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This LGBT+ History Month let’s stop celebrating straight actors in queer roles

By Tyla Connor Feb 14, 2021
James Corden and Eddie Redmayne UK Film is GREAT Reception, Los Angeles, America - 26 Feb 2016James Corden and Eddie Redmayne at the UK Film is GREAT Reception awards 2016 Photography: Jim Smeal/Shutterstock

James Corden has landed a nomination for his controversial role as Barry Glickman in the Netflix film The Prom at the 78th Golden Globes.

Corden has been heavily criticised for his portrayal of Barry Glickman in Ryan Murphy’s feel-good musical about a lesbian couple who wish to go to the prom together. As a straight actor Corden relied heavily on gay stereotypes. 

Despite the criticism Corden has managed to bag himself a nomination for the comedy and musical category which has been rightfully met with a backlash. Fans have branded it the most embarrassing nomination in Golden Globes history.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a straight actor has been nominated for an award and celebrated for playing a queer character. In 2005 Felicity Huffman was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Bree, a trans woman in Transamerica Huffman was awarded the role over trans actress Alexandra Billings. 

In 2015 Eddie Redmayne played trans woman Lily Elbe in The Danish Girl for his performance he was nominated for multiple awards including the Academy Award for Best Actor. He initially defended his role suggesting that trans or cis actors should be free to play any role as long as they did it with “a sense of integrity and responsibility”.

However, as the transgender writer and activist Jen Richards explains in Netflix’s documentary Disclosure: “Having cis men play trans women, in my mind, is a direct link to the violence against trans women.”

She continues to say: “Part of the reason that men end up killing, out of fear that other men will think that they’re gay for having been with trans women, is that the friends – the men whose judgement they fear – only know trans women from media, and the people playing trans women are the men that they know.”

So, why does Hollywood continue to hire and celebrate cis straight men and women for queer roles when it is clear that they negatively impact the LGBTQIAP+ community?

A lot of directors argue that there aren’t enough gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender actors to play the queer roles they want to portray but this is not an acceptable excuse to award these roles to non-queer actors.

Especially with talented actresses such as Laverne Cox, Angelica Ross, Sarah Paulson and actors such as Matt Bomer, Billy Porter and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman.

Whilst I am sure these directors and actors have the best intentions at heart it doesn’t count for much in reality, when all around the world queer people are still subject to violence, particularly trans women of colour.

By Tyla Connor

Transgender queer freelance journalist studying at Kingston University. I am passionate about feature writing and fashion journalism. Contact me directly for story ideas or if you have your own story to tell at

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