In recent news, it's come to my attention that Michelle Rodriguez is starring in a film. I've never been a giant fan of her work, but I can't say I've disliked any of her films in particular... until now. In Tomboy: A Revenger's Tale (revenger is not a word), she plays a man forced to become a woman, or for a lack of better words, a "trans Frankenstein." While I already found this problematic as a trans woman, I shook my head and ignored it. While this is the same woman that told people of color to 'create their own superheroes,' despite the outcry being over the fact that movie studios simply seem to erase minority and PoC identities, especially in roles of power. Now today, I woke up to this.
"If anything, it's frickin' promoting it," she says, stumbling past the paparazzi. "Thank Kris Jenner for becoming who he became. And now you have a popular subject matter that nobody wanted to make a movie about, and now everybody's on it," she further clarifies. No, just no, Michelle. Also, I don't remember Kris Jenner transitioning. Now to some of you, you may be wondering how this is problematic.
Well first off all, let's start with a cisgender woman, playing a character she claims is trans, but actually is not. Transgender people often go through years of mental dysphoria, depression and anxiety just trying to understand themselves. According to Rodriguez, her character undergoes none of this, only a so-called "forced transition," whatever that means. Okay, so let's play along here for a second. First off, what man would wake up off the operating table walking and talking like Michelle Rodriguez? No trans woman I've ever met. Not only does this put into the minds of Americans that transition is something external that is forced, but it also paints us as villains in a time where over 20 trans women have been killed this year. Even if a "forced transition" could be a thing that the public could take seriously without projecting more painful and unnecessary tropes, there are almost no cases of anything like this ever occurring in real life, especially not with anyone actually trans. Many trans people wait years before they even consider a surgery, if that individual even desires surgery at all.
Michelle says we trans folk should be grateful for the press, even though the idea that she plans to perpetuate with this film is the same one that lead to the death of HERO, an equal rights ordinance that would have offered discriminatory protections for LGBTQIA people in Texas. "No Men in Women's Bathrooms" was the lead scare campaign that drew out conservative voters to overturn the proposed protections. The irony in all of this is that there are actually zero statistical cases of trans women ever going into a woman's bathroom and ever harassing anyone. Spokespeople from the Transgender Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that no statistical evidence of violence exists to warrant this type of legislation. In fact, while no reports have surfaced of sexual misconduct by trans people in bathrooms, Republican US Congressmen have a much more lackluster record when it comes to how to behave in the restroom. Ironic that they are the ones calling us predators.
While all of this is problematic on it's own, you want to know what my biggest problem is? Michelle Rodriguez is fucking lazy. I don't really respect the idea of cisgender actors in trans roles, but like anyone else I can at least respect when it's done well. Like, at least when Eddie Redmayne and Jared Leto played transwomen they studied trans history, lived in character and spent time with real trans people listening and learning our stories before marching off with them to the big screen. All of this came to fruition in the public eye earlier this year with the box office dud, Roland Emmerich's Stonewall, which placed a white, cisgender male actor in the title role of a film. This caused great outrage and anger within the trans community, who refused to see a whitewashed version of a film based on a historic event that was lead by trans women of color. One of the leading activists of the Stonewall movie boycotts, Elizabeth Marie Rivera had more to say.
"Being transgender is not a joke," says Rivera, who worked aimlessly alongside transgender activist Juniper Cordova-Goff to promote Stonewall's petition. When asked if she had plans to boycott the film, she answered with a definite, "yes." "Trans women deal with a myriad of issues associated with transphobia and misogyny," she says, referring to the systematic violence and oppression that she fights daily. "Trans women of color are being murdered at an alarming rate yearly and a lot of these murders can be attributed to the perpetuation of transphobia especially through media/entertainment," she says. "This film is a slap in the face to my and the lived experiences of others."