WATCH: Straight Filmmaker Casts Transgender Actress in Transgender Love Story

Is this really happening at long last? After years of non-transgender actors and actresses playing trans characters in film —and in many cases scoring lots of trophies for their efforts – a transgender actress will play a transgender woman in a film. Transgender actress Michelle Hendley, following what’s described as a nationwide talent search, has nabbed the lead role as a trans woman in the upcoming rom-com Boy Meets Girl. 

Filmmaker Eric Schaeffer, who’s directed comedies such as If Lucy Fell with A-listers like Ben Stiller and Sarah Jessica Parker, plans to start shooting the film in June and has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funding. The film will focus on Ricky, a beautiful twenty-one year old transgender girl living in Virginia with dreams of becoming a fashion designer in New York. He described the comedy as an exploration of “the universal theme of exploring one’s identity, regardless of sexual orientation, age and race.”

michellephoto-15 (1)Schaeffer thinks its high time for a positive film portrayal of a transgender character and thinks he’s up to the challenge and wanted to cast an actual trans actress in the lead. He found Hendley via a Skype audition.

“I’m passionate about breaking the mold of sexual and emotional convention in the pursuit of creating more unity in our increasingly fractured world,” he said to Queerty. “Being a ‘straight man,’ albeit one who admits to many things most straight men don’t, and living my life with a colorful spectrum of sexual and emotional tastes, desires and behaviors that don’t always seem to be accepted, I feel a duty to portray characters in my films who, like myself, admit to and accept without condition the parts of themselves and others that can be best described and must start being labeled as one thing and one thing only: human.  That is why I make any film.  That is why I am inspired to make this one.”

Is this the first time a transgender actress has played the lead in a rom-com that will presumably have a happy ending? Let us know in the comments section.

Editor’s note:

Ashley Love, an activist and organizer with the transsexual anti-defamation group M.A.G.N.E.T, sent in the following statement in response to this story:

We appreciate Schaeffer casting an actual woman of trans* experience to play a trans* character. He should be careful that his statements don’t misrepresent our communities by inaccurately using terms “sexual orientation” and “gay.” Transsexualism is actually a medical condition and transgender is about gender identity, therefore “gay” isn’t an umbrella term that heterosexual women of trans* experience belong to and being born trans* isn’t about “sexual orientation.” People should have trans* groups advise them on trans* depictions because many times distinct trans* issues get conflated through our LGB handlers, who many times misgender us themselves.


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  • quee216

    I think this just moves us all forward in such a positive directions, and as a trans woman, I just want to say, “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart, and I wish you much success in the film!

  • bledoutcolor

    Wait. This is news? Id imagine that a trans person would be the first person you’d want to play a transgendered character. But what do I know.

  • DarkZephyr

    Wow, she’s stunning.

  • Katie

    Is this really happening? Is a queer publication using hetero and trans as opposites?

    Are you kidding me? Trans is not a sexual orientation. Trans is a gender identity. Trans folk come in all the sexuality flavors, gay, straight, bi, pansexual, asexual, monogamous, polyamorous, people who are into spiritual connections with naked turtles in vats of clarified butter, and every other vision of sexuality under the sheets.

  • Thedrdonna

    @Katie:Ummm, based on my reading of the story, the filmmaker, who is straight, is starting opposite the trans woman.

  • Katie

    My comment isn’t about the movie. It looks very sweet. I referred only to the Queerty blog post above, specifically the second sentence.

    “After years of hetero actors and actresses playing trans characters in film…” Whether someone is trans is completely irrelevant to whether they are hetero. I’m a lesbian because I like women, not because I was misigendered as a baby.

  • Thedrdonna

    @Katie: Ah, that’s true. I didn’t catch that little nugget, which is obviously implying a falsitude.

