While Sam Smith was busy trying to claim that he was the first openly gay man to win an Oscar, at another award show, there was actual history being made.
At the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards, Mya Taylor, the actress best known for her breakout role in Tangerine, became the first out transgender actress to win a Film Independent Spirit Award in the category of best supporting actress.
Not only is Taylor’s win much deserved for her amazing performance in Tangerine, it is a breath of fresh air during this #OscarsSoWhite season. For a second year in a row, no people of color were nominated for any of the major categories of the Academy Awards. In addition to no people of color being nominated, Eddie Redmayne was nominated for playing a trans character in The Danish Girl even though he is not trans. Redmayne’s role — like Jared Leto’s role in The Dallas Buyers Club — should have gone to someone who is trans. However, Hollywood would rather give opportunities to the same cisgender white men over and over again because those are the only people that they view as worthy of telling these stories.
If you believe that the Oscar nominations are evidence of available talent, then you would think that there are no trans actors or actresses in Hollywood at all. But that just isn’t the case. To have Taylor win best supporting actress at the Film Independent Spirit Awards is a leap in the right direction. Taylor has made history and reminded us that we need more actresses like her.
People other than cisgender white men are talented and have stories to tell. Maybe if there was more diversity in the film industry i.e less Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, the industry wouldn’t face such sharp decline in its ticket sales. There is an audience out there for more diverse casts. Taylor’s win and the critical acclaim for Tangerine are evidence that Hollywood just needs to pay attention.
Refusing to recognize talent because of a person’s sexuality, gender, race, age, size, ability, or any other identifier is holding the film industry back. When we don’t talk about the issue of diverse representation in our movies and television shows, the producers and writers feel like they can keep creating artwork that is not concerned about representing the actual world that we live in.
It’s not enough to say boycott the shows, we need to demand films like Tangerine that give actors and actresses like Mya Taylor a chance.