Transition Challenged

Oscar Hopeful Jared Leto Heckled By Trans Audience Member At Film Festival


Jared Leto’s road to the Oscars got a little bumpier at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

THR is reporting that Leto was heckled by a transgender woman from the audience while accepting the festival’s Virtuosos Award for his performance as transgender AIDS activist Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.

Calling it “trans-misogyny,” the heckler then yelled out that Leto didn’t “deserve an award for playing a trans-woman” because he is male.

Countering the heckler’s argument that only trans people should play trans roles, he replied that if by doing so “you’ve made sure people that are gay, people that aren’t straight, people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art.”

Though Leto and the heckler were spotted after the confrontation having what was described as a “cordial” conversation, both heckler and heckled make good points about the state of openly LGBT actors in LGBT roles as well as the role of transformation in art.

Leto is just the latest in a long line of heterosexual actors being showered with accolades for playing LGBT roles, but the dialogue happening this time around is new, and will, we hope, open doors for LGBT actors playing LGBT characters in the future.


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  • Kieru

    So a performance that calls for a person to portray a transgender woman should be played only by transgender women. Let’s apply this logic to all acting. Role for a cocaine dealer? Can only be played by ACTUAL cocaine dealers. Cheerleader hiding a teen pregnancy? Get me a real cheerleader who is really pregnant because OBVIOUSLY anyone portraying that role who ISN’T cannot truly understand the struggle.

    Acting is all about illusion. I appreciation wanting LGBTQ performers to have a greater voice and presence in media that is about us. That should be applauded. Suggesting that someone ‘outside’ cannot provide a strong, honest portrayal is a disservice to that persons training and capabilities.

  • JennyFromdabloc

    @Kieru: Good points. Seems Leto did the role justice. Simma down, now!

  • jckfmsincty

    I know that Leto is the front`runner for the Supporting Actor Oscar, but I think the award should go to Michael Fassbender for “12 Years a Slave”.

  • DShucking

    Like the angry rant against Piers Morgan, this outburst does nothing to help your cause. You don’t get acceptance or respect by limiting the freedoms of others that you’d like to have yourself by bullying them. By the way, with this community being so outraged by words, since when did they ask us if it’s okay to refer to the rest of us as cisgender?

  • ZaneStuart

    For once Qweerty wasn’t catty in their article. The idea that an exchange like this could lead to more open doors for LGBTQ actors is always a hoped for outcome.

    @Kieru: Well said. Except… There are a few instances I believe that just isn’t possible.

    Roles in which the character are of a specific ethnicity do sometimes demand a portrayal by an actor/actress of said ethnicity. A good straight actor could play a LGBTQ role but I’m not certain even an exceptional white actor could convincingly play Harriet Tubman or MLK Jr. In college we tried to shake things up in the theater department by doing this very thing (not these specific roles). Crickets. And then the hate.

  • niles

    And once again these people have shown their basic disdain for everyone who has attempted to portray, support or otherwise work with them in any capacity whatsoever.

  • Pistolo

    It’s just a shame that most often gay characters aren’t played by gay actors. Is there are shortage of gay actors? Anyways there’s so many straight guys playing gay guys on TV especially these days. Like….

    -Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
    -Darren Criss (Glee)
    -Max Adler (Glee)
    -Rob James Collier (Downton Abbey)
    -Cameron Monaghan (Shameless)
    -Matthew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters- cancelled)
    -Adam Pally (Happy Endings- cancelled)
    -Nelson Ellis (True Blood)
    -Michael McMillian (True Blood)
    -Kevin Alejandro (True Blood)
    -Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)

    And many more…

    Ironically, the most famous gay actors seldom land gay parts. Neil Patrick Harris hardly ever plays gay as with Matthew Bomer, Zachary Quinto, and Jonathon Groff (until Looking which is very recent). Chris Colfer plays Kurt of course but almost every other male character is sexualized 10 times more than he is in the show.

    Straights who play gay once aren’t brave as GAY actors who are always having to pretend to be straight which is basically 99% of the time.

  • doug105

    @Pistolo: A lot of gay actors also don’t want to be typed cast and avoid most of theses roles.

  • NoelG

    @niles: What the f*ck do you mean by “these people”? The average homo/transphobe couldn’t have said it any “better.” And by better I mean idiotically.

  • DShucking

    @NoelG: What is your beef with the term ‘these people’?

  • crazycorgi

    Seems to be a lot of hate coming out of the trans community these days. I think that heckling Jared Leto for portraying a tans woman in a movie has to be the ultimate in bad taste. I could see if he portrayed the character in a disrespectful way, but that is not the way the movie dealt with that character. I’m not saying that the trans community should be “grateful”, but at least recognize that this movie did shine a spotlight on the trans community. They could have easily chosen to ignore it.

  • TheNewEnergyDude

    @Kieru: Perfectly put, Kieru!

    I’d like to mention another wonderful performance of a transgendered character, played by a straight man. Peter Outerbridge’s performance as Judy in the movie “Better than Chocolate” is beautifully done, and you will absolutely fall in love with her!! She alone is worth the viewing, even if she is just a supporting character. Outerbridge steals every scene he’s in.

    Also, as a whole, credit to the movie as a well done indie. The commentary on the DVD track was also interesting.

  • Jackhoffsky

    @Kieru: I would add to your “Acting is all about illusion” with acting is also about translation. These roles are not just character portrayals, but the audience is suppose to relate to them and their story.

    Case and point: Casting call for Breaking Bad should’ve read “Meth-head with sociopathic partner, experience required.” But that’s not what happened. We got Aaron Paul to play a meth-head bringing humanity and turmoil of that world translated into our world making him relatable to all of us – something that could never be accomplished by a real meth-head.

    Acting is illusion, but it’s also communication. And sometimes we need someone NOT like the character to do it any justice as it is translated to the audience.

  • stranded


    I agree. When will a gay themed movie with gay actors be as celebrated as a gay themed movie played by straight actors. It kind of reminds me of when a friend of mine said, movies with predominantly black actors that tell the story of slavery, are the only movies to garner any attention from the Oscars.

  • jimbryant

    In a way, I can understand why the heckler said what he said. He wasn’t happy with these Hollywood blow-ins who play roles for about 5 minutes and then move on to their next project.

    In any case, transgender male-to-female are simply men who have adopted the fetishes of women – eg make-up, high heels and long hair. The reason they think they are female is because they base their perception of what is female on superficial things, like the aforementioned.

  • Arkansassy

    Stop whining. People are being beat up and killed in other parts of the world because of their sexuality. A straight man playing a trans in movies isn’t that big of a deal. Let’s put equal rights and not being killed at the top of the list and save this for later.

  • GeriHew

    @Pistolo: Personally I believe there are rather more bisexual actors than homosexual actors.

  • jimbryant


    It’s not an either/or scenario. People are entitiled to voice their disapproval. There should be no prioritisation of disapproval.

  • misterhollywood

    I think the work Leto has done is impressive. He is a major supporter of GLBT rights and has been with us for many a batter. I can see why some got upset with him but still – there is a bigger picture here. We have a page on him on our site where we explore if actors or singers may be gay or straight (just click on my profile and you will be taken there).

    Great post Queerty!

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