Annette Bening & Warren Beatty | Photo: Getty
Hello, Warren and Annette. First off, I’ve admired your work. Warren, you went from a matinee idol and real-life playboy to changing the face of movies with groundbreakers like Bonnie and Clyde, Reds, and Bugsy. Annette, you are superb, having dazzled in films from The Grifters to your lesbian turn in The Kids Are All Right and beyond. And since you’re a sort of offbeat, march-to-your-own-drum style of Hollywood couple, I assumed you’d be liberal, progressive, and totally with it.
But when it comes to your transgender son, Stephen Ira, it doesn’t seem like you have been. In fact, you haven’t said a word in public about him, and I hear you’ve even dodged press to avoid having to confront this subject. Maybe you think it’s not our business, but it became our business when Stephen Ira came out as trans at 14, especially considering the fact that your family is a high profile one that happens to consist of public figures. And Stephen has gone on to be vocal, articulate, and an advocate for trans medical rights, doing videos and making statements on a variety of important subjects. And you won’t give him a public benediction! In fact, whenever Stephen thanks people for their support, your names don’t seem to be included in those he’s most grateful to.
Stephen Ira in a 2013 PSA
Faced with a somewhat similar premise, Brad and Angelina have lived up to their cool rep and behaved differently than you have. Their child, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, started wanting to be called John since age 2 and apparently still does, wearing boy’s clothes and attitude. So they call their kid John! Brangelina is aware that this could well be a phase, but they see no harm in it, and recent reports said they’ve decided to please their kid’s wishes and see it through.
With Stephen, it’s not a phase. He has transitioned. He is out and proud and an adult. We’ve heard stories where young transsexuals, dismissed or not encouraged enough by the people around them, take their own lives, or try to, in horrifying developments that could have been prevented with more loving care. I’m not at all saying that this is a possibility here—just that you could contribute to the accepting mood out there and help other young trans people by putting your public stamp of approval on your son. In the process, you would also undoubtedly give Stephen the boost of a lifetime. It would take all of five minutes and would constitute a sublime statement from the mouths of two major icons, and then you can go on with your lives. Do it for me—and Stephen—and everyone else.
After all, when trans teen Leelah Alcorn killed herself last December, Stephen tweeted with passion, admitting that he’d survived conversion therapy and warning parents, “IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE HAVING A TRANS KID, DON’T HAVE KIDS.” You definitely raised a gem.
EASE ON DOWN THE ROAD
As long as I’m in heavy duty advice-giving mode, let me get all silly now and offer my choices for who should play the key roles in NBC’s version of The Wiz—the African American riff on The Wizard of Oz, which is aiming for a December airing. I will only give realistic choices—i.e., stars who might be available—rather than hope for the Rihannas and Beyonces of the world. And the network had better listen to me or they’ll be saddled with another…well, never mind. Let’s look to the future.
For Dorothy, Keke Palmer would be wonderful. She was a radiant Cinderella on Broadway and she has the chops and the following, too.
For Evillene (the bad witch), obviously Mo’Nique. She’d be fierce—don’t mess with her.
As Glinda, I’d cast Diana Ross. Diana was miscast as Dorothy in the movie, but here she could float in and trill “Believe in Yourself” just like Lena Horne did. The publicity would be enormous.
For the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man: Usher, Cee Lo Green, and John Legend
As The Wiz, Pharrell Williams (though Kanye West would make sense too, and it pains me to say that)
For Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, get that Empire duo Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard
As Addaperle, Patti LaBelle
And since Gary Coleman is gone, the lead Munchkin should be Tony Cox (Black Santa).
So follow my lead, NBC, and you’ll have a hit to be proud of. In the words of Evillene, “Don’t nobody bring me no bad news.”
Michelangelo Signorile | Photo by Jayne Wexler
NOT TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS
Brace yourselves for some more serious advice—about real life, not musicals. SiriusXM Progress host Michelangelo Signorile’s new book, It’s Not Over, persuasively describes the ways in which our community has a long way to go, despite massive advances in rights and visibility. In a section about TV, he quotes Salon writer Daniel D’Addario as saying that Scandal features “a semi-realistic depiction of a married gay couple,” though their “homosexuality was less important than their love of power.” D’Addario also skewered Modern Family’s use of a gay married couple to basically show how tolerant straight people are. The couple—Mitch and Cam—barely show signs of intimacy, which is why BuzzFeed’s Louis Peitzman described them as “two gay men who don’t even seem to like each other.” (No wonder they want to get a divorce, lol.) Anyway, it’s all in there in Signorile’s book, along with coverage of politics, media, and other arenas in which our place at the table still has no silverware. Read it, Warren and Annette.