Following backlash, the actress declined the role and committed to doing better in order to improve trans representation on-screen and behind the scenes.
Hollywood star Halle Berry discussed a potential film role as a transgender person over an Instagram Live session over the weekend. After receiving immense backlash for considering the role, the actress has revoked her decision and issued a formal apology, CNN reports. Many thanked her for listening to the advice of trans folks and organizations advocating for better trans representation in the media, including LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD. The criticism she received argued that she, as a cis woman, would be stealing the role from an actual trans actress and rob the role of authenticity and depth. Critics also claimed that trans identities are not merely costumes to slip in and out of.
Berry stated in her formal apology posted to Twitter, "Over the weekend I had the opportunity to discuss my consideration of an upcoming role as a transgender man, and I'd like to apologize for those remarks." The Cloud Atlas star revealed few other details at the time, sharing only that the character in question was "a woman [who] transitioned into a man." She claimed the character was in a project she loves that she might be doing, adding that she wanted to take a "deep dive" into "that world." She could have been referring to the world of queerness or the trans community. It must be noted that misgendering a trans man and referring to the script as a "female story" as she did on Instagram Live is hurtful and invalidating language to use when describing a trans person's experiences.
I appreciate your acknowledgement of this, but you should also apologize for referring to a trans man with she/her pronouns and it pronouns, and for calling a story about a trans man a female story. Those are dangerous remarks to make and to not acknowledge that is upsetting.— J. R. Hart (@jrhartauthor) July 7, 2020
"As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories," the star continued. "I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and I will continue to listen, educate, and learn from this mistake." A cisgender individual is someone who identifies wholly with the gender they were assigned at birth. As a cis woman, Berry benefits from years of cis privilege that would have made it difficult to fully relate to a character who is trans.
Concluding, she affirmed, "I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera." The apology, as many noted, was a welcome change in behavior in comparison to the numerous other actors who have not taken similar criticism well. For instance, when Eddie Redmayne portrayed transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in the film The Danish Girl, he simply called the casting a "great privilege," Indie Wire reports. He stated, "I hope—as an actor one hopes—that one should be able to play any sort of part if one plays it with a sense of integrity and responsibility." (He did acknowledge nonetheless that there have been "many years of cisgender success on the back of trans stories.")
However, a true sense of integrity and responsibility comes when cis actors do not rob trans actors of their rightful opportunities. Therefore, Berry's apology resonated with many. GLAAD posted on Twitter in response to her tweet, "We are pleased that [Berry] listened to the concerns of transgender people and learned from them. Other powerful people should do the same. A good place to start is by watching [the documentary Disclosure] to learn about trans representation in media." Disclosure, a Netflix documentary, features "leading trans creatives and thinkers [as they] share heartfelt perspectives and analysis about Hollywood's impact on the trans community." The production's official Twitter handle stated, "We hope [our documentary] is one of many educational tools you and others can rely [on] to inspire and strengthen allyship."