Hollywood's transgender community has applauded actress Scarlett Johansson's decision to withdraw from a project on a trans man after she courted backlash for taking on the role.
Johansson announced that she was exiting Rub & Tug, a film in which she was set to star as Dante Tex Gill, a transgender man.
The actress issued a statement, saying she had "decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project" following ethical concerns about her participation as a cisgender actress.
"Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I've learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realise it was insensitive," she added.
Transgender actors, filmmakers, artistes and activists, who were at The Hollywood Reporter's office here for a discussion about representation in the entertainment industry, lauded her decision.
"You are awesome," said Buck Angel, with others expressing relief that the public outcry on behalf of the trans community had been heard and acted upon.
“Scarlett deciding to pull out was a good example of listening to the community and that was the right thing to do,” said Rhys Ernst, an Emmy nominated producer and director known for his work on ‘Transparent’, ‘This is Me’ and the upcoming feature ‘Adam’.
Rub & Tug tells the story of Dante 'Tex' Gill who operated a massage parlour and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and 1980s. When the project was announced on July 2 with Johansson on board, there was an immediate backlash online, both on social media and in various news outlets. The consensus was that the role should have gone to a trans performer, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
Jen Richards, known for creating the series ‘Her Story’, analysed Johansson's well-received statement, one that included a troubling statistic from GLAAD about representation - "LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40 per cent in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release - commented: "I'm going to assume what she says in the statement, which is clearly very well-crafted by a team of very smart people, was nonetheless in earnest."
Zackary Drucker, an artiste, cultural producer and filmmaker who has worked on Transparent, said she is hopeful this is a turning point in Hollywood.
"We are so troubled and so ravaged by feeling ignored, by feeling exploited, by feeling that our stories are not our own," she said.
For those who felt that the controversy and criticism grew from the transgender community attempting to police who should and shouldn't be allowed to act in whatever project they choose, actress Alexandra Grey said: "What we're saying is that actors should have the artistic freedom to play any roles. We're not saying that you can't portray these characters.
"We're saying we just want to have the opportunity as well to go out for any types of roles. We'd like to be invited for anything that you got."