This guide has been put together by the Equity LGBT+ Committee, in collaboration with All About Trans and Spotlight. It is intended to be a set of best practice guidelines for working with performers and industry professionals who identify as LGBT+. There is currently a lack of representation of the LGBT+ community in the Arts in general, and of the trans community in particular. This guide seeks to empower the industry to begin to redress the balance so we can build on enjoying greater diversity and representation on our screens, stages and audio platforms.
Transgender (often abbreviated to "trans") people, are those whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. There is no right or wrong way to be trans and it's different for every person. Cisgender relates to people who are not trans, and identify with their sex assigned birth. L = Lesbian, G = Gay, B = Bisexual, Non-Binary = outside of the traditional definitions of male or female
Some trans people transition socially, legally and/or medically, but not necessarily any, or all of these. It may or may not involve a change in name and/or pronouns, hormone therapy and/or surgery. Trans people occupy all points of the gender spectrum, not all people transition in a binary way.
Pronouns and names
Use a person's correct pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them) and use their correct name. Either of these may have changed if they are transitioning. It's perfectly acceptable to ask, e.g. "What pronouns do you use?". If you make a mistake — apologise, correct and move on. No dramas.
You can cast a trans actor in a role which is not written as trans, if the narrative allows. Actively seek submissions from LGBT+ performers. You can say, "We are particularly keen to receive submissions from actors who identify as…" Use Twitter to post casting calls using the hashtags in this guide.
Make every effort to safeguard LGBT+ people auditioning or working in your setting and consider their journeys to and from the building, especially late at night. Provide gender neutral toilets if at all possible. Zero tolerance on bullying, challenge discrimination. Be a good ally!
What pronouns do you use? Would you play an LGBT+ character? Would you play cisgender characters? What dressing room would you prefer to use? Is there anything we can pass on to wardrobe on your behalf? Is there anything else you need, or how can I support you? Should shared information remain confidential? Some LGBT+ folks are not "out", some don't wish to disclose for a variety of reasons.
About their life pre-transition, or about hormones or surgeries they may have had, or are considering. Any protected characteristics — In line with the Equality Act 2010, you cannot ask prior to casting about any actors' age, disability, gender reassignment/affirmation, marital status, race, religion, pregnancy or maternity, sex or sexual orientation.
In The Workplace
If you have cast a trans performer, pass this guide on to the next person or organization in the chain who will work with them. Check whether a performer is "out" before discussing their identity with colleagues, payroll, marketing, the Press, the company. Enter into a dialogue with performers over which dressing rooms they would prefer to use. Involve LGBT+ creatives and communicate with them on how to make them feel at ease.
Bullying, Discrimination and Allies Challenge discrimination whenever you see it. Stand alongside the person receiving the discrimination, if safe to do so. If the LGBT+ person is present, weigh up the situation — sometimes steaming in without checking with the person can make things worse. Report to managers, Equity, the Police, depending on severity.
This is a new area to many, and it's ok to make mistakes. Meet actors and creatives who are LGBT+, even if you don't know much about the experience, and see how they can fit into your casting briefs and your production.
Consider engaging a script consultant, someone who identifies as trans themselves, or who has experience of working with trans folks. Look for…
- Ways to make scripts flexible to accommodate what a trans actor can bring to the role.
- Consideration for productions not to just focus on LGBT+ character's narrative on coming out/transition.
- Not using characters or narratives for shock, surprise, drama and then dismissing them.
- Not just focussing trans character's narrative on trauma or tragedy. Similar factors come into play stories about characters with non-heterosexual sexualities. Don't forget bisexual characters and those who are asexual, and/or intersex.
Trans consultants can be invaluable in helping to:
- Shape a casting breakdown
- Suggest suitable actors
- Network and help get the casting breakdown to suitable performers
- Provide advocacy to actors who are engaged on a project
- Be a presence in auditions and help to set up a safe space
- Provide trans awareness training, and advise on best practice.
There is currently a lack of representation of the trans and non-binary community in the Arts. The visibility of trans masculine characters is currently even less than trans feminine characters. Trans and non-binary people of colour are amongst the most marginalised in our society and face the toughest barriers. We have an opportunity to create strong, relatable, intersectional characters who are truly representative of our society.
