Written by Sara Durbin
Following the recent release of the trailer for the upcoming movie About Ray, there was an overwhelming number of mixed responses, ranging from excitement for such a potentially progressive film to disappointment and outrage—for quite justifiable reasons.
The film depicts the struggles of a teenage transgender boy named Ray, who is played by Elle Fanning. While Fanning is a good actress and actually well-informed—she researched the role by conversing with transgender individuals in order to properly portray her character and uses the proper pronouns when addressing Ray, unlike the director—it’s still more than a bit upsetting to see another LGBTQ character played by a cisgender actor. Especially considering the recent increasing trend of transgender characters on television being played by transgender actors—such as Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black and Jamie Clayton in Sense8.
When you think about the monumental occasion this film would be for the representation of the transgender community in Hollywood, it seems rather wrong to not cast a transgender boy for the role of Ray. What’s even more outrageous, when asked why she casted Elle Fanning instead of a trans actor, About Ray director Gaby Dellal responded with the following comments about the character: “The part is a girl and she is a girl who is presenting in a very ineffectual way as a boy.”
Dellal then goes on to state, “She’s not pretending to have a deeper voice. She’s just a girl who is being herself and chasing the opportunity to start hormone treatment. So to actually use a trans boy was not an option because this isn’t what my story is about.” Dellal’s misgendering of the character—as well as the misgendering I noticed throughout the entire trailer—thoroughly angered me; however, I was much more appalled at her disgusting philosophy regarding her perception of transgender men.
According to her, there is no difference between trans men who have not had hormone treatment or sex reassignment and a cisgender female.
This is a very damaging view, considering there are many transgender individuals—both trans men and women—who have yet to go through hormone treatment or sex reassignment or have decided not to do so. That doesn’t make their gender any less valid. Unfortunately, About Ray will be yet another film designed to appear progressive on the surface as Hollywood continues to capitalize on transgender stories while simultaneously misrepresenting the entire transgender community.