An ongoing conversation in the LGBTQ+ community concerns the question of whether LGBTQ+ characters should only be played by actors with whom their sexuality or gender identity aligns. For instance, should a gay character only be played by a gay actor, or a trans one by a trans actor?
Of course, there's plenty more nuance to the debate than that. For instance, some believe that while a straight actor playing a gay or bisexual character is acceptable, portraying trans people should always be left to members of that community. Others say that the whole point of acting is to embody a perspective other than your own, and therefore it doesn't make sense to consider sexuality or gender identity in casting. Then there's the fact that the inequity of opportunity and representation in the entertainment industry means that straight or cisgender actors accepting LGBTQ+ roles could be inadvertently causing their peers to lose work, as well as the reality that while celebrities may be public figures, we as audience members don't have access to their private lives, and assuming that they're straight or cis can be damaging in and of itself.
In a 2020 interview with Variety, Kristen Stewart said about this issue, "I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law."
She added that it is "such a gray area," and that listening to the responses of the community you are trying to represent is of paramount importance. She explained, "I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other."
Stewart concluded, "So my answer is fucking think about what you’re doing! And don’t be an asshole." Words to live by, truly.