Nonbinary, Trans, & Queer. The Film Biz.

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I have lived a lifetime fielding misogyny and homophobia, staring it right in the face, fighting it on the streets, and trying to remain housed and dignified in a culture that wanted me to go away, or remain silent, to not kick up a fuss or to silently disappear,  give up. I refused, even when my brushes with homelessness were too close, or when I had no food or place to fall back. I continued to forge ahead because somehow I understood my challenges in life were larger than me, larger than my own struggles—it was about community, access, human rights, equity and visibility. And so much more.

It’s been a lifetime of never fitting into the binary, of being runner up to many roles in television and film, and often being told, “You are not the right type,” which usually meant: not feminine enough, too butch, not heterosexual in appearance enough to pass or hide my queerness. What I’ve come to understand is that the two are very different: being lesbian, and gendered outside the binary. I now identify as nonbinary, They, Them, and she. But before this current language and pronoun shift, we were all being forced in our culture, and in the film business to try to conform to the cis gendered, heterosexual ‘norm,’ and if you did not, your chances of getting hired were minimal or non-existent.

If we tease this apart even more, misogyny and homophobia have been at the root of this all since the beginning of time and the beginning of movie making, when men dominated the the networks, studios, writing rooms, and were largely run (still are), by white, heterosexual men. This is slowly shifting, but hardly moving at a pace fast enough to catch up to the culture. It’s why I write, speak, and advocate about being queer in the biz.

For people who think we are “whiners” or have a ‘left agenda’ or are ‘special interest groups,’ that would be wrong. We are people trying to survive a culture that has demonized, imprisoned, criminalized our very existence, and left us on the margins- without equal protections or access under the law. It’s changing, but not fast enough. It wasn’t fast enough for Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, for Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, or for the hundreds of thousands of people who died of AIDS while the world decided it was a ‘gay disease’ before they understood that straight people could contract it and die too.

I was hired to play Sam, the receptionist on Street Legal the reboot. Sam is nonbinary. Sam comes out as nonbinary,  just as I recently have. I’m grateful that there is new language to describe what it is to be gendered outside the binary, and I am grateful to be seen for who I am, and that some people are beginning to embrace nonbinary, transgender, and LGBTQ people in our business and in the culture.

We are a long way away from equity, or authentic representation. Still many heterosexual actors are hired for roles that we could and should be playing, while men, and heterosexual storytelling still dominates. But we are working our way out of this  boring ‘norm,’ which is far from ‘normal’. We are so much better as a people and in our arts, books, films and theatre— when we are diverse, when race, gender, sexuality, and gender expression in stories and art fill the pages and screens and take space.

While the character Sam does not speak a lot in season 1 of Street Legal the reboot, They is present. They is me. I’m their They! I’m proudly out, again, this time as nonbinary.

We need:

  • Heterosexuality should not be the default. Casting agents need to step up and bring transgender, nonbinary, queer, and LGBT+ people into the rooms to audition for all kinds of parts.  We should not only be considered for roles where it is specified in character breakdowns that the role is gay or queer. We should be considered for every role!
  • Screenwriters to include LGBTQ+ people in scripts, and to thinking about including all LGBTQ+ actors for all roles, unless it’s specified that someone is heterosexual for a reason (same goes for casting). These same principles should be understood by acting agents and managers as well.
  • Networks, producers, directors, and people in positions of power to step up and allocate funding and a large percentage of programming, creative control,  representation, and increased commitment to LGBTQ+ artists.

I do believe that art, storytelling, representation, and equity will one day be achieved. It may take a long time, but I know that there are many of us who are committed to creating a world where equity rules. It would go a long way in changing the way we all experience each other. Maybe we will learn to be a kinder species. Until then, I will continue to speak out and will always leave the porch light on for those who need a little light.

 

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