Halle Berry apologizes for her messy conversation about playing a transgender man

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The Danish Girl came out in 2015. The film told the (real-life) story of Lili Elbe, the first transgender woman to go through any kind of gender reassignment surgery (a procedure which, at the time, killed her). Lili was played by Eddie Redmayne, in a role which would see Redmayne nominated for the Best Actor Oscar and a slew of other awards. There were already conversations five years ago about how a cisgender male actor should not play a transgender woman, even if the film portrayed the “first transition” in history. The conversations got louder when the film came out and especially after Eddie was Oscar-nominated. Eddie himself spoke about how he hoped he would be the last cisgender actor to play a trans character.

Still, as Hollywood embraced telling “transgender stories” more and more, producers continued to cast cisgender actors in those roles, to embarassing results. I would think that by now, 2020, the conversations have become so mainstream that every established actor understands the deal. Halle Berry didn’t understand the deal. And now she’s apologizing.

Halle Berry is apologizing for remarks she made after revealing she was considering portraying a transgender man in an upcoming film role.

“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,” she said, addressing the remarks she made during an Instagram Live interview with hairstylist Christin Brown on Friday.

In addition to apologizing, the John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum actress said she was no longer considering the role. “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. 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. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera,” she finished her statement.

“[It’s] a character where the woman is a trans character, so she’s a woman that transitioned into a man,” Berry previously said during Friday’s interview, which drew criticism on social media. “She’s a character in a project I love that I might be doing. I want to experience that world, understand that world. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did Bruised. Who this woman was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next project, and that will require me cutting all of my hair off. That’s what I want to experience and understand and study and explore,” Berry said, before claiming that the story revolving around the transgender male character was a “female story.”

“It’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman, that’s a female story,” she said. “It changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that. I want to get into it.”

Trans activist Serena Daniari tweeted in response to Berry’s remarks in the interview, “It absolutely is NOT a female story, it is a story about a man. And why is the aspect of physical transition the focal point for her? Cis peoples’ understanding of trans issues is really myopic. Girl watch Disclosure on Netflix.”

[From People]

I read Halle’s apology first before her original comments, and just going off the apology, I was going to say something about how it’s great that she figured it out and she’s trying to be respectful. But her original comments are a MESS! I get that there’s a huge learning curve for cisgender people, myself included, to understand transgender issues and even how to speak about anything having to do with transgender issues – even the most woke among us have accidentally deadnamed or misgendered and we can all learn and do better. But lord, how did Halle think that she could declare that a “female story” and describe a trans man as a woman? YIKES.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

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25 Responses to “Halle Berry apologizes for her messy conversation about playing a transgender man”

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  1. Noki says:

    I think she was excited to tell the story from before the transition,maybe they could have used two actors. The beginning and then the rest of the journey.

  2. Valiantly Varnished says:

    She tried it. Just like Michelle Rodriguez tried it. Halle has never been the sharpest took in the shed but in 2020 you should know better. Period.

  3. grabbyhands says:

    I’ll accept that an actor might want to explore these roles, however – how is it in 2020 no cisgender actor seems to be able to rein in the impulse to be so tone deaf about it?

    We are at a time when they should simply be able to say – this is a great role, but this is not my story to tell. End of.

  4. ethy says:

    How kind of Eddie to say that he hoped he was the last, right after collecting his awards.

  5. Frida_K says:

    It’s not so much the painful ignorance of the commentary (although that is striking and not good at all), but instead, the narcissism:

    HB: “[It’s] a character where the woman is a trans character, so she’s a woman that transitioned into a man”

    The character is not a woman; he’s a man.

    HB: “She’s a character in a project I love that I might be doing. I want to experience that world, understand that world. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did Bruised. Who this woman was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next project, and that will require me cutting all of my hair off. That’s what I want to experience and understand and study and explore,”

    Wow. What a way to minimize the experience of transitioning (“that will require me cutting all of my hair off,”)

    She makes this character’s trans identity sound like the experience of an exotic and rare animal in the zoo or something incredibly foreign and other (“That’s what I want to experience and understand and study and explore,”)

    If she really wants to “experience that world, understand that world” then maybe she could respectfully signal interest and then be silent and humble and genuinely interested in actual trans persons, rather than in her process of learning.

    This is just bad. I’m glad she recanted and apologized. I hope, at least, that some good comes of this mess when all is said and done.

  6. Lively says:

    Hey maybe scarjo can fill the role

  7. C-Shell says:

    “IT changes to a man…” 👀👀👀👀

  8. Guest with Cat says:

    OMG, we really ARE eating our own and the Right is eating this up. Why are we doing this to ourselves and to each other?

