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Laverne Cox Says Cisgender Actors Can Play Transgender Characters If All Things Are Equal

Laverne Cox Says Cisgender Actors Can Play Transgender Characters If All Things Are Equal

Laverne Cox, Alexandra Billings, and Chaz Bono pose together on the cover of Variety‘s latest issue, which explores being trans in Hollywood.

Among the issues that were discussed, was whether cisgender actors should never play transgender roles and vice versa. Scarlett Johansson just dropped out of a movie after she was criticized for taking the role of a transgender character.

“I think if all things were equal, then everyone should be able to play every character. But all things are not equal,” Laverne said. “As an artist, I don’t ever want someone telling me that I shouldn’t play something. But the reality is, 84% of Americans do not personally know someone who is transgender. So most Americans learn what they learn about trans people through the media.”

“Right now in this country, in the first days of this year, 10 states introduced 21 pieces of legislation targeting trans people, mostly trying to limit our ability to go to the bathroom. The current president is trying to ban us from the military. Our unemployment rate is three times the national average,” Laverne added. “So in this cultural environment, when we see representations of cis people playing us over and over again, that reinforces the idea that trans women are not really women and trans men are not really men and nonbinary people don’t exist. That is the basis of the discrimination that trans people experience.”

“We just want more opportunities. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met over the years who said, ‘I didn’t think it was possible for me to be an actor, and then I saw you on TV.’ Now there’s a generation of trans kids coming up who think that it’s possible for them to be openly trans and actually have a career as an actor. It’s really exciting,” she concluded.

For more from the roundtable discussion, visit

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laverne cox variety cover

Photos: Jill Greenberg
Posted to: Alexandra Billings, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, Magazine

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  • tom

    which one is the ugliest?

  • Max

    Cisgender is such an ugly word for people who identify with what they got. why not call them male and female?