COLUMN: Give non-binary artists the credit they deserve

It’s no secret that Hollywood has not been inclusive to anyone outside of the cisgendered, straight, white description. 

Thankfully, many consumer have made strides to change this, giving exposure to people of color and LGBT directors, producers, writers, artists and musicians. Yet nonbinary and transgender people are still being left out. 

IU alumnus and writer and film director Joshua Byron is not exempt from this. Despite their provocative creative works, Byron and others of the nonbinary and transgender community are often overlooked. 

This week, Byron will release their latest work, a mini-series titled “Idle Cosmopolitan” which details the struggles of a non-binary dating-columnist juggling life with a bit of a supernatural twist. 

The trailer is live now; the full series will be available to watch on Byron’s YouTube channel Thursday.  

Despite the witty script, raw emotion, and relatable content in the mini-series, people will overlook the merit of the production and art because it was made by someone outside the gender binary and this makes people uncomfortable.

One of the first mainstream appearances of a nonbinary person occurred when Showtime released “Billions.” 

This was also the first instance of a nonbinary character played by a nonbinary actor. Actor Asia Kate Dillon uses they/them pronouns and identifies as nonbinary in real life. 

It was unprecedented not only to feature a nonbinary character but also to cast a person who identified as nonbinary for the part. 

Hollywood has a history of white-washing and cis-washing movies and media. 

In 2014, filming for 3 Generations started, and directors casted Elle Fanning as the main character, a female-to-male transgender person. The problem lies in that Elle Fanning is not a member of the transgender community. 

Not only do we often overlook the transgender community, but when we finally decide to talk about it, we exclude those who own these experiences. 

I talked to Joshua Byron about why representation is important.

“Images create reality," Byron said of transgender art. "It’s important for there to be more images because it shows us a range of possibilities instead of ‘here’s one reality and this is it.’ For me, image-making is important because it shows that I, too, experience this thing that you experience.”

Byron then talked about the violence that transgender people often face. In the past year, at least 21 transgender people have been killed.

“Some people don’t have trans friends, and when they see a trans person, it’s a shock," Byron said. "People shoot trans people because they don’t understand. I think if we see more trans people on TV, that it’s normal and okay, it makes it less likely that you’ll shoot a trans person."

Transgender and nonbinary talent is not scarce. Dillon, Byron, and writer and public figure Alok Vaid-Menon are just a few examples. 

Instead of allowing cisgender people to talk over and monopolize the conversation about transgender and nonbinary experiences – especially in art – we need to elevate the voices and works of those who live their truths every day, on and off the screen. 


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