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2018:JUN-OCT: Controversies: Actress Scarlett
Johansson may play role of a transgender man.
Trans contestant at Miss Universe pageant.
Trans women (D) run for VT Governor,
and CO House.
Court case in Anchorage, AK about
transgender women in women's shelter.

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eub &

Scarlett Johansson 2003 1

Scarlett Ingrid Johansson at the Toronto Film Festival, (2003)

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2018-JUN: Scarlett Johansson asked to play movie role of a transgender man.

Although Caucasian, she starred in the 2017 U.S. science fiction movie Ghost in the Shell, where she and other caucasians played Asian roles. This "whitewashing" remains a common practice in U.S. film making.

Andrew J. Weaver, an Assistant professor of telecommunications Indiana University's College of Arts and Sciences said:

"There is an assumption in Hollywood that whites would avoid movies with majority black casts, or any race cast for that matter. You see this whitewashing of films –- even films that have minority characters written into them -- are being cast with whites." 2

In that science fiction movie, a secret government project involves the creation of an artificial human body into which a human brain can be inserted. Johansson plays the role of Mira Killian, the sole survivor of a terrorist attack that killed her parents. Her original body was too damaged to repair, and so her brain was transplanted. She later plays the role of a counter-terrorism operative in the movie.

According to Wikipedia:

"In Japan, fans were surprised that the casting had caused controversy, as they had already assumed that a Hollywood production would choose a white actress. They felt the appearance of the protagonist was immaterial due to the franchise's themes of self-identity and the blurring of artificial and natural bodies. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to a group of female Japanese American actors, including Keiko Agena, about the film. The actresses argued that Japanese natives are not upset by the film because of white beauty standards held in Japan. According to Justin Charity of Ringer, "your average Japanese citizen's outlook on diversity is much less influenced by pluralism than the outlooks of many Asian Americans, who live in a country where popular culture rarely represents them well, if at all. Hence, many Japanese Americans may find Johansson's casting in a Ghost in the Shell movie distressing, while native Japanese observers make nothing of it. ..."

"... director Rupert Sanders said of Johansson: "There are very few actresses with 20 years' experience who have the cyberpunk ethic already baked in. I stand by my decision -- she's the best actress of her generation." 3,4

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Criticism:

Johansson, a cisgender 6 woman, was initially cast to play the role of Dante “Tex” Gill in Rupert Sanders' crime drama "Rub & Tug." In real life, Gill was a transgender man who operated massage parties in Pittsburgh, PA during the 1970's. They were fronts for prostitution.

Carlos Garcia, writing for The Blaze, said:

"Members of the LGBTQ community and their allies saw the casting as insensitive because they preferred that a transgender 7 role be played by a transgender actor. ..."

Movie reviewer Valerie Complex responded:

"First the Japanese, and now Scarlett Johansson is taking on the trans community with her new crime film Rub and Tug. I can’t wait until her Rosa Parks film comes out."

Comedian Faith Choyce said:

"Scarlett Johansson is playing a trans man in her next movie because her ultimate career goal is to take an acting job from a member of each and every marginalized group."

Screenwriter Steven Canals said:

"We have to stop hiring non-trans actors to play trans characters. In my opinion, it’s equally as traumatic & offensive as black-face. It also shows how lazy, unwoke, and complicit in transphobia you are." 5

Trace Lysette is a high-profile transgender actress. She posted on twitter:

"Oh word? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all?. Hollywood is so fucked. I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case. A mess." 8

Jamie Clayton, another high-profile transgender actress, on twitter:

"Actors who are trans never even get to audition for anything other than roles of trans characters. That’s the real issue. We can’t even get in the room. Cast actors who are trans as non trans character. I dare you." 8

Jamie Clayton

When asked for her comment, Johansson discussed other cisgender 6 actors who had portrayed transgender characters to popular acclaim. She said:

"Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment."

These are three cisgender actors who all earned rave reviews and accolades for playing transgender women in film or on television:

  • Jeffrey Tambor won an Emmy for his lead role on Amazon’s comedy series "Transparent,"

  • Jared Leto won an Oscar for "Dallas Buyer’s Club," and

  • Felicity Huffman earned an Oscar nomination for "Transamerica." 8 aerobics

On JUL-13, reacting to the widespread anger, Johannson decided to drop out of the movie. Rupert Sanders, the director of Rub and Tub, has suggested that the project may be scrapped. 9

She issued a statement to Out Magazine on JUL-13, saying:

"In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project.

Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realise it was insensitive.

