‘Cis Men Playing Trans Women Leads To Death’ Transgender Actress Confirms

@SmartAssJen on Twitter
@SmartAssJen on Twitter

This was transgender spokeswoman and actress Jen Richards’ response to Filmmakers who decided to cast a cisgender man to act as a transgender woman.

Matt Bomer has been cast to star in McNeil’s film Anything. Bomer will appear in the film as a transgender sex worker in Los Angeles who enters a complicated relationship with a recently widowed Mississippi man, played by John Carroll Lynch. The film is based on McNeil’s play of the same name

The reaction to the news by many trans actors, advocates and allies who took to social media was mostly negative.

In response to their decision, Richards wrote, in a series of tweets, the following:

I auditioned for this. I told them they shouldn’t have a cis man play a trans woman. They didn’t care.

I’ve made this point in a few interviews, but never on Twitter, so let me lay it out. Reasons not to have cis men play trans women:

First, there’s the practical/economic one. It denies actual trans women opportunities, jobs, resources, which hurts entire community.

Then there’s an aesthetic. Now, I agree, in principle, that anyone can play anyone. As an artist, I want that kind of freedom myself, but…

Having trans people play trans people allows for more informed, subtle, authentic performance. It makes for BETTER ART, which is the point.

But all of this pales to the main reason not to have cis men play trans women. This is the reason that is making me cry as I type this…

It will result in violence against trans women. And that is not hyperbole, I mean it literally. Cis men playing trans women leads to death.

Here’s why. I’ve spent years looking at violence against trans women, particularly who does it & why. I talk to survivors. There’s a pattern: Straight men are attracted to trans women. They always have been, always will be. We are some of the most popular sex workers. It’s a fact.

BUT they are afraid that being with trans women makes them gay/less masculine. They seek us out, enjoy us, then punish us for their anxiety.

Let’s be more direct: They have sex with us, worry that makes them gay, then reassert their masculinity through violence aimed at us.

Back to the point. WHY do men, who aren’t attracted to men, who only date women, think being with trans women makes them gay/less masculine?

Because culture as a whole still thinks trans women are “really” men. Decades of showing us that way in shows. It’s been internalized.

Again & again cis men play trans women in media with the furthest reach, are rewarded for it, & tell the world trans women are “really” men.

When plays a trans sex worker, he is telling the world that underneath it all, trans women like me are still really just men.

And that is going to lead to violence. Not to me, likely, but to girls already most at risk. Any cis men who do this have bloody hands.
I’m not some screechy activist. I mean all this literally. It’s happening all the time. The stakes are life & death. Our women are dying.

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Journalist, psychologist, spokeswoman, photographer, human rights advocate, happy, proud, lipstick.

England, United Kingdom.


  1. Richards’ comments sound reasonable on the surface, but throw half of the LBGTQ community under the bus in the process. She basically implies that being homophobic is acceptable, and the solution is for trans people to distance themselves from such things and play out a stereotypical cis female role. Where does that leave the non-op, non binary, homosexual and other points on the spectrum? She’s saying the only fair representation of transgender identity is that of the transitioned female identifying person.

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