular androgynous looks helped make the character a bit more believable - although i still think a male actor or transwoman should have played the part. not surprisingly given the nature of that series, transgender issues cropped up more than once. however whilst the producers were happy to cast the likes of william belli in minor roles, they chickened out when it came to a more central and important one

    the most notorious case of casting a female actor as a trans woman in the UK is/was in the longest-running and still-most-popular soap "coronation street" (set in manchester). indeed, much ballyhoo was made about introducing a regular character of that nature to such a high-profile television show. so i was most disappointed when not only did they cast a real woman, but one who quite obviously was a real woman at that. later on the show did actually feature a male actor playing a closet transvestite, who i seem to recall from reading newspaper stories at the time would sneak out en femme to the nearby gay village under cover of darkness before getting clocked by some of the street's mature female characters. however (unlike transexual hayley) perhaps not surprisingly the character didn't last very long!


  9. Absolutely agree