  • Allie

    I’d normally be disappointed to see Ashley Love being accepted by cisgender journalists as representing the trans* community – she’s been aligned in the past with “Harry Benjamin Syndrome” ideology, which is horribly sexist, binarist and homophobic – but I’m pleasantly suprised to be able to say that her statement here is pretty much exactly what I was about to say, and the way it’s worded suggests she’s abandoned HBS doctrine :)

    Yeah, what Ms Love and other commenters have said – the opposite of trans is cis, not straight. Trans people can be straight, gay, bi, pan, demi, asexual or an infinate number of less definable positions on the spectrum of sexuality, just like cis people.

  • Dominick


    Exactly. It should say:
    “After years of cisgender actors and actresses playing trans characters in film…”

  • Katie

    Yay Queerty editors and Jeremy Kinser. You made a mistake and you fixed it. Beautiful.

  • SmartAssJen

    Filmmaker to write, direct and star in love story with a beautiful young trans woman.

    Great, right?

    Truth: straight white guy with an awful reputation for narcissistic works that center on him in love stories with beautiful women writes (his fantasy), directs (has all the power), and stars (fantasy fulfilled).

    “The universal theme of exploring one’s identity, regardless of sexual orientation, age and race…”

    Great, right?

    Truth: I want to be with a trans woman and not be called gay, but this is still my story. It’s okay that I’m in my mid-40’s, and the character and actress are barely in their 20’s. And it just so happens that she’s cute and white, but this is “beyond race”.

    I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but this whole thing sounds wrong.

  • bugmenot

    Okay, first it’s Hetero as an opposite to transgender, now it’s “non-transgender” as an opposite to transgender.

    Please don’t put yourself out, I wouldn’t want you to do anything potentially uncomfortable like refer to yourselves as cisgender. “Non-transgender” is perfectly adequate, after-all, we’re the freaks and you’re the normals right?

    Nice job, Queerty.

  • Thedrdonna

    @bugmenot: Well, that might normalize trans folks. We ought to refer to cis folks as “normal” (vs. trans), just like we ought to refer to heterosexual folks as “normal” (vs. homosexual or bi or ace or pan or…). We wouldn’t want to make people who are representative of the majority of a demographic feel like any minority demographic is equally valid. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe we ought to refer to white people as “normal” too. Or Christians. Or the able-bodied. I mean, just because you possess an immutable characteristic doesn’t mean that straight white cis men should treat you as their equal. That’d be just crazy.

  • Allie

    Oh dear. That’s not a fix. Cisgender is not the absence of transgender, and to insinuate that it is is to cast it as the “default” and, by extension, transgender as the “deviation”. Change “non-transgender” to “cisgender” now. If necessary, you can have a footnote defining it, I’ll even give you wording although I’m by no means obligated to do so – “cisgender: of an assigned sex compatible with one’s gender identity; opposite of transgender.”

  • Dixie Rect

    This just sounds too complicated. Next.

  • couch

    This article’s URL is misleading – the director isn’t starring opposite Michelle Hendley, actor Michael Welch is.

  • mazzypmr

    Before the first roll of film is loaded, make sure that you are educated about what transsexualism actually is. It is NOTHING to do with sexual orientation or any kind of sexual deviancy. It is when gender identity (which is in the brain) does not match the physical sex (defined by genitalia). If you are fortunate enough to have matching gender identity and physical sex, then whoopee for you. You are cisgendered (which means that your gender identity and your physical sex match with each other) and you will not have to go through years of emotional and physical pain as well as the hateful ridicule of media misrepresentation and demonisation. Neither will you have to put up with the idiots who think they know what they are on about but really have no idea because they haven’t asked a transgender support group to advise them about the truth of being a transperson and the correct terminology to use when speaking in media interviews about their next film. GET REAL AND GET THE TRUE FACTS BEFORE SHOOTING YOUR MOUTH OFF ABOUT THE ‘GREAT THING YOU ARE DOING FOR THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY’. Otherwise it can turn around and bite you in the butt!

