Theo Germaine is a non-binary actor who rose to fame after playing James Sullivan on Netflix’s political comedy The Politician.
After being assigned female at birth and passing as a man in their late teenage years, Theo started identifying as non-binary. They