Should Non-Queer People Play Queer Characters?

There’s nothing more disappointing to me than enjoying a queer character in a show, looking up the actor, and finding out they aren’t a part of the LGBTQIA+ community at all. It’s not like there’s a shortage of talented queer actors; Hollywood just doesn’t cast them. With over 10% of the population being LGBTQIA+ in some capacity, there’s definitely a plethora of talented queer actors, probably even some that identify the same way as their character does.

Representation is incredibly important for every minority group. While there’s been more LGBTQIA+ representation in the media in 2017 than ever before, we still have a lot of progress that needs to be made. It would be ridiculous and wrong for someone to play a black character if they weren’t black, so why do we treat sexuality and gender that way? Sure, some non-queer actors do a pretty damn good job playing queer characters, but they just don’t have the experience. They don’t know the struggle, and it really shows when they do interviews about their show/movie. As much as I think we really need to support queer media as a whole, I would rather support queer artists making LGBTQIA+ content.

As a young queer person, I often find myself finding other LGBTQIA+ identifying people, mainly queer women, to look up to. I really needed solid representation when I was figuring everything out, and straight women playing lesbians on TV just wasn’t what I wanted or needed. I also have a problem with the specific type of cis-straight-heteroromantic people that are casted. They are almost always white, able-bodied, and financially privileged. The real LGBTQIA+ community is diverse in every sense of the word. Hot white gays are not the majority, and their stories are not the most important ones to be told. Queer people of color, and disabled queer people’s stories and accomplishments are constantly being erased.

The history behind the character is important. People who are figuring out their gender and/or sexuality need to see queer people living “normal” lives. Straight-Cis-Heteroromantic actors just can’t possibly convey that, or be that representation off the show. Recently, Stephanie Beatriz’s Character Rosa, on the TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, came out as bisexual. The only thing that’s cooler than Hollywood actually letting someone say the word “bisexual” on TV, is that Stephanie is bisexual. She is a perfect example of good queer representation. I wish we saw this more often.

Do you think non-queer people should play queer characters? Who are some of your favorite LGBTQIA+ actors?


15 thoughts on “Should Non-Queer People Play Queer Characters?

  1. I think it’s important that the straight cis actors playing trans roles are properly educated as much as possible and that they don’t make faux pas in interviews outside of the shows and films, but it’s probably more important to get actual bi women in the writers and directors chairs to make performances authentic than it is to have the actor themselves be authentically bisexual, although when it does happen (Sara Ramierez is another good example, and many gay male actors have been too like Luke Macfarlane or Chris Colfer) and an actor is playing a character with the same sexuality that can certainly be quite powerful. But in the wrong director and writer’s hands, an asexual actor playing an asexual character could still be extreme inauthentic in terms of representation, just like with black characters and all sorts of other things.

    I think it you’re right that letting actors from less wealthy backgrounds who are less thin (ok I added that) and also sometimes disabled would be a powerful step in the authenticity direction and in capturing the true diversity of the LGBTQIAP+ community. I’m starting to see more non-white queer characters but they’re still usually not at all diverse in other ways. And capturing a lot more gender nonconformity on TV and film would be really great.

    I think straight actors can pull off playing gay characters well enough when they’re good actors, same with my own orientation of asexuality, so I hesitate to think only actors with the same identity should play the role, even if I’m on board with how trans actors should play trans characters because the circumstances there tend to be different. But I know if there was an ace character in something actually played by an actor who is ace in real life, I’d be so thrilled by that in a way that I’m slightly less thrilled by if it’s a non-ace person playing the role.

    At this point I just want actors at all to come out as asexual though lol. We’ve got more characters who are ace than real people openly out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t even think about the director’s influence or the script, so thank you for bringing that up! I guess I just assumed if the script was bad (problematic) or the director was making poor decisions, that queer actors would refuse the role, but that’s not always true. I think if society moved towards a place where accurate queer representation was abundant, I would feel like it was okay for straight actors (who were good actors) to play queer characters, but I personally feel we aren’t nearly close enough yet for it to be okay.


  2. I agree with a lot of the points you make, but I don’t think queer people should be made to play queer characters. There are quite a few gay actors and actresses who have played straight characters (Matt Bomer, Sarah Paulson and Jonathan Groff to name a few) fantastically. Their sexuality didn’t make any difference in their performance.

    Having said that, there is some difference between different groups in the queer community here, I am firmly of the belief that trans actors should play trans characters. Why? Because Hollywood seems to cast actors of the wrong gender in order to “get the look right”. One of the big offenders was The Danish Girl who cast Eddie Redmayne to play a trans woman without considering ANY trans women or women for the role. I know the story was about a transition, but even so, the role was that of a WOMAN. It’s unfair that Hollywood, and much of the film industry, continues to treat trans people as if they’re the wrong gender in drag. As far as I can see, the only way that can be fixed is to give trans roles to trans people.

    As for accurate representation, YES! ALL OF THE YES! It’s so badly needed. The fact that the over-the-top gay best friend is still a thing is totally ridiculous. More characters that happen to be LGBTQIA+, less characters that are only about being LGBTQIA+! PLEASE!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely don’t think that queer people can’t play straight characters, sorry if that was unclear. I agree that trans characters should always be played by trans actors. I recently watched the movie 3 Generations , and they used Elle Fanning to play a trans man because they wanted the “pre-t look,” and that was just the beginning of many mistakes this movie made. I’d also like to see more characters that just happen to be LGBTQIA+!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the implication if only gay/bi/lesbian actors played those roles would be that they could only play those roles, but I do definitely get your point that there needs to be a much greater representation out there. It’d be ideal if they could actually research those roles properly too.

        I hadn’t heard of that case before (re 3 Generations) but that’s absolutely moronic. I wish cis actors would turn roles like that down, or that someone involved with the film would actually make a fuss.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It seems like, when it comes to trans characters especially, Hollywood wants a pat on the back for even telling our stories (even when they’re not accurate and very problematic), and doesn’t seem to care much about consulting people within the community. I wish cis/straight actors would refuse these roles, but they seem to play into the idea that they’re “helping.”


  3. No. The same that I hate when a white actor is given the role of POC (not just black characters…race is more than black and white), straight actors shouldn’t take the role of LGBTQIA+ characters. “Visibility” of the identity doesn’t matter because representation is still deserved and needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the difference between a white actor playing a black character and a straight actor playing a gay character is the fact that sexuality isn’t *visible* the way that race is. That doesn’t make it right, but I think it’s the justification for it.

    What I have the real problem with is how the guys in charge are *writing* queer (and minority) characters. As a creative writer, I can tell you that there’s an obvious different between writing a gay character and writing a character who is gay (the same way there’s a difference between writing a black character, and a character who is black). Too many shows / movies / books are focusing on tropes and making their characters “so gay” there’s no way you could possibly miss them, and it’s ridiculous. People aren’t tropes.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think that queer people should definitely be given queer roles but I don’t believe that they should be restricted to only playing queer roles; same for all other sexualities and genders. Hollywood has a long history of problems with representation.

    Liked by 1 person

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