Marvel Studios will be making one small step for trans with the inclusion of actor Zach Barack in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” — a biological woman who identifies as a man.
Speaking with Variety, Barack said that her role as Peter Parker’s classmate in the upcoming film will be her first major movie role and a dream come true for trans representation on the big screen. In fact, she says that the superhero stories themselves have something “inherently trans” about them.
“I’m not by any means an expert on comics, but I read them growing up, you know, and they were important. And there’s something very inherently trans about those stories, especially ones where identity and hidden identity is part of them,” she told the outlet. “For example, Peter Parker’s journey [in Spider-Man: Homecoming] is a lot about balancing being a teenager and having this other part of your life.”
“And that is just so trans, it’s something that I absolutely think I’ve felt on a daily basis sometimes – especially being a transmasculine person because sometimes there’s a pressure to be a different way than I feel naturally inclined to do because I want to fit in, and I have to actively fight that instinct,” she continued. “But the fact of the matter is, being in this movie is so beyond incredibly meaningful and I hope that it means something to other people.”
Barack said she did not see many trans characters — much less actors — on screen growing up and began to feel represented when Laverne Cox starred on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”
“I don’t think I actually saw like a person that I consciously knew was actually trans in any form of media until was like maybe 17, 18,” she said. “Before that the only thing I’d seen was ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ which not only doesn’t have a trans person in it, but is a really brutal story and the prospect of coming out wasn’t super exciting after seeing that. When I saw these messages of other people sort of being like, ‘it’s really meaningful’…I remember I cried the first time I saw one of those, because I remember wanting to write those.”
The Marvel universe has faced criticism recently for not including enough LGBTQ characters or superheroes, though producers Kevin Feige and Victoria Alonso have promised they will come to fruition. Barack hopes that her inclusion in the “Spider-Man” series will be the spark that causes that revolution.
“I also want intersectionality,” she said. “I’m also hoping that these characters can exist in a nuanced way. … I do want to see myself represented on screen, so I do want to see a trans superhero or a queer superhero. And I want it to be hopefully someone who can draw from their experience in real life in that way – [to show] queer people are getting work too. But at the same time, I’m just happy these stories are being told.”
DC has largely beaten Marvel to the punch in the representation of LGBT superheroes. The upcoming “Batwoman” at the CW will be openly lesbian on the show. Prior to that, CW’s “Supergirl” featured the character Nia Nal, the first transgender hero in television history, played by transgender actor Nicole Maines (a man presenting himself as a woman) and based on the DC Comics character Nura Nal.