Cissupremacy: The Hollywood Edition
Or Hollywood Actress Gains Serious Acting Cred by Doing Tranface, Yet Again. So Nicole Kidman is the latest in a series of cissexual Hollywood actors who have stumbled down that path of ignorance and bigotry which leads to playing a trans person. In The Danish Girl she will star alongside a number of other cissexual people in the film adaptation of a fictionalized account (by a cis person) of the life of an actual trans woman, Lily Elbe. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about Lily Elbe, by the end of this film you won’t either.
From Variety‘s item on the film:
One afternoon in 1920s Copenhagen, Greta, a portrait painter, asked her husband to stand in for an absent female model. Slipping on a dress, stockings and woman’s shoes began a metamorphosis into Lili. When the photos became wildly popular, Greta encouraged her husband to do more, but a harmless game evolved into something deeper that threatens their marriage.
Oh, my stomach already hurts. I could do a sentence by sentence deconstruction of why this is transmisogynist and cissupremacist (“metamorphasis”, the list of clothing, etc.), but that would just make my stomach worse. Of course there is heteronormativity – THREATENS THEIR MARRIAGE!!! – but before you cis queers hop on that bandwagon, remember it is heteronormativity done in the service of transmisogyny. I’ve seen and heard more than my share of heteronormativity come out of the mouthes of cis queers at the expense of trans women, so I’m feeling a bit conflicted about sharing this platform with you right now (I’m looking at you, Mr. Cis Gay Man at the Pride parade who had to loudly opine “Why would you get a sex change and be a dyke?” as the Dykes on Trikes rode by).
Before I get into the nuance of discussing portrayals of trans people in cisspremacist media let me make this point clear: A cis person performing as a trans person is bigotry. There’s no “good” way to do it, it does trans people nothing positive, and it is at best ignorantly complicit with a system which at its extremes kills trans people to keep us in line. Apologists need not bother engage me on this.
We’ve been through this before, of course. Transamerica was the product of a cissexual writer/director, a cissexual producer/director, with a cissexual lead, all allegedly telling the story of a trans woman’s experience. I’m sure the special effects artists who prepared the silicon penis for cissexual lead Felicity Huffman to wear was cissexual, too. It was given awards and praise from the cis LGB community, but I didn’t know what exactly I was supposed to take from this film that couldn’t miss the point of my experience any further if it tried. That’s not the point, though, is it? Films such as Transamerica (and as The Danish Girl will be I am sure) are for cis audiences, to reinforce their fears about trans women, and to laud their own for acting out their culture’s bigotry.
I have made the point before: Cis dominance and control of the narratives of trans lives is the central mechanism through which trans people and trans women especially are marginalized. It provides the framework for apologists to our assaults and murders, and justifies cis fear and hate. Whether it is a Hollywood film with real movie stars, or the straw man ranting of transmisogynist feminists making effigies of lives I never come across as described by actual trans women, it denies us real experiences and voices to keep us apart and othered, less than human. It sets an acceptable standard for often fatal violence to reinforce this system.
Think about that before you pay one dollar to see films like these, please?
p.s. And just for the record, my transition was at no point anything that became “deeper” and threatened my marriage, although I suppose when I realized I was a dyke and left the guy I was going to marry that did threaten marriage. That’s not about me being trans, though, so I don’t see how it would be of any interest to cis audiences, and it might threaten the hater radfems to realize trans women have experiences – gasp – like cis women. Thank god, then, I’m just preaching to the choir here.