Jeffrey Tambor: “I’d like to be the last cisgender man playing a transgender woman.”
Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor at the Emmys: “Give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story.”
In a world that still pays to see Adam Sandler or Tyler Perry put on a dress and pretend to be a woman — under the premise that it is either preposterous or hilarious that someone built like them could identify as such — one could assume that Jeffrey Tambor’s role in Transparent is equally cis-misogynistic.
They might be surprised to hear that Tambor agrees.
“I just hope there are more opportunities for transgender talent,” he said while accepting an Emmy award Sunday for Outstanding Lead Actor. “I would very much like to be the last cisgender male playing a transgender female. I think we are there now.”
The 72-year-old actor may seem like an unlikely ally, but he gets the language and the ideas. Playing a trans woman who transitioned late in life has opened him up to a great deal of criticism and scrutiny, but he seems to be taking the critique to heart and advocating in an honest way with the help of director Jill Soloway.
As the orchestra began to play, Tambor hushed them to express his important view on trans representation in Hollywood:
“Now, listen to me. … I’m not going to say this beautifully. But to you people out there, you producers and network owners, and agents, and you creative sparks, please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story. Do that. And also, one more thing: I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a female transgender on television. We have work to do. I love you.”
Unfortunately, he won’t be the last. Openly gay actor Matt Bomer has been cast as a transgender woman in Mark Ruffalo’s latest film, Anything.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 19, 2016
Jill Soloway’s Emmy speech was one to hear:
“People ask me if it’s hard to be a director, and I tell them, no. Life is very hard. Being a good partner, mother, being a good person is hard. Being a good director is so easy, I get to make my dreams come true. It’s a privilege, and creates privilege, when you take people of color, women, trans people, queer people, as the subjects of stories, you change the world, we found out. … So I want to thank you, my sweet Jeff Bezos, because you changed the world, and invited me to do this thing that these people call television, but I call a revolution. I’ve always wanted to be part of a movement. This TV show allows me to take my dreams about unlikable Jewish people, queer folk, trans folk, and make them heroes. Thank you to the trans community. Topple the patriarchy!”
Around 2011, Soloway’s father came out as transgender. Transparent was inspired, in part, by that experience.
“It would be one thing if trans people had told their stories for hundreds of years,” she says, “but they haven’t. It’s really a problem. It’s time to hand out the keys to the kingdom and open the gates.”
These expressions of empathy and unity come in stark contrast to actress Michelle Rodriguez’s rude, insensitive silencing of critics of her recent film, (Re)Assignment. The film is an action/adventure built on the premise of a hit man who is forced to undergo sexual reassignment surgery as punishment for killing the brother of a deranged surgeon (Sigourney Weaver).
Nevermind the fact that some trans folks literally kill themselves over not being able to pay for the surgery and being forced to live in a body that is not reflective of who they truly are; the film is B-movie schlock with no care for the community it exploits.
Rodriguez, who is bisexual, argues that it is impossible for her to be in a position of oppressor because she’s a member of the LGBT community. And yet, she uses disrepectful terms like “hermaphrodite” to describe her slender build and said she has a “fake, hairy mangina.”
“It’s an action genre film, and we’re not psychological or deep about [being trans], so lay off,” the bisexual actress said in the interview with The Hollywood Reporter, which can be viewed here. “It’s an entertainment piece. Calm down, guys. I’m on your team.”
Sorry, Michelle. In this situation, while admittedly problematic, we’re definitely #TeamTambor.