    Look this life is not a contest to see which of us is the most woke. We don’t get a nice award for never putting a foot wrong or never sticking this foot in our mouth. Life is a huge learning process from start to finish. We don’t come into this world equipped with all of the knowledge and wisdom and perspective to navigate through it as perfect beings. Life is messy. People are messy. It’s the human condition.

    Not a single one of us can automatically and inherently flawlessly understand the struggles of people in other races, gender identities, sexual orientations or any other grouping into which we as human beings find ourselves classified. At the end of the day what really matters is that we are all human beings. We will make mistakes. We will struggle to grasp each other’s issues and struggles…if we are decent human beings. If we are not decent human beings we just wont give a F.

    Halle made a mistake. It may be a mistake some don’t understand how she could make. But she apologized and apparently wants to be a better ally to the community she inadvertently insulted. She had the care and sensitivity to at least want to understand and depict one story about the transgender journey. When she was made aware of why she is not the appropriate person to do that, and how she got everything so badly wrong, she had the care and sensitivity to back off and apologize.

    Why are we then shoving her face into her mistake? Why are we creating a society in which people are going to be terrified to make mistakes? It is from our mistakes that we learn and grow the most. It should not be our mistakes that define us but the willingness, the effort, and the actions we take to address them.

  9. Annabel says:

    Okay, so there’s something I’m honestly confused about re: the “cisgender actors should never portray trans people” stance. I get why it’s offensive for a cis woman to play a trans man; that kind of casting choice strongly implies that the character’s not a real man. But why would it be unreasonable for, let’s say, a cis man to portray a trans man? Since that would be a man portraying a man.

    • Kate says:

      I think because trans men and women don’t usually have the opportunity to play cis men and women, and so having trans stories played by cis actors takes away the meager opportunities that are available in the first place.

  10. BnLurkN4eva says:

    I was coming here to say as much, but you said it so beautifully guest with cat that I need only cosign your sentiments. We must leave room for people to grow and learn, that’s the best way forward. She received her call out and responded as appropriately as could be done under the circumstances, slapping her around isn’t necessary.

  11. Girl with the Soup Tattoo says:

    Just as an fyi or point of interest/growth, the term “gender reassignment surgery” (while still often used in the medical community) has been largely rejected in favor of “gender affirming”, which is more inclusive of identity as opposed to simply rearranging ones organs (and generally preferred over “gender confirmation surgery” as gender is not “confirmed” based on the presence/absence of sex organs). I think with more focus on diversity and inclusivity it shows us just how much we don’t know, and the process of learning can feel really daunting – but so worth it! It’s amazing to see what simply being aware of the preferred terms can mean to one person (and always ask! There’s nothing wrong with asking from a genuine desire to be respectful as opposed to cultural tourism)

  12. Lunasf17 says:

    It sounds like she is learning (as I am as well and most of us are) about how to be a better ally to the trans community. I do wonder if movies in Hollywood that are usually attached to a big name like hers before being made are going to get made since we don’t have trans actors that are as big as non trans actors yet. I know there are a few but none that have the “star power” of Holly. I’m just afraid none of these good stories will be made since trans actors aren’t seen as bankable as cisgender stars if that makes sense. I do hope that changes, we need more diverse stories being told!

    • lucy2 says:

      I think the “star power” issue is definitely something the studios and producers consider. But perhaps that’s best solved by having actors with star power take the supporting roles in the films, or producing them rather than starring in them. That way they can still use their built-in publicity, but aren’t taking the role away from a trans actor.

  13. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Since the beginning of time, or rather theater, actors haven’t gone great distances. Men playing all the roles. White men and women playing everything on the planet. I can image, for an actor, being able to act any role is exciting so sure, sign up. Only now, we have thespian range. We don’t need men acting for women. We don’t need white people acting for all races and we don’t have to make substitutions for particular identities. Having the stage open up could be threatening for certain egomaniacs, but if they don’t consult their PR staff and make changes, their careers will plummet.

  14. Slowdown says:

    I hate this apology, clearly written by her PR person, completely robotic. I don’t agree with the commenter above as how we’re rubbing her mistake on her face. We’re noting the fact that yet another actor considered playing another gender as an artistic challenge rather than think about the community she would be representing. I wish she could have been honest and revealed what she learned, who taught her and have reached out to 🏳️‍🌈 organisations and mentioned them In her journey through her mistake.
    It is hard to learn about realities that aren’t ours but I feel that nowadays American celebs are all about protecting their a**es as quickly as possible rather than starting a conversation. I am sure she meant well actually and thought that her star power would help.
    Well guess what it would help if, rather than ask someone to write an apology for her, she named trans actors she reached out to and revealed trans organisations people can help or be helped by. Use your star power in another way.