In this new ScreenCrush video, a group of trans actors discuss Hollywood's lack of trans representation and why it matters. The video was written by Jen Richards, who expands on a lot of these ideas in her article for Logo's New Now Next site about the pervasiveness of cis (i.e. non-trans) men playing trans women. As Richards writes:
I was trapped in the same cycle many of my friends were: We dated straight men who were afraid other people would think they were gay because the public thinks transgender women are just men with good hair and makeup. And the public thinks that because the only trans people they know of are men with good hair and makeup in movies.
Despite hundreds of thousands of straight men all around the world consuming trans pornography in massive quantities, driving a high demand for trans sex workers, and crowding Craigslist with non-stop pleas for discreet hookups, every guy acts as if the trans women they're seeing is somehow the rare exception. "You just feel like a woman," I've heard a million times, "but you know, most trannies look like men."
What they really mean is, "All my friends know is what they've seen in movies."
It's more than frustrating—it's dangerous. Straight men's fear that other straight men will think they're gay because they're with a trans women leads to violence against trans women. This image of male celebrities in drag is what leads to laws like HB2, which made it a crime for me to use a women's room when I went home to see my family in North Carolina. Every time a cis man gets applauded for bravely portraying a transgender woman on screen, every time he picks up an award for it while sporting a tuxedo, we're reinforcing the belief that at the end of the day, a trans woman is still really a man.
To see representation of trans women actually playing trans roles, you can check out Richards' web series Her Story, which she co-wrote and stars in: