Thanks to outcry from the trans community, Scarlett Johansson has decided not to play trans man Dante “Tex” Gill in the upcoming biopic Rub and Tug. Nonetheless, even without ScarJo playing the lead, I think I’ll be skipping Rub and Tug.
Rub and Tug is directed by Rupert Sanders, the same direct who cast Johansson to play an Asian woman in Ghost in the Shell. Sanders appears to have learned nothing about appropriating the stories of oppressed people for his own benefit.
I don’t trust Sanders to tell Gill’s story without recycling harmful stereotypes about trans men. Reports indicate that Rub and Tug portrays Gill as a cigar-chomping crime boss who loved women. The historical record shows that Gill was a complex person, but Rub and Tug sounds like a recipe for a film that presents trans men as hyper-masculine, sexist, and duplicitous.
Trans audiences deserve better than Rub and Tug. I’d like to pitch a story that better represents our community: I want to see the indomitable Dominique Jackson of Pose star as Lucy Hicks Anderson.
[Image: On the left, Lucy Hicks Anderson, a Black woman, wears a hat in a black and white photo. On the right, Black woman Dominique Jackson smiles]
Lucy Hicks Anderson was a Black trans woman who made a life for herself in Oxnard, California at the turn of the 20th century. Similar to Gill, she was a Madame and a bootlegger. She was also a socialite, a chef, and a hostess who became well -respected in her community. In fact, Lucy was s well-connected that she was able to use her friends to help her avoid jail time. According to Dr. C. Riley Snorton, “When the sheriff arrested her one night, her double-barreled reputation paid off—Charles Donlon, the town’s leading banker, promptly bailed her out. The reason: he had scheduled a huge dinner party which would have collapsed dismally with Lucy in jail.” Anderson, however, was more than a savvy business owner. She also became one of the first transgender activists in the United States.
In 1945, Anderson was tried for perjury and gender impersonation. Prosecutors argued that she lied about her gender when she applied for a license to marry a man named Rueben Anderson, a GI. Anderson insisted that she was the woman she had always been, declaring, “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” and “I have lived, dressed, acted as just what I am, a woman.” Anderson was found guilty, but was sentenced to 10 years of probation instead of jail time. Unfortunately, she later served time when she was found guilty of defrauding the government of money, just for receiving the financial allotment due to a wife under the GI Bill. Anderson’s defiance in the face of laws that refused to recognize her gender deserves to be remembered.
In the hands of a trans director and an incredible trans actress like Dominique Jackson, Lucy Hicks Anderson’s life story could be just as exciting as Gill’s, without relying on tired tropes. Trans people are demanding movies about trans people, played by trans actors, and written and directed by trans creators. We don’t need non-trans directors like Rupert Sanders to tell our stories for us.