I heard last night from a guy who attended a Manhattan research screening of Gaby Dellal and Nicole Beckwith‘s About Ray, a drama about a teenaged girl (Elle Fanning) looking to transgender into dude-ness. This is not about my guy’s opinion of the film but the opinion of an outraged transgender person who posted on Tumblr. [See below.] His/her view is that it’s “transphobic” for Dellal to have cast Fanning as the transitioning teen. That’s because Fanning is cisgender, a term that basically means being comfortable with how you were naturally born. It also means anyone who hails from a slightly larger group than the 96.2% of the U.S. population that doesn’t identify as LGBT. Apparently the only acceptable casting would have been a transgender boy. In Tumblr guy/girl’s eyes, the Fanning casting is equivalent to John Ford having chosen Henry Brandon to play “Scar” in The Searchers. He/she also mocks Dellal’s explanations for why she cast an actress and why she cast Fanning, and states that “this movie is not for trans people but for cis people who pretend to care.”
Respect and compassion for the LGBT community is, of course, de rigeur for anyone with a heart and a brain, but identifying every non-transgender straight person in the world (i.e., everyone except for an undetermined fraction of 3.8% of the population that identifies as LGBT) as “cisgender” strikes me as a bit forced. A certain militancy or hyper-sensitivity from anyone representing a discriminated minority is to be expected and is totally cool and understood, but you also have to take a breath from time to time. There’s a special kind of oxygen on the planet Transneptune that’s a little different from the oxygen on planet Earth.
About Ray costars Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan and Sam Trammell. The Weinstein Co. release will screen at the Toronto Film Festival before opening on 9.18.