Trans performers should be invited into the casting process to play trans roles, to give them a platform to develop in these trans-specific roles. Consider the possibilities of what such an individual with lived experience can bring to a role, and the richness of a production.
Can you cast a trans actor in a cis role?
Some trans actors are better suited to these roles. The fact that they are trans may be completely invisible in the role or production, but it powerfully represents diversity in the industry. This 'invisible' diversity is just as important as more physically recognisable forms of diversity. It is hard for trans actors to build a career out of the very small number of trans specific roles, if these are the only roles for which they are actively sought. Until we achieve a level playing field, it will be largely unacceptable to cast a cis actor in a trans role. Furthermore, casting a cis male in the role of a trans woman perpetuates a myth of inauthenticity, which makes life incredibly difficult and dangerous for trans women navigating our society.
Be aware that every trans person has a different journey, no two stories will be the same. Therefore, it is important to let the character follow the actor when casting trans characters and to be flexible with performers regarding their stage of transition, and what they can bring to the process. Remember that trans and non-binary people are intersectional and may be a variety of sexualities, disabled, a parent, married, have a faith or religion, etc.
When casting characters who are written as LGBT+...
- Actively encourage submissions from actors who identify as LGBT+, trans-gender, intersex, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc. Be clear about what you are seeking.
- An idea of how to ask for these submissions…
- "We are particularly keen to receive submissions from actors who identify as…" or "We wish to audition actors with lived experience of..." You are allowed to do this by law.
- Don't forget people of colour and those with disabilities — these actors are often not sought out for trans roles. LGBT+ actors are as diverse and inter- sectional as cis actors.
- Try to give quality information about the character in a breakdown, more than just their gender or sexual identity. Talk about character traits, story arc, relationships, etc.
- Be aware of the wide spectrum in the LGBT+ community. Just as there are infinite ways of being straight, there are infinite ways of presenting non-straight sexual identities and transgender identities Actors usually have a range of colours on their acting palette that reach further than how they present in the audition room.
Finding LGBT+ performers
Lots of transgender performers are making their own work, as they are consistently overlooked in mainstream and commercial work. There are theatre companies and venues, both mainstream and fringe, which champion or specialise in queer-led work. Fringe theatre and festivals are also good places to look for these performers. Many haven't had formal drama school training and therefore miss the usual entry routes to the profession. Cast your net wider to include the club scene, burlesque, cabaret, circus.
Place casting notices on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms with encouragement for users to retweet and share to their networks. Use popular hashtags such as…
#trans #Actors #lgbt #LGBTQ #transgender #genderqueer #transisbeautiful #transman #transwoman #ftm #mtf#transinclusive #nonbinary #BIPOC #qtpoc (for folks of colour) #WheelchairLife #wheelchair #deaf #Ddeaf #disabled #disability #disabilityart #DeafTalent #blind #SightLoss #VisuallyImpaired #autism #ADHD #neurodiversity
During the casting/audition/workshop
Pronouns are how we like to be referred to, other than our name (he/she/they) for example. Pronouns can never be assumed. Please use the performer's correct pronouns. Can you find out what pronouns the performer uses before you meet them? This removes the need for this to be done in front of everyone. Agents can be asked to assist in providing this information, or ask the performer directly. Use the correct name and pronouns when discussing the character you're casting too. It is great practice to ask for pronouns, and share your own, regardless of whether the character you're casting is LGBT+ or not.
If you have forgotten or don't know which pronouns to use, it is perfectly acceptable to ask.
"Can I just check what pronouns you use?" or "Can you remind me which pronouns you use?"
In turn, tell them what pronouns you use! It's becoming increasingly good practice to put your pronouns as part of your email signature, on your Zoom name, company correspondence, and anywhere your name appears for people, in order to usualise the form.
If you make a mistake… Apologise, correct, and move on. No dramas.
Consider casting in a venue with good building accessibility, close to public transport, with street-lighting, footfall, etc rather than a remote location. LGBT+ people can easily become the victims of transphobia and hate crime.
The first person your auditionees will meet. Have they been briefed on inclusive language, explaining toilet/change facilities, have they had trans awareness training?
