While celebrities and corporations support marriage equality with public announcements and ads tailored to gay couples, one segment of the queer community remains underrepresented: trans people. Trans activists have long fought to be included in the LGBT conversation, and to create their own.
A new comedy series is doing just that. “The Switch,” made by the Vancouver, Canada-based Trembling Void Studios, features trans characters played by trans actors. The casting is notable because trans people and other marginalized individuals are considered “less castable” by directors, said Amy Fox, one of the show’s creators.
“I’m blown away by what people can get away with in discrimination in casting,” Fox told Campus Progress. “We have to change that.”
Fox said casting directors select actors who are cisgender, able-bodied, or of any other dominant identities for most roles. Even when characters are trans or disabled, directors cast cisgender or able-bodied actors, claiming that trans or disabled actors lack acting experience.
“The consequence of this trend,” Fox wrote in a statement, “is that people live in a media environment that tells them, ‘If you’re not cisgendered (and skinny, photogenic, white, straight, young, able-bodied, have a majority accent), your stories aren’t worth telling.’”
Hollywood’s history of casting cisgender actors in transgender roles is documented in some of the most well-known representations of trans people in the media. Felicity Huffman portrayed a woman reconnecting with her son in“Transamerica,” Chloe Sevigny played an assassin and family woman in the British television show “Hit and Miss,” and Hilary Swank famously starred as Brandon Teena in “Boys Don’t Cry.”
“The Switch” may be a game-changer. Domaine Javier plays Sü, a woman working as a software manager who comes out as trans and promptly loses her job. She then loses her apartment to the landlord’s renovating construction team and finds herself “at the unfashionable bottom of the rabbit hole that is the East Vancouver Queer Underground,” according to the studio’s Web site.
Though the show is a comedy, it highlights the reality of homelessness and joblessness for many trans people. Twenty-six percent of transgender people reported being fired because of their gender, and 90 percent reported being harassed at work, according to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. The center also found more than one in ten trans people have been evicted from their home, and one in five have been refused housing.
Fox says “to maximize the social impact” of the show, the creators decided to pursue a television rather than Web series as originally intended. She said the team will film the pilot and decide on a broadcaster this summer, and hopefully film the first season in early 2014.
“I’m hoping that people who would like to see more trans people tune in,” Fox said, as well as others who might simply be interested in the show. “I’m looking forward to producing something quirky and wonderful and funny."