Reading MJ Kaufman‘s article about casting trans-gender actors in productions has opened my eyes on how important it is to think of the message that will be sent to audiences every time a casting decision is made. It is important to be aware of the cultural and political statements that people will be making, whether it is a conscious decision or not. Kaufman highlights what theatre is saying right now about transgender actors. It isn’t good.
Kaufman’s article is well written and to the point. He explains very clearly that transgender people as “invisible” and the theater is not helping to change that. IN his experience, the excuse of casting cis actors (cis gender people are people comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth) as transgender is usually “I don’t know any” or “there aren’t enough”. Saying that there is a shortage of transgender actors is like saying that there is a shortage of women playwrights. It just isn’t true.
While as an actor, I aim to play a variety of roles, including parts I haven’t necessary had the life experience for, we as theatre artists say something very specific about casting cis actors in transgender roles. We are keeping unheard voices unheard. We make no room for trans gender actors to have careers in the gender they identify in, which is extremely unfair and is actually working against the piece of theater that calls for a transgender actor. The reasons for not casing a transgender actor can often tiptoe dangerously on the line of discrimination and the solution is pretty clear: be aware of what is said when you cast who you cast and why. Awareness is the first step, and it’s only one of many to make.