An open letter provided to Deadline and signed by nearly 50 production companies, talent agencies and advocacy organizations urges Hollywood to provide trans people a place at the table so that trans “knowledge, talent and stories” can improve Hollywood’s portrayals of trans people.
The letter was first provided to, and published by, Deadline’s sister publication Variety. Read it below, in full.
The letter was led by 5050by2020, a strategic initiative within TIME’S UP that advocates for increased inclusion of women, people of color, and LGBTQ people, and GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization.
The letter the was signed by a significant line-up of important and influential agencies and companies, including CAA, ICM, Ryan Murphy Productions, Apatow Productions, UTA, WME, Ava DuVernay’s Array Alliance, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, and Norman Lear’s Act III. Other organizations include the Casting Society of America, Participant Media, and SAG-AFTRA.
“We believe that we are at an unprecedented cultural moment — a moment when we can ask Hollywood to use its power to improve the lives of trans people by changing America’s understanding about who trans people are,” the letter reads in part. “We want to help you tell our rich and diverse stories, and we need your help to do it.”
Here is the letter, in full:
AN OPEN LETTER TO HOLLYWOOD
From your transgender and nonbinary colleagues, and our allies
We know that the best storytelling is diverse storytelling, and it’s clear that Hollywood is at a tipping point. Studios and production companies are bringing more people into the creative process, hearing their stories, and creating better films and TV shows because of it. It is time for transgender people to be included in this conversation.
First, some things you should know. As a community, trans people are fighting every day to be seen and accepted as human beings. The Administration in Washington D.C. is trying to erase trans people from our culture by banning us from serving in the military, allowing health insurance companies to deny us medical care, and refusing to protect trans youth in schools. In the past 18 months, at least 44 trans people have been murdered in the U.S., almost all of them trans women of color. The unemployment rate of trans people is 3 times the national average – and 4 times for trans people of color. Thirty percent of trans people live in poverty – twice the national average. When visiting the doctor, one in three trans people have been verbally harassed by the doctor or denied medical care. Transgender Americans face bullying in school, discrimination on the job, and violence on the street. Perhaps most alarmingly, because the culture is so transphobic, 40% of trans people report attempting suicide, compared to 4.6% of the general population.
That’s a lot of negative information, but we hope it helps explain why transgender people are pushing so hard to be heard. It’s because we are struggling to survive.
The world is unsafe for trans people – and we can do better.
In the US, 80% of people say they don’t know a trans person in their family, workplace, or school. That’s where Hollywood comes in. Hollywood tells the stories that help people understand how to feel about themselves and how to feel about people around them who are different. As Roger Ebert said, film is an empathy machine. We know projects like Ellen, Will & Grace, Brokeback Mountain, Milk, and Moonlight helped destroy stereotypes about gay and lesbian people, and the timeline for marriage equality would have been remarkably different without them. Recently, women and people of color have made it clear they want more authentic stories about their lives in films and on TV. Trans people feel the same way.
We are grateful that Hollywood is starting to embrace these myriad points of view. We also know that some people feel we are being overly sensitive about exactly how these trans stories are developed and told. As trans people, we have grown up watching stories told about us by people who haven’t done their homework when it comes to the trans community. We have been portrayed almost exclusively as tragic victims, psychotic killers, and one-dimensional stereotypes. We have been confused with drag queens, seen our history erased in historical films, and been ridiculed for gender expressions that don’t conform to social norms.
We believe that we are at an unprecedented cultural moment — a moment when we can ask Hollywood to use its power to improve the lives of trans people by changing America’s understanding about who trans people are. We want to help you tell our stories – and we need your help to do it.
This is about more than diversity and inclusion. It’s about empowering trans people and sharing with us the tools and access that have been offered to you throughout your career. It’s about offering people who are different from you the confidence and the sense of belonging that inspires the very best art.
We know Hollywood is a business, as well as a creative community. We are not asking you to stop making money. We are asking to be brought to the table, so that our knowledge, talent, and stories can help improve your work and increase its value.
TRANSform Hollywood, a guidebook created by GLAAD and 5050by2020, downloadable HERE in color and HERE in black and white, is an invitation to begin co-creating this future by changing the way trans people are portrayed in media and culture. In the guide, you’ll find:
- Information about how to find trans actors and cast trans roles authentically
- Advice on engaging with trained and experienced trans creators as you develop your work
- Suggestions on where to find projects created by trans people that you can develop for film and television
- Tips on how to make all of your work more trans-inclusive, even if it’s not specifically about trans characters
We believe that when trans people are empowered to help Hollywood tell our authentic stories, it will improve how trans people are treated in the real world. Those negative statistics above will become a part of our history, not our present. Let’s work together to create a beautiful, diverse, and inclusive world in which trans people are fully accepted as equal human beings.
Signed by trans people working within these organizations, and our cisgender allies who support us:
3 Arts Entertainment
Abrams Artists Agency
Act III Productions
Casting Society of America
Color Of Change
The Geena Davis Media Institute
Los Angeles LGBT Center
Made Up Stories
Muckle Man Productions
Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Hollywood Bureau
National Center for Transgender Equality
Ryan Murphy Productions
SAG AFTRA Foundation
Sea Change Media
Sony Pictures Classics
Trans Wellness Center
Transgender Law Center
Women In Film