Celebrate Trans Talent

Trace Lysette calls out the Academy Awards for ignoring trans creators

Actress Trace Lysette is making 2024 the year of telling it like it is. After opening the library on Dave Chappelle last week, Lysette is now calling out the Academy Awards for snubbing trans art.

Last year, Lysette starred as the titular character in the independent film Monica, portraying a trans woman who returns home for the first time in 20 years to see her dying mother (Patricia Clarkson). At the Venice Film Festival, the film earned an 11-and-half-minute standing ovation, and Lysette has been nominated for Best Lead Performance at the Independent Spirit Awards.

But the rest of Hollywood—who were perfectly happy to give Oscar nods to cis actors like Felicity Huffman, Jared Leto, and Eddie Redmayne for portraying trans women—has been largely silent on Monica

Big budget studios spend millions for awards season promotion. But according to a recent profile in Variety, Lysette had to start a GoFundMe to secure a publicist for the film. “It’s deeply exhausting,” she said. “I’m doing my best to not let it taint any of this experience. But it’s really hard when you have to go and organize a fundraiser for your own [For Your Consideration] whatever.” 

Feeling now compelled to speak out about a process many viewers don’t understand, Lysette wants to clear the record—this is about more than prestige. “I try to deliver it in a nice way that won’t alienate people or turn people off, but it is a sobering reality for me,” she said.

“It’s tough to want to be real about this awards journey and about how much bigger it is than a simple trophy. Not only for me, but my community — I think a lot of it is based in survival. And being a late bloomer — I’m 42, I’m a transsexual woman. And as a minority in this business, I often feel invisible.”

What makes fighting for that recognition all the more difficult is knowing how well-deserved it is. “I know this performance is worthy and solid — Venice told me so,” Lysette added. “But even that, it’s just been such a battle.

“I sometimes wonder if a cis actor went to Venice and got an 11-and-a-half minute standing ovation for playing a trans role, I feel like the Academy would be coming in their pants and the press opportunities would be insane. So it’s disheartening. But I’m trying my best to lean into the good. However it pans out, the work has already changed people’s lives. And so that’s what I cling to.”

At the end of the day, it really is the viewers who have given the film its highest honors. “It’s been an endless stream of beautifully written notes, over social media and in person,” said Lysette. “Specifically from transsexual women who have felt so invisible for so long.”

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