  • kiveon

    Are you all for real? No wonder all us “cis gender gay, white privileged males”,get confused. You people cannot even make up your minds what to call yourself

  • Allie

    @kiveon: Really? When did I show any indecision?

  • mazzypmr

    @kiveon: I am a transsexual lesbian. Is that too confusing for you? If it is, blame the people who keep inventing pigeon holes to put us all in. I see you fit 5 of them and I fit 2. The jury will now retire to consider its verdict.

  • lisalee18wheeler

    @mazzypmr: LOL

  • lisalee18wheeler

    @Allie: Doesn’t look like Ashley Love’s stance on “HBS” has changed much in the last two years.

  • Allie

    @lisalee18wheeler: Based on the statement quoted here? How do you figure? *confused* :s

  • lisalee18wheeler

    @Allie: I was part of the circle that promoted Trans separatism, from 2010 to mid 2011. Nothing in Ashley’s statement shows that her beliefs or ideology have changed (much).

  • Allie

    @lisalee18wheeler: The asterisk, for a start. Not only has she not specified “transsexual” throughout as she traditionally would have done, she’s written “trans*” with an asterisk, which is done specifically to include non-transsexual identities in the coalition. The other thing she’s done that runs counter to how she would traditionally have cast non-binary and/or non-op people into the wind is mention both transsexualism and the broader transgender umbrella in a context which makes it clear the 2 aren’t synonyms.

  • lisalee18wheeler

    @Allie: K. I haven’t been paying as close attention (if at all) as you have. Kudos to Ashley for her change of heart. Or change of politics. ;)

  • Cameron


    My name is Cameron Addison. I am a Transgender Actress, I have no experience but i know my talents an they are not limited in the acting world. Ive always dreamt about becoming an actress since i was 7. Just waiting apon an Acting Agent to willingly accept me an take a chance on me. I will not stop until I am “BIG”. Its not only what i deserve but also what ive always wanted. Love All….

    ~Cameron Addison

  • Kharima

    Call me a bitch, I don’t really care but I am mtf also and I absolutely can’t stand it when other trans women talk like they are a gay guy. They don’t attempt to sound like a female at all and honestly it gives the rest of us a shitty image. If she is going to be in this movie. It will give every person that watches it a wrong misconception that trans women just sound like gay guys. So really they are not going to think you are any different from a drag queen and all straight men will still treat you as if you are a gay guy.

  • lisalee18wheeler

    @Kharima: Maybe you should ask the director about his casting choice.

    In my experience, trans* either have no clue or little incentive to work on their voices. It’s easier to spend 40-50k on surgeries than the time, effort, and investment in something just as, or more useful.

  • Storm4u

    Well I wish the film luck as I believe the more we are out there the better. However judging by the comments, I doubt it will get far due to all the Trans, Trans*, Transgender who will bitch over every little point to try to get their own view recognised. So small point, it was wrong to use ‘hetero’, whats wrong with ‘non-Transgender’? Many dont recognise ‘Cis’ and it covers all. And then the story carefully used ‘Transgender’ throughout but the hollier then thou, used Trans and Trans*.

    Hell give the guy a break. He is trying to make a movie that will showcase Transgender in a good way. He will likely make a few mistakes but the hollier than thou will knock him down and it wont surprise me if it is never made.

    We are all vastly different and need to learn to tolerate our differences or be seen by society as just a bunch of kids throwing a tantrum at every opportunity.

  • mazzypmr

    @Storm4u: As a transsexual lesbian psychologist, I do a lot of work advising on correct language and attitudes to use when associating with transpeople. This has taken place in various situations and with people from many walks of life. I am planning a short lecture tour next Spring in South West England to carry the message of acceptance and understanding to a wider audience. This is what I do and I am very good at it. It is also what I have done in my comment. I have a very direct approach and attitude that has a humourous touch when I am working with an audience, be it a live audience or a radio audience. Mostly, I have seen only a concern for getting it right in the comments here. Others have different styles of delivery to me and I take that into account when reading their comments. As far as the premise of the film goes, I applaud any positive film about transgender people. Yes, Mr Schaeffer will make some mistakes, being the human that he is. My concern is that he seems to be emphasising the sexual orientation rather than the gender identity. This creates a real danger of promoting the misconception that transgenderism is a sexual orientation or deviancy. If that is his premise for the film, then I hope it fails to get made. If, however, he is genuine in his effort to make a positive film around the lead character’s gender identity, then I wish it all the success it deserves.