Toilets and changing areas
Make every effort to provide gender neutral toilets. This can be done simply by adding signage to existing toilet locations. "Gender Neutral" or "All Genders". It's a good idea to also state what facilities are available inside, e.g. "Two urinals, two cubicles" or "four cubicles, baby changing, sanitary machine and bin" etc.
Avoid dividing candidates up into male/female gender groups. For collective address use "everyone, folks, people" etc, rather than "guys/girls, ladies and gents".
Be mindful of how you are using language to describe mannerisms/gesture/vocal quality/characteristics of the performer and the character alike. Avoid stereotyping with words like "butch,
camp, fey, lipstick lesbian, confused, limp wrist", etc. (LGBT+ people are as diverse in their representation as heterosexual/cis people.) Aim to give notes where the language is more inclusive. Also, develop inclusive language and strategy to achieve a certain quality/action, if a performer has not experienced that exact thing in their own life.
After the casting and in the workplace
We wish this guide to be widely available throughout the industry. If you have cast an LGBT+ performer, please pass this guide on to the next person in the chain who will work with that performer. If you are an LGBT+ performer who is about to start work, take this guide with you or ask your agent, Equity, or your casting director to send on a copy in advance.
Introductions/Meet and Greets We would like it to be standard industry practice for everyone to introduce themselves with name and pronouns when meeting a new group of people, such as a new company meet and greet, workshop, team/ venue meeting, when not everyone knows each other. Best practice is to ask people to "Share pronouns, if you feel comfortable to do so". Take the pressure off those who are questioning, or who feel unable to disclose, for a variety of reasons.
Consider the safety of trans performers, e.g. when travelling home at night after performances. Being an "out" LGBT+ performer, visible in a production, can be a vulnerable position to occupy. A buddy system, lifts, or taxi travel are possible solutions. Consider safeguarding and strategy on social media platforms to minimise the effects of trolling and online abuse before work starts. Shut down trolling — block and report — acknowledge any issues and communicate with affected parties about support, and action moving forward.
Duty of Care
Be mindful about how much additional unpaid labour you are asking LGBT+ performers to do in terms of sharing lived experience. Asking LGBT+ performers to help writers develop scripts, do research on storylines, and provide information about their lived experience for the production's narrative can be exhausting and triggering. Engage a third party LGBT+ consultant or writer instead. For any sensitive physical or emotional storytelling, consider using an Intimacy Coordinator.
Allow time and space for Stage Management to clarify preferred names and pronouns, so these can be applied to rehearsal calls, backstage calls, schedules and show reports.
Consider adopting gender neutral terminology for collective calls, both Front of House and backstage, in order to make everyone feel welcome. E.g. "Good evening everyone. Please take your seats for…"
Enter into a discussion about which dressing room trans folk will prefer to use. It's best not to assume this. Similarly, toilet facilities should be accessible to all genders. If your existing toilets are single gender, can you make them gender neutral for the duration of the production, or in perpetuity? Remember, your audiences will be diverse too.
Can you make your front of house toilets more accessible by making at least one of them gender neutral?
It's a good idea to display a list of all staff names with pronouns. Display inclusive mental health and support services for inside and outside the workplace.
Costume, Wardrobe, Dressers
Begin talks with actors early to ensure you are prepared, and to put trans and non-binary performers at ease when they come in for fittings. Have flexible options available, particularly under garments and dance belts (in various skin tones), and avoid making assumptions about gendered garments. Be aware that performers may (or may not) be binding their chest, tucking external genitalia, packing a prosthetic or wearing a hair piece. Be prepared to have a conversation.
Payroll, marketing, and other relevant departments who may come into contact with the performer, should be made aware of correct names, pronouns and titles. Ensure people are happy for sensitive data to be shared. Make official forms and data capture as inclusive as possible. Include lots of options for gender, sexuality, disability and race. Include free text option boxes and avoid using the word "Other".
Ensure all media and press packs contain correct names/pronouns for trans actors and characters, and emphasise the importance of getting this right, to the Press. Avoid only putting LGBT+ performers up for press calls, it can be exhausting and exposing. Make sure that performers know that questions about pre-transition, old names, etc. are not part of the interview, unless agreed in advance. Supply official Press and marketing materials for interviews and stress these are the only ones to be used.
