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Scarlett Johansson defends transgender role vitriolically

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson, a cisgender woman, has been cast to play a transmasculine role as massage parlor owner Dante “Tex” Gill in the upcoming mob drama Rub & Tug.  Johansson, who recently took heat for playing an Asian woman, reacted to transface accusations telling Bustle via a representative:  “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Johansson was, of course, referring to cisgender actors Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, which we deeply objected to. Felicity Huffman in TransAmerica was a bit before the transgender voice matured but its inclusion is troubling none the less.

There is some debate as to whether Dante “Tex” Gill self-identified as transgender. Barry Paris, a Post-Gazette film critic and Gill’s cousin, was quoted in his 2003 obituary saying that “she was an anomaly for her day, someone who had to hide her sexuality as a single woman in the transgender community, which at the time was so underground it had yet to acquire that label.”

Dante “Tex” Gill / Post-Gazette

It is pretty clear that Gill identified as transmasculine but that is not the real issue at this point.

Scarlett Johansson took the low road excusing her taking bread from transgender mouths by referring to those problematic productions. But that’s not the worst of it.

Transgender men have a huge issue with invisibility. Transmen blend seamlessly into cisnormative society it can cause a feeling of invisibility, disempowerment, and loss of identity. Any opportunity to put a real transgender face in a transmasculine role is invaluable. To so cavalierly invalidate transmasculine lives is inexcusable.

Well, Johansson wonders, other people capitalized on this minority, much to their agony, why can’t I, she ponders.

It’s a semi-free country Johansson, you can do what you want. but know this. This is not new to us. We have won in the past and we will beat you (at the box office).

Kelli Busey
Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender


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