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Trace Lysette on Independent Spirit Award Nomination: 'You've Got to Dream'

Trace Lysette on Independent Spirit Award Nomination: 'You've Got to Dream'

Trace Lysette Independent Spirt Award Nomination
Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/WireImage

Lysette became the fifth out trans actor ever nominated for an Independent Spirit Award after starring in 2023's Monica.

The Trans family drama Monica has been one of the ‘Little Films That Could’ this Award Season, with many critics and movie lovers hoping that star Trace Lysette will make history by becoming the first out trans actor nominated for an acting Academy Award.

Lysette made her first big step toward that dream today when she was announced as one of the nominees for Best Lead Performance at the 39th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Lysette became just the fifth trans actor to ever be nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Previously Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez were nominated for their roles in Tangerine, Patti Harrison was nominated for Together Together, and Harmony Santana was nominated for Gun Hill Road. Taylor is the only one to win for Best Supporting Female Performance, and none of the actors have gone on to get Golden Globe or Oscar noms.

With more award shows announcing their nominations soon, the end of the year could be about to get very busy for Lysette, and we’re all hoping it does.

Out talked with Lysette about the nomination and what comes next.

Out: How did it feel when you first saw the announcement with your name?

Trace Lysette: Well I had set my alarm for 10am Pacific Time because I told myself I’d watch this time. When I got all that Emmy buzz for Transparent years ago I didn’t make it a point to get up and watch. And I thought to myself last night, “Get up, watch, and be in the moment!” Because life is short and you just never know. But I was so restless this morning, I couldn’t sleep. I said a prayer last night to not let me be broken if I didn’t get a nom. I made a promise to myself to not let it take my joy… because when all that buzz happened for Transparent and then there was no nomination, it really did a number on me.

As an artist, we are so sensitive you know? We try not to be, but we are. I am. You know the Erykah Badu quote… It's like that. I couldn’t sleep and I rolled over to check my phone at 7:30 and I saw all these texts… I froze. I saw one from Sarah Paulson saying how thrilled she was for me and I realized they must have announced the awards on East Coast time. Oh god… I couldn’t even open them for like 5 minutes. What a way to wake up. It’s been such a long road and I wasn’t sure if the world was ready.

You’re the fifth trans actor nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, what does it mean to you to get nominated by this award show that has recognized trans actors in the past?

Wow, I am surprised there have been that many. I knew about Mya Taylor and I think about her often. I wonder where she is and if she’s okay. This industry is so fickle and I’m not sure how this will translate for me. I’m trying to just celebrate myself. I’m a 42-year-old trans woman who has been living this trans life for a long time. There’s something to be said for that. No offense to people new to the life, but once you sit in it for years on end and you see how the world treats you, the newness of it wears off. You will see what I mean. It’s a hard, hard road. But you've got to dream.

What’s next for you in the award season process?

Well, I’ve been bugging them to get some ads. I haven’t seen a single ad for Monica yet so it’s all been word of mouth. It’s been a fight. So I hope that changes. We’ll see what happens next week with the Globes. [Golden Globe nominations are announced on Monday, December 11.] Such a long road… my god. I’m going to just keep showing up.

A trans actor has never won this award and the bigger awards are still coming. What do you think about the state of trans entertainers getting award recognition?

I think I’m still processing, to be honest. I know for me I feel so invisible most times. I’ve gone to a lot of award events over the years and I hear people talk about protecting and uplifting “our most vulnerable” and they often reference trans people. But then at those same events, we are rarely on stage, let alone winning an award.

I’m happy the Spirit Awards didn’t let this one fall through the cracks. Hopefully, the other award shows will become aware because we deserve to do more than just survive, we deserve to thrive.

Monica is so special and so unprecedented in many ways. I hope we can open some doors for my community. I have every intention of paying it forward. Monica is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.