Include content and trigger warnings for homophobic/transphobic language, violence, themes of suicide, etc. front of house, on marketing material, websites and in Press packs.
Does your venue or place of work have a trans inclusivity policy? Have staff at your setting had Trans Awareness Training? This can be provided by Gendered Intelligence, Gires, Global Butterflies, amongst others. Workplace interactions or meetings with trans performers and industry professionals can be facilitated in conjunction with All About Trans or Equity. These guidelines were formed after such an Interaction.
Consider creating your own "workplace adjustment document", being a list of ap- propriate needs and information you want an employer or various departments to be aware of. This can be passed on via a third party if necessary — an agent or Equity.
Bullying and Discrimination
Challenge discrimination whenever you see it. If you witness casual homo/bi/transphobic remarks and banter, take the offending person aside if safe to do so. Name it — be clear about what was offensive, and say how that made you feel. Suggest how they could do things differently in future. Stand alongside the person who is receiving the discrimination, if safe to do so. If the LGBT+ person is present, weigh up the situation — sometimes steaming in without checking with the person can make things worse. Report to managers, Equity, the Police, depending on severity.
Use Equity's Safe Spaces Campaign resources and posters to allow all employees access to information to report incidents or concerns.
Use correct names and pronouns, and correct others if necessary. Educate yourself and others who you employ. Familiarise yourself with problematic or discriminatory language or behaviour. It's everyone's job to call things out. Communicate with the affected company member(s) to find out how you can support and defend them now, and in the future. Speak up for LGBT+ people.
Respect boundaries around how much LGBT+ people wish to disclose. Elevate LGBT+ voices — follow social media accounts, share good news, sign petitions, employ, donate, buy. Other ways to let people know you are an ally — wear a rainbow lanyard or badge, use workplace notice boards to share inclusive information and support.
A guide to what you can ask or say to LGBT+ performers
"What pronouns do you use?" or "Please remind me of your pronouns."
"Would you play cisgender roles?"
"Would you play trans (or LGBT+) roles?"
"We are particularly keen to receive submissions from actors who identify as… (LGBT+, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, trans, intersex, non-binary, genderqueer, gender fluid, androgynous. This list is not exhaustive.)"
You are allowed to advertise for specific casting, by law, in a casting breakdown. You may not ask a performer about any specifics of Protected Characteristics (see below).
Rather than describing voices as "masculine" or "feminine", use "Baritone, bass, alto, tenor, soprano…"
"Which dressing room would you like to use?" "Would you prefer your own dressing room?" (if practically possible).
"If you have any requirements, which we haven't covered, please let us know."
"Is there anything we can tell Ward- robe/dressers, to make things easier for you?"
"Should shared information remain confidential?" "Please let us know if it's OK to divulge your identity to those people, and only those people, whose work would necessitate them to know." Some LGBT+ folks are not "out" and some do not wish to divulge their sexual/gender identity for a variety of reasons.)
Don't be afraid of not knowing something, just say it's outside your current understanding, and aim to find out. Equity can help.
A guide to what you should avoid asking or saying to LGBT+ performers
"Where are you at in your transition?"
"What surgeries have you had/are you planning?"
"Are you on hormones?"
"Are you going to fully transition?"
Asking about gaps in CVs — Actors may have taken career breaks to support transition or for surgeries. Be sensitive to this.
"So are you gay or straight?"
Transgender and cisgender folks alike, are equally diverse when it comes to their sexual identity. This is one of the Protected Characteristics which you may not ask about in any case.
Be wary of "outing" an actor, unless you know the individual is out. Consider who really needs to know. It is a criminal offence for anyone acquiring this protected information in an 'official capacity' to disclose it to a third party without the transgender person's consent.
In line with the Equality Act, you cannot ask about an actors' age, disability, gender reassignment/affirmation, marital status, race, religion, pregnancy or maternity, sex or sexual orientation. Being specific and transparent in what you are looking for, in your casting breakdown, will let performers know that you are casting authentically, and help to allow them to be themselves in the casting.
