The long journey of trans visibility onscreen

(AFP) – Gradually, the visibility of trans people seems to be advancing on the screen: “A Good Man”, in theaters on Wednesday, takes one more step in this direction with Noémie Merlant in the body of a falling man “pregnant”.

Her character, Benjamin, was born into a female body. In a relationship with Aude (interpreted by the actress and singer Soko), he has already largely started his transition: he has changed his first name and his body is that of a man, with beard and deep voice.

But when Aude learns that she will not be able to get pregnant, Benjamin decides to delay a crucial step in her transition, the hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), to carry their child.

Noémie Merlant (“Portrait of the young girl on fire”) is stunning and unrecognizable in the role.

“This story which may seem singular highlights the simple notion of desire for a child, to found a family and to what extent for some it is complicated, painful, prevented”, explains to AFP the director, Marie- Castile Mention-Schaar.

Even the actress Soko explains that she had “never asked herself this question” of parenthood before this film, while she explains to AFP living “in the middle of the queer community” in the United States. There, a whole generation of trans and “non-binary” actors assert themselves there, such as Canadian star of the film “Juno”, Elliot Page, known as Ellen Page until 2020.

– To make visible –

In France, beyond this film, trans people are starting to be represented on the screens. The general public had already been able to discover this question of parenthood through the story of Thomas Beatie, the first American transgender to have given birth to a child, who had been a candidate for the reality TV show Secret Story.

TF1 broadcast on November 1 “Il est Elle”: the story of the transition of a young girl, who grows up with the first name Julien while feeling like a girl since her birth. A TV movie broadcast in the first part of the evening and whose main role is played by a trans actress.

Last year, the documentary “Little Girl” by Sébastien Lifshitz, recounting the journey of little Sasha, born in a boy’s body and expressing her trans-identity, was hailed by critics and achieved great audience success. on the Arte platform.

This is the first documentary ever devoted to trans childhood, then explained the filmmaker to AFP: “When there are misunderstood subjects, one of the essential things to do is to make the people attacked visible, to show their full humanity “.

But in fiction, which Sébastien Lifshitz practiced as a pioneer (“Wild Side” with trans actress Stéphanie Michelini in 2004), trans actors, few in number, complain of having trouble breaking through.

– “Above all actors” –

And the subject of the incarnation of the characters remains hot as evidenced in 2018 the case of the casting of the American film project “Rub and Tug”: the actress Scarlett Johansson was to play the role of a transsexual man, but she gave it up under the fire of criticism from the community.

“A Good Man” has not escaped controversy on social networks: the director has chosen a “cisgender” actress (person whose gender identity, male or female, corresponds to the sex with which she was born), Noémie Merlant, to play Benjamin, and also bring her notoriety to the film.

“There are few transgender actors” and despite a few auditions, “few corresponded to the character I had written, his age, his physical profile …”, explains Marie-Castille Mention-Shaar. She would have been ready to “fight” to impose a transgender actor “who would have brought me the same conviction, in terms of acting, experience, technique”.

“Trans or cis, they are above all actors”, adds the director, who insisted on entrusting a small role to one of the rare French trans actors, Jonas Ben Ahmed, 30 years old. He is known to have played the first transgender of the soap opera “Plus Belle la Vie”, in 2018.

Jonas Ben Ahmed plays in the film a cisgender man, Benjamin’s best friend. “Trans roles should not be reserved for trans, and trans actors do not want to be confined to trans roles!”, He told AFP.