Welcome To The Bitchery

Candis Cayne on Elementary: Why can't we have nice things?!

This post comes out of a side discussion we were having about portrayals of trans people in TV and movies in Cassie's thread about Kristin Beck (I wanted to write it earlier, but I had to go to work).

We get a pretty rough deal when it comes to writing about and casting trans women. We're almost always played by either cis women who have been manned up or cis men who have been girlied up. I'm sorry cis people, I love you all (I have a cis brother, so I feel connected to your community) but it's really difficult for a cis actor to capture the physicality of portraying a trans person.


Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of trans women actresses because there aren't a lot of trans roles and the roles that do come around tend to go to cis people (see how we get into a cycle?). When we do get to play ourselves, it's usually in stereotypical trans roles: hairdresser, prostitute, murder victim, aids victim, murdered prostitute aids victim, etc... But if you're going to make a serious movie or an action series, that calls for cis actors.

BUT!! We do have the lovely Candis Cayne.

She is beautiful, she is talented and she is the first trans actress to have a regular role on a prime time series, in Dirty Sexy Money. So, I was super pumped when I went to look something up about her earlier and found out that she was on Elementary (I love Sherlock but haven't gotten into Elementary yet) and that she played Mrs. Hudson.

Mrs. Hudson is an important part of the Holmes universe and I thought that having her played by a trans woman would make for a very interesting casting choice in addition to having a female Watson. But alas, when I looked even closer, it turns out that it's only a one off appearance.


I watched it anyway. Holmes and Watson don't really blink at the fact that she's a trans woman but her stated profession is "kept woman" (which I guess is a small step up from prostitute?)*. She's shot in a way that really emphases her height even though she's the same height as Jonny Lee Miller, she shot in a way that makes it seem like she towers over him. She was also dressed in a way that emphasized her shoulders and when she was in Dirty Sexy Money, they artificially lowered her voice the first time she's on screen... We have to trans up cis men to play trans women, we have to trans up cis women to play trans women, but why do we have to trans up a beautiful and talented do we have to make her even more trans before we can put her in front of a mainstream audience?

*she was also kind of a kept woman in her 'break through' role on Dirty Sexy Money. She was the secret lover of Billy Baldwin's character. She was also a hairdresser and she ended up getting shot and killed. But, at least it was in prime time...

Share This Story

Get our newsletter