  • Allie

    @lisalee18wheeler: I’d like to think Kharima was complaining about what people *say*, rather than their voices. Trans women aren’t responsible for if ignorant cis people make ignorant cissexist assumptions.

  • lisalee18wheeler

    @Allie: My take is she was describing the mechanics of speech vs. the words or content. In my experience, there are many trans* that do sound like gay men, either by chance or by choice. I know first hand, because before voice therapy, I was one of them. And I don’t think the onus completely lies with “Cis” anyone to understand us. I believe we have an obligation to teach and share as needed.

  • Storm4u

    @mazzypmr: Sounds great and good on you. I am a great promoter of education to solve the discrimination we all recieve as TG/TS so dont get this post wrong please.

    ‘Transgenderism’ this is a word merely being bandidabout and created by Transgender people. Neither the medically recognised APA’s DSM or the WHO’s ICD show it as a medical condition. The word they use and that is recognised medically is ‘Transsexualism’. When Trans people start creating new words and new meanings, which happens regularly, all we do is confuse joe public. What is wrong with using the words they know and understand?
    The word ‘Transgenderism’ merely bastardises and negates Transsexualism and Transsexuals.

    ‘Transgenderism’ is not recognised by any reputable or major medical authority anywhere that I have been able to find. Most western countries of the world use either or both the DSM or ICD. This is another example of Trans people changing things to suit themselves causing arguments amongest ourselves so that the world watches and gets confused and says ‘oh your one of those.’ and cant be bothered because we cant show a unified front.

    Different countries and cultures have different meanings. Trans is a lazy shortening of Transgender but it is also shortening of Transvestitte and Transsexual. Transgender, Transvestitte and Transsexual all have vastly different meanings or definitions and all are important. I wont say it here as many will be offended but down here, I and many Transsexuals refer to ourselves as the ‘T’ word. We own it and are proud of it. Its been used for years in NZ and OZ. It offends me that others see a word I wear with pride as offencive and disgusting but thats Trans folk making a judgement for all.

    We need to tolerate and accept our differences if we want society to tolerate and accept us.

  • Allie

    @Storm4u: Transgender and transsexualism are 2 different things – transgenderism is an umbrella term for everyone whose gender and assigned-at-birth sex don’t coincide, which in and of itself there’s no reason to medicalise; transsexualism is a subcategory within that of people who experience body dysphoria as a result of that clash which causes them to seek medical treatment.

    As for trans, it’s often written with an asterisk like in Ashley Love’s quoted statement here (trans*) precisely for that reason, to account for the differences between the things it’s short for but also the commonality.

  • Storm4u

    @Allie: Transgender is an umbrella term we agree. But there is no word in any reputable dictionary of ‘Transgenderism’.
    Even the oft wrong wikipedia merely says ‘may refer to’. The umbrella word is Transgender, not Transgenderism. There is no word Transgenderism other than a word a few Transgender folk are starting to use. It means nothing. the ‘ism’ on the ends tries to imply it has some medical standing. It doesnt.

    The word Trans* also doesnt exist in reputable dictionaries or Wikipedia even. A * used after a word generally means ‘whatever’. It doesnt mean anything specifically and so includes Trans who are there sexually as well. Be it Transgender*, Transsexual* or Transvestitte*. The * is there for lazy people who dont care and is condescending and demeaning. My Transsexualism has/had nothing to do with sexuality and so I dont use Trans*.

    Yes, its commonly used in the Tran* community but not by society as a whole. Alas useage is growing.

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