...but a lot of it has been generalized discontent being piled on a particular traget, which I think misses the point and risks erasing the hardship of a generation of trans women.
Okay, so I'm exhausted after a long trip and I've had a night cap, so I'm ready for bed, but I did want to put this out there since a similar comment I posted on the Playboy kinja got Kinjaed into the either.
I've written about how shitty it is that trans women only get to play trans women we're background characters or murder victims etc, but anything that's Oscar bait (Soldier's Girl, Boys Don't Cry, Trans America etc) generally goes to cis actors. This is a very serious issue to me and it pisses me off to no end—however, I'm not sure this is the case in this particular instance.
I can't resist seeing a movie with a trans character. I simultaneously hate it more than anything and crave it more than anything. Most of the time I'm really uncomfortable, I cringe and squirm in my seat, but I go anyway because I'm desperate to see a world that I exist in portrayed on screen. I usually cringe because the representation is almost always terrible. I didn't really cringe during The Dallas Buyer's Club.
I really liked Leto as Rayon. I think he gave her much more depth than I was expecting and even though Rayon's world is not one that I've ever lived in, it's one that I've been close enough to see and his portrayal of her felt real. I've said this here before, but my generation of trans women was the beginning of a huge change in the lives of trans women. A lot of us were able to find access to the care we needed and support from other people like us over the internet. Things have been a lot easier for me. than they were for the people who came directly before me.
In earl the 1980's there were limited options for trans women and most stories played out in one of these ways:
1) You could deny everything, not transition, try to lead a normal life. This lead to a lot of denial, shame,more than a couple very unhappy marriages, and some really really weird sneaky crossdressing behavior.
2) If you were very very lucky and you managed to find the care you needed and you ended up being passable, you could go completely stealth: cut ties to your past, start a new life, live as a 'normal' woman and hope that no one finds out down the line.
3) You could find a little place for yourself in the gay community, where people probably won't take your identity 100% seriously but you'll be able to dress the way you like and sleep with men. You'll be accepted as a fellow outsider, but people will probably see you more as some kind of super committed drag queen than a real woman.
Yes, in a modern context, considering the ways that trans women have been portrayed in film, having a character like Rayon, seems over-the-top, but in the context of the height of the AIDS epidemic, Rayon was a reality. For my part, her character does remind me of people I've known in the gay community, especially people I met very early on who came from a generation or two before I started my own transition.
As far as Leto being cis...honestly, there's a good chance that someone in Rayon's wouldn't have great access to hormones—she probably would have looked a lot like Jared Leto did. Maybe we could have found a breakout trans actor to play the role, but I felt like Leto did do a good job and gave a nuanced performance. For me it was a good look into a very important piece of trans history—one that I'm very happy to have missed.
I'm sorry that this wasn't complete and possibly not well written, but I wanted to put an alternate view out there. There is a very very real problem with the representation of trans women in film, but piling hate on this particular one risks erasing a lot of women who lived and who still live the way that Rayon did.
ETA: This got shared to The Powder Room and I just want to make clear that these are just my thoughts. I'm only speaking for myself and my own personal reaction to the film and the role and a few articles I read. This is not a thoroughly researched finished product. I am speaking from my perspective as someone who is trans, not on behalf of the trans community.