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Halle Berry steps away from transgender role after backlash

"As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role," Halle Berry said after expressing interest in playing a trans character.

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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“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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View this post on Instagram

Feeling really humbled by the opportunity presented to me this week. Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing my dear friend @halleberry. It was a beautiful candid interaction between two souls who met in a divine way and I was so overjoyed to bring our black girl magic to you all. What started off as a conversation around hair and our identities as black women, I then asked a creative question. If you haven't seen the interview, please feel free to watch. 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. I also took to the defense of my friend by suggesting that all representation, whether in true form or acted was valid. Three days ago, I saw nothing wrong with my statements and now today, I am awakened by this mistake in my judgement. Just as we are seeing in the world today, a huge need for allies of marginalized groups to educate and check their bias. I, too, had this reality check. The Netflix documentary Disclosure had been circulating in my "suggested for you" queue for a while now. It became a sense of urgency for me last night to sit and watch this incredibly enlightening film. The education was vast and I can only continue to learn more from here. I urge all who are reading this to do the same. I want to personally apologize to anyone in the trans community that I disappointed or hurt with my comments or defense. It was not my intention and as a queer woman of color, I was coming from a place of what I thought was allyship, yet was actually miseducation. I stand in complete solidarity with my trans family and can only hope that by this occurrence, I get to shed some light on how not to respond or be complicit in situations that could upset others. Know that I will continue to do better and hope you will stand by me as I continue to right my wrongs and advocate for my community. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. -Hawaiian Ho’oponopono Prayer

A post shared by Christin Brown (@curlfactor) on Jul 7, 2020 at 7:16am PDT

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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