Avoid backhanded compliments or 'advice' regarding appearance, clothing, voice quality, identity, mannerisms, or the performer being "brave" re: their identity, transition, or just navigating the world as LGBT+.
Further ways in which you can help
This is a new area to many, and it's OK to make mistakes. Meet actors who are trans, even if you don't know much about the experience, and see how they can fit into your casting briefs. Use this guide to help.
Please consider casting trans performers in both trans and cis roles. The trans and non-binary spectrum is as wide as that of cisgender people.
You can be pivotal in bringing about positive change to the industry and can feed your knowledge down through the organisation. Many workplaces have an equality working group, who can share the function of acquiring staff training, formulating policy, sourcing consultancy, and transforming the workplace for everyone.
Casting directors, venues or companies
Can you hold a general casting event, meet and greet or networking event in order to meet LGBT+ performers? Equity can assist with this. Performers, in their eagerness to be easy to work with, and being keen to get asked back, sometimes find it hard to ask for what they need. Casting directors, producers, directors, stage managers and company managers can ease this passage by making the first move to ask what trans workers need.
If aspiring transgender actors see the industry changing to accommodate and include trans performers, there is more chance they will consider entering a course of education.
Can play a really important role in supporting their LGBT+ clients. They can share actors' new names, pronouns, what roles they will play, what needs they have in the casting or workplace, with industry professionals. They should feel empowered to take a position between an actor and job provider. There are increasing casting calls for actors with lived experience of a variety of intersections. Agents can offer their clients the opportunity to tell them anything which will help them to market the client — gender, sexuality, disability, race, religion, etc., if they feel comfortable to do so. An example of how to word this email is available on request.
Tell your agent who you are if you feel comfortable to do so. It will help them market you more efficiently. Tell them your pronouns, your aspirations for role types, and anything you may need in the workplace or casting room. Actors without agents can create a small document for themselves to convey these details to industry personnel. There is the option to amend your Spotlight page with gender identity, sexuality, disability and race.
Further information on transition
What does it mean to transition? Transitioning is a process, including thoughts and actions, to change the sex you were assigned at birth, to the gender you identify with. Transitioning can mean lots of different things to different people. It can be a long and ongoing process. Trans people may (or may not) transition socially, medically and/ or legally. Each person's journey is different.
How do transgender people transition?
Social transitioning may include:
- coming out to your friends and family as transgender
- asking people to use pronouns (she/ her, he/him, they/them) that match your gender identity
- going by a different name and informing workplaces, banks and services
- dressing/grooming in ways that match your gender identity.
For trans men, or FTM (female to male), medical transition may include any of the following:
- hormone therapy (Testosterone to create "masculine" characteristics such as a deeper voice, facial hairgrowth, muscle growth, redistribution of body fat away from hips and breasts, etc.)
- male chest reconstruction, or "top surgery" (removal of breasts and breast tissue)
- hysterectomy (removal of internal female reproductive organs such as the ovaries and uterus)
- phalloplasty (construction of a penis using skin from other parts of the body)
- metoidioplasty (surgery that causes the clitoris to work more like a penis, along with hormone treatment).
For trans women, or MTF (male to female), medical transition may include any of the following:
- hormone therapy (Estrogen to create "feminine" characteristics such as less body hair, breasts, redistribution of body fat toward hips and breasts, etc.)
- breast augmentation (implants)
- orchiectomy (removal of testes)
- laser hair removal (to remove hair from the face or other parts of the body)
- tracheal shave (making the Adam's apple smaller)
- facial feminization surgery (create smaller, more "feminine" facial features)
- penile inversion vaginoplasty (creation of a vagina by inverting penile skin).
Does everyone who is transgender decide to transition?
Not all transgender people transition. Not all transition in the same way. Some may transition socially and not medically.
Medical procedures can be very expensive, if done privately. Waiting lists on the NHS are very long — around three years for a first consultation. The absence of surgical procedures does not make a person any less trans than those who do opt for surgery. Gender identity should always be respected no matter how a person decides to transition.
"The CDG welcomes the Equity guidelines for entertainment professions working with LGBT+ performers. We support the adoption of the best practice guidelines for the casting process as a key means to improve LGBT+ diversity and representation on our screens, stages and audio platforms."