Transgender groups urge Hollywood to tell their stories better

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Transgender groups, supported by more than 40 television and movie production companies, on Tuesday urged Hollywood to do a better job of telling their stories on the big and small screen.

In an open letter, published in entertainment trade publication Variety, they asked Hollywood to “use its power to improve the lives of trans people by changing America’s understanding about who trans people are.”

The “Dear Hollywood” letter was signed by gay, lesbian and transgender (LGBT) advocacy groups GLAAD and Outfest, as well as actors union SAG, casting agents and production companies headed by the likes of Judd Apatow and Ryan Murphy.

“We have grown up watching films and TV shows in which we have been portrayed almost exclusively as tragic victims, psychotic killers and one dimensional stereotypes,” the letter said.

According to a GLAAD study, none of the 109 movies released by Hollywood’s seven biggest studios in 2017 included a transgender character.

The letter follows a backlash in the LGBT community over the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a transgender character in the planned movie “Rub & Tug” about a 1970s real life American drug kingpin who was born a woman but identified as a man.

Johansson pulled out of the movie last month saying she realized her casting was “insensitive.”

Tuesday’s letter noted that television shows like “Will & Grace” and movies like “Brokeback Mountain” had helped break down stereotypes about gay and lesbian people over the past 15 years.

Transgender people face above average rates of unemployment, suicide, poverty and bullying in the United States because of prejudice and misunderstanding, the letter said.

“We believe that we are at an unprecedented cultural moment,” it said. “We want to help you tell our rich and diverse stories, and we need your help to do it.”

GLAAD and women’s group 5050by2020 also created a guidebook for movie and television studios and producers containing information on where to find transgender actors and creative projects developed by transgender people.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Susan Thomas