I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues." 9

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2018-JUL: UK government plans to streamline gender change for transgender persons:

Penny Mordaunt, the minister for women and equalities, has launched a public consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act of 2004. It defines the procedure by which a person declares a gender change and obtains a new birth certificate. She said:

"In response to our national LGBT survey, trans people have told us that the current system to legally change their gender isn’t working and they find the process bureaucratic, costly and intrusive. ... We want to help people to thrive and to go about their daily life, living in the gender they choose without intrusion or fear of humiliation. This consultation is a chance for us to change the current system for the better and I look forward to hearing everyone’s views."

Estimates of the number of transgender persons in the UK range from 200,000 to 500,000. But since the law was passed, only 4,910 individuals have obtained a gender recognition certificate.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

"What was very clear from our survey is that transgender people across the UK find the process of legally changing their gender overly bureaucratic and invasive. I want to see a process that is more streamlined and de-medicalised -- because being trans should never be treated as an illness."

Cara English, is the policy engagement officer at Gendered Intelligence, a transgender charitable organization. She said:

"Meaningful reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) are desperately needed if we’re going to make the process easier, less bureaucratic and exclusionary for trans and non-binary people. It’s encouraging to see the government take the needs of LGBTQI people seriously, recognising that the GRA needs to be reformed to make it more transparent for those who need to access it. This consultation is all about highlighting the lived experiences and needs of people disenfranchised from the current GRA and giving value to their voices." 16

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2018-JUL: Transgender contestant in the Miss Universe Pageant:

Ángela Ponce is transgender. She has taken hormones underwent gender confirmation surgery at the age of 16. She won Spain’s beauty pageant in June.

She told the New York Times:

"There are women with a penis and men with a vagina, because the only key part of being a woman is to be and feel like a woman. ..."

" What strikes me is that a lot of the criticism has come from women and people from my own collective, just when women are taking to the streets to ask for recognition. I find it weird that some women don’t tolerate that I go to a competition to represent my country as the woman that I am. ..."

"If we want progress, we just have to stop looking whether what other women are doing is good or not." 10

Guillermo Escobar, president of Spain’s beauty contest, said that the judges:

"... simply valued her as a great woman. ... She is a pioneer, sending a message of equality and respect. ... my hope is that we will eventually have many more candidates like her and this will no longer make the headlines." 10

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2018-AUG-14: Transgender woman won Vermont gubernatorial primary -- a Democratic of course:

Christine Hallquist was registered as a male at birth and now identifies as female. She won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in mid-August. Her goal is to unseat the existing Governor, Phil Scott (R), who has won the GOP primary. She is promoting a $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, abortion access, tuition-free public college, and action to reduce climate change.

She is the first transgender person to win the gubernatorial nomination of a major political party.

Tom Pauken, formerly the chairperson of the Republican Party in Texas describes the situation as:

"... craziness. There's a Republican governor, which is surprising in a predominately Democratic state. ... He's obviously going to win in November given this nomination. But that the Democrats would nominate such a person is beyond belief. ...

It's race, or it's gender -- all the left-wing social or cultural positions are showing up in victories for people who are representative of that radical agenda

It's an irony that while Hungary is moving back toward the re-Christianization of its country, here in the U.S. we're moving rapidly down the road of a post-Christian, anti-Christian society that has taken over one of our major political parties. It is scary."

Newsweek reports that since her nomination, she has received:

"... a steady flow of hate-filled messages and other threatening attacks."

On AUG-21, she told the Burlington Free Press:

"Early on when our team assembled I said 'the more successful we are, the more vitriol and threats we are going to receive. It’s kind of a natural outcome of our divided country'." 13

Among the messages received were death threats, which were reported to the Vermont State Police, and the FBI office in the state. Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) said:

"We must, as a society, do better to combat anger and violence. I’m hopeful Vermonters will join me in ensuring everyone -- regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or other characteristics -- are treated with dignity, respect and acceptance." 13

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2018-AUG-27: Brianna Titone (D-CO) is running for State House, District 27:

Brianna was identified at birth as male and now identifies as female. She is running for the State House in District 27. Her background includes firefighting, geology and software developer. She said:

"My job as a candidate is to talk about issues. ... Education funding is the number one issue people are talking about, also transportation funding. I have a lot of experience; I have a lot of knowledge that really comes to table and I want to use those skills. I think people will see me as someone who really wants work together ... and not play identity politics. ... Some private messages that people send me on Facebook are horrible but I get a lot of people coming up to me being inspired by me and that really fuels me to get up early, stay up late and work really hard to win this election." 14

Her opponent is Vicki Pyne (R), a small business owner who has served on several community boards. 14

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2018-SEP: Evangelical group fights for the religious freedom to discriminate against transgender persons:

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a conservative Christian legal support group that regularly fights cases in courts, trying to guarantee the right of Christian group to discriminate against others on religious grounds, in violation of the Golden Rule. They represented The Hope Center -- a Christian non-profit agency that operates the Downtown Soup Kitchen -- a Christian homeless shelter in Anchorage, AK, who had refused admission to a transgender woman who they said appeared drunk. The city has a non-discrimination law which was expanded in 2015 to include both sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

David Dinielli, Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told KTUU-TV that the ADF:

"... is trying to use their own purported religious beliefs to impose them on others and kick LGBT people out from spaces, from schools, from bakeries and apparently in now in Anchorage, also from shelters. In our most vulnerable moments they think that their right to hate should trump our right to live. This is not the Alaska way. This is not the Anchorage way."

