Elle Fanning Stars in “About Ray,” a Film About a Transgender Teenager

While there has been an increase in past years of movies and television shows featuring gay teens and adults, there has certainly been a lack of representation regarding transgender people. However, a new trailer featuring a transgender teenager named Ray shows a new perspective on the family of a queer individual. Instead of being judged by a conservative family, the way most media tends to show this type of scenario, he has his mother and therapist on his side. Elle Fanning, who will be playing Ray, shows the ups and downs of what it’s like to be a young trans person in today’s society. Ray’s grandmother plays the part of a kind woman who is just a product of her generation and is having a hard time understanding Ray’s gender identity. She utters the phrase many trans men have heard from their own family and friends: “Why can’t she just be a lesbian?” The mother surprises us by stating, “Because she’s not a lesbian, she’s a boy.” It appears that Ray will be going through the process of attempting to receive hormone treatments against the approval of his absent father. It is nice to see this topic normalized and see a film that focuses more on family in general than the “politics” of being transgender. I look forward to this hopefully eye-opening portrayal of an increasingly important subject.

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As a member of the trans community, I feel the need to state the obvious: Elle Fanning is not a trans actress. I question whether she will be able to accurately portray the struggle of a trans individual. In the past, whenever cisgender actors have played transgender characters, there has been somewhat of an outcry in the trans community. Some say that it is akin to a white person playing someone black (which has also been done in the past). I am curious to see how Elle will handle the role since she identifies as a woman. Rarely do we see women playing men in TV and movies, which is a fact that may cause people to not respect the gender identity of the main character in the movie. I fear that a girl playing a boy may be confusing for those who are not familiar with what being transgender means. Hopefully her acting skills will shine through. It has been said that a truly skilled actor is able to represent any experience.

This movie will raise many questions and challenge the system of providing treatments to transgender individuals. Some of the main issues regarding this process are 1) there are very few insurance companies that cover the fees for surgery and hormone replacement, and the treatments are extremely expensive and 2) children and teens under the age of 18 must get parental consent in order to have any sort of treatment for their gender. These are two of the main problems with the current health care process of transgender people. I pray that this film could help shed some light on a subject matter that is not often talked about in mainstream culture.

How do you think Elle Fanning will portray the experience of a trans person? Do you have any experience with the health care system regarding gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatments? Comment below.

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