This is the first installment of ScreenCrush’s new franchise Our Hollywood, a month-long series about the past, present and future of transgender visibility in film and television. Stay tuned throughout June’s LGBTQ Pride Month for in-depth profiles with photos shot by Amos Mac, essays and exclusive videos.
It would surprise few to learn that Hollywood history hasn’t been kind to the transgender community. From the earliest days of cinema up to today’s newest releases, film and television have used trans identities as punchlines and plot twists, to instill fear and disgust, and to erase trans and gender non-conforming1 people from the screen. In 2015 and 2016, only two trans characters appeared in major studio movies, and both were used as punchlines — Benedict Cumberbatch’s parody of a non-binary2 person in Zoolander 2 and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her trans woman in Hot Pursuit. Beyond the crowning achievements of Tangerine, Transparent, and Laverne Cox’s Emmy nomination, the big and small screen have yet to cast trans actors in an abundance of authentic, substantial and ongoing lead roles.