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a keynote speech at the ADF's religious freedom summit on AUG-08. He said:

"You are not a hate group. ... [The SPLC has] used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience. They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of others."

Casey Reynolds, Communications Director for American Civil Liberties Union Alaska, told KTUU-TV:

"The ability to believe what you believe and to practice your religion is one of our core fundamental rights. But you have to draw the line at which this is harming other people and society, and that is really what this [case] is about."

The ADF wrote in its court submission:

"It would not only be dangerous and against common sense, but would violate the Hope Center’s sincerely held religious beliefs to admit biological men into its shelter and allow them to sleep side by side and disrobe next to women, some of whom have been assaulted by men and fear for their safety."

Webmaster's comment:

I suspect that all homeless shelters have procedures for admitting sick, congageous people and placing them in isolation from the rest of their clients. They could use the same procedures to handle transgender clients.

David Dinielli repeated the commonly heard assertion that:

"There is simply no evidence that transgender people are more of a threat to anyone whether that be in bathrooms, locker rooms or homeless shelters. In fact we know transgender people are among the most, if not the most likely, to be targeted for abuse: sexual abuse and physical abuse."

The city attorney’s office has stated that since the current non-discrimination law was passed, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission has received 18 complaints -- four based on gender identity and 14 based on sexual orientation. 15

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2018-OCT-19: The UK Government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act closed:

The government's consultation lasted 16 weeks, during which tens of thousands of comments were received. Many urged:

  • An end to the requirement for a medical diagnosis or other evidence proving applicants' transgender status.

  • Recognition of non-binary gender identities, so that transgender persons could identify as male, female, belonging to both male and female genders, or to neither gender.

  • A lowering of the minimum age to register a gender change to 16. 17

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Image by Tony Shek. CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/
  2. "IU study looks at why Hollywood blockbusters often lack minority characters," Indiana University, 2011-MAY-12, at: http://newsinfo.iu.edu/
  3. "Ghost in the Shell," Wikipedia, as on 2018-JUL-03, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  4. "Witewashing in film," Wikipedia, as on 2018-JUN-19, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  5. Carlos Garcia, "Scarlett Johansson is playing a transgender person in a movie – and people are angry about it," The Blaze, 2018-JUL-04, at: https://www.theblaze.com/
  6. "Cisgender" refers to the vast majority of humans who identify their gender as the same as their birth-identified gender.
  7. "Transgender" refers to the about 0.8% of humans who identify their gender as different from their birth-identified gender.
  8. Zach Sharf, "Trans Actresses Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton Slam Hollywood After Scarlett Johansson Cast in Transgender Role," Indie Wire, 2018-JUL-04, at: https://www.indiewire.com/
  9. Nick Duffy, "Scarlett Johansson trans movie may be cancelled after star drops out," Pink News, 2018-JUL-17, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  10. Michael Foust, "Miss Universe to Feature Transgender Contestant: ‘Being a Woman is to Be and Feel Like a Woman’," ChristianHeadlines, 2018-JUL-16, at: https://www.christianheadlines.com/
  11. Chad Groening, "Not even Vermont ...," One News Now, 2018-AIG-21, at: https://www.onenewsnow.com/
  12. Michael Scherer, "Democrats select transgender candidate for governor and other ceiling-breaking nominees in primaries," Los Angeles Times, 2018-AUG-14, at: http://www.latimes.com/
  13. , "Transgender Vermont Candidate Christine Hallquist Receiving Death Threats, Reported to FBI," Newsweek, 2018-AUG-22, at: https://www.newsweek.com/
  14. Shaun Boyd, "Brianna Titone Makes History As First Openly Transgender Candidate To Run For State Office," CBS Denver, 2018-AUG-27, at: https://denver.cbslocal.com/
  15. Jill Burke, "Women’s shelter challenges Anchorage’s non-discrimination law," KTUU, 2018-SEP-13, at: https://www.ktuu.com/
  16. Owen Bowcott, "Trans people to be able to register new identities more easily," The Guardian, 2018-JUL-03, at: https://www.theguardian.com/s
  17. "Gender Recognition Act," Stonewall, 2018-OCT, at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/

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Original posting: 2018-JUL-05
Latest update : 2018-OCT-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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