TV + Movies

Here’s A List Of Trans-Actors Who Are Ready To Be Cast In 2022

As a result of the poor understanding of trans lives, there are not more than a handful of trans folx who have succeeded in making a name for themselves as cinema actors. But there are a few who have made their way, nonetheless.

TW: Mention/ discussion of transphobia in media

In a time where being “woke” is trendy, we end up with various privileged voices hogging the mic and speaking for marginalised communities.

Several people are speaking up about their sexual and/or gender queerness in an attempt to live their truth and make the world more inclusive and kinder. But we also have a lot of cis people usurping platforms to enforce their own hetero-patriarchal notions under the pretense of inclusion. One such platform is cinema.

Across decades, movies have been wonderful and terrible and everything in between and beyond, but we rarely have come across trans actors in India. We have trans “representation” for sure, but where was Akshay Kumar when the trans community actually needed someone to stand up against the horrifying Trans Act? Although Laxmii (2020) was promoted as a movie with a trans character as the lead, enough members of the trans community have critiqued the movie as a capitalist and patriarchal move on Akshay Kumar’s part.

As a result of the poor understanding of trans lives, there are not more than a handful of trans folx who have succeeded in making a name for themselves as cinema actors. But there are a few who have made their way, nonetheless.

Anjali Ameer

Anjali Ameer is a trans femme actress. Born in Thamarassery, her films are largely in Malayalam and Tamil. She is the lead in the movie Peranbu which was also her claim to fame. Back in 2019, there were also reports of her working on a biopic which would highlight the problems faced by the trans community. She also faced a lot of stigma and bullying when she decided to come out but she has managed to remain resilient through the tough times.

Kalki Subramanian

Kalki Subramanian is a trans rights activist, actress, artist, writer, poet, and entrepreneur from Tamil Nadu. She played the lead role in the 2011 Tamil film Narthagi which talks about the lives of trans people. She also made a special appearance in another Tamil movie Sarkar which also increased her popularity. She recently released her book We are not the Others: Reflections of a Transgender Activist, which highlights the social and political “othering” that trans communities in India face, while also including her personal experiences as a trans person.

Aneesh Seth

Aneesh Seth is an Indian-American actress, singer, producer, activist, and director who has worked in movies and shows like First One In, A Kid like Jake, and Outsourced, among others. She is also Marvel’s first trans character and is a part of the show Jessica Jones where she plays Gillian in Season 3.

Navya Singh

Navya Singh is a prominent trans actor, model, TedX speaker, and activist. She was the brand ambassador for Miss Transqueen India. She was recently awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Puraskar for her talents in acting and modeling by film-maker and director, Mukesh Bhatt. She also has a role in the upcoming movie Pledge to Protect, a biopic on Anson Thomas who has worked hard to protect young girls from being trafficked and forced into the flesh trade.

Mairembam Ronaldo Singh

Mairembam Ronaldo Singh is a 19-year-old actor from Manipur. She is also a make-up artist who is active in her hometown, Moirang. She plays Cheeni in the show Paatal Lok, who is accused of murder in the pilot episode. In an interview with the Indian Express, she expressed that Cheeni’s role was a wonderful opportunity for trans representation in mainstream media. She also added that the show portrays the struggles of the community like when Cheeni was put in a jail cell with male prisoners.

Ivanka Das

Ivanka Das is an actress, choreographer and dancer. She was a participant in the 2nd season of the reality show, Dance Deewane.

In 2019, she debuted as an actress in the web series Ye Hai #Mandi, in the role of Kareena, a brothel owner. In 2020, she had a supporting role in the Netflix web series Bombay Begums as the character Beauty, a trans woman. The same year she also featured in the MTV Beats Love Duet album song “Khud Ko Hi Paake”.

Although there are these amazing people doing amazing things on behalf of the larger genderqueer community, it is still problematic that the onus in on the shoulders of only a handful of people. While writing this piece, it was hard for me to find information on any of them. Trans-masculine actors find it even harder to make it on the big screen.

One of the reasons I can think of as to why people are so compliant to the norm is because of the culture industry. The culture industry is a concept that was proposed by theorists Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer. It describes culture in economic terms; something that is produced, distributed, and consumed by the masses. Examples include television, music, social media, and so on and so forth.

The concept of the culture industry dictates what kind of identity is produced and that identity is consumed and perceived amongst the larger population. So the trans community in this case is misrepresented in all our media outlets. Trans people and queer people are often used as a plot device, as comic relief, instead of visualising them as characters with agency and desires. They are portrayed as deviant. That’s why there are so few trans actors in the film industry, and the majority of them have activism in their bio due to trans people being unable to claim their identity without a fight.

In the mainstream, the notion of trans-ness is still restricted to the gender binary. The first image we have when we think of a trans person is either a man or a woman ‘dressing up as the other gender’, instead of recognising gender desire as something more inherent. We leave out gender queer, gender fluid, nonbinaries, and various other genders that fall under the umbrella of “trans”. Trans-ness is still represented for the clothing and accessories choices.

The society is such that for someone to gain influence and success in the film industry, it’s almost impossible to be their authentic selves. Celebrities and actors have to produce an image that is palatable to the public; someone likable, someone like them but better. Actors aren’t expected to be radical or different because the public follows them closely for their celebrity, and they cannot deviate from the norm without risking the loss of their following.

I think that the culture industry also reflects on the kind of perspective the state has towards a particular community. In the case of India, the Trans Act which was supposed to be progressive in its initial form, ended up invalidating the iconic NALSA judgment with the subsequent amendment. It brought more pain and stigma to the community instead of reducing it. Since being queer is so politicized, we see it reflected in the media also. Recently, for example, we have had a lot of movies depicting cishet masculinity and femininity, which is also associated with the Hindu religion and nationalism. Like Bell Bottom, Sardar Udham, Shershah, Mimi and other such films, we haven’t really had the space to include trans or queer naratives.

The pandemic worsened opportunities for queer discourse and empowerment because the trans communities were one of the worst hit groups of the country who barely recieved any support from neither the government nor the private donors alike. Social stigma and judgment is still widely prevalent today. We don’t have the platform for free and secular speech and identity. Because of the rising nationalist ideology centered around the Hindutva philosophy, we also have an increase in rigid societal norms that don’t appreciate queerness. And because the majority of the country would rather conform, genderqueer people end up having to fight harder than ever.

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Her pronouns are she/they, but please don't ignore the 'they'. She loves books, music, art, handwritten letters and painting their nails. They believe it's important to critique what one loves, not to stop loving it, but to get a more wholesome picture of it.
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