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Halle Berry apologizes and steps away from transgender role after backlash

Actress Halle Berry
Actress Halle Berry is no longer considering playing a trans character.
(Evan Agostini / Invision / Associated Press)

Following a social-media outcry, actress Halle Berry has apologized and vacated a transgender role in an upcoming film.

The Academy Award winner came under fire over the weekend when she revealed on Instagram Live that she would probably lop off her hair to play the character in her next project and repeatedly misgendered the character during the interview.

“I’m thinking of [playing] a character where the woman is a trans character, so her hair is going to have to be [short]. She’s a woman that transitioned into a man,” Berry said in a recent chat with hairstylist Christin Brown. “She’s a character in a project I love that I might be doing.

“It’s really important to me to tell stories. And that’s a woman. That’s a female story,” Berry added. “She transitions to a man, but I want to understand the why, the how of that.”

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Berry and Brown were really excited about the project, but social media was not. Following an outpouring of criticism, the “Monster’s Ball” star issued an apology Monday and committed herself to being a better ally.

“As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories,” she wrote on Twitter.

“I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake,” Berry added. “I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.”

The LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD applauded the actress’ decision and steered her toward the recent documentary “Disclosure,” which examines Hollywood’s treatment of transgender characters and actors.

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“Disclosure” director Sam Feder, along with interview subjects including Laverne Cox explore transgender representation — and misrepresentation — in Hollywood culture.

“We are pleased that [Halle Berry] listened to the concerns of transgender people and learned from them. Other powerful people should do the same. A good place to start is by watching to learn about trans representation in media,” the group tweeted Monday in response to her apology.

Brown, a self-identified queer woman of color, also issued her own apology on Instagram following the interview.

“What started off as a conversation around hair and our identities as black women, I then asked a creative question,” the textured-hair specialist wrote Tuesday. “The answer to said question spiraled into a major teachable moment for myself and for all involved. I realize the error in my saying that ‘I speak for the entire LGBTQIA community...’. I apologize for the overstatement and will be sure to stay in my lane by not speaking for others.”

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Hollywood has a long history of giving white, straight actors the roles of LGBTQ+ individuals, many of whom have gone on to win Oscars or earn nominations for their portrayals — Julie Andrews (“Victor, Victoria”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”), Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”), Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry”), Sean Penn (“Milk”) and Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica”), among them.

Berry is the latest star to step away from a role to promote inclusion and diversity. The global outcry following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police this year has prompted a concerted effort to promote Black lives and livelihoods.

White actors Kristen Bell, Jenny Slate, Alison Brie and Mike Henry have also stepped down from their animated roles to make way for more racially appropriate casting of their characters on “Central Park,” “Big Mouth,” “Bojack Horseman” and “Family Guy,” respectively. “The Simpsons” announced late last month that it would also recast its Black characters with Black actors.

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The artist Texas Isaiah celebrates the black transgender and gender-nonconforming community with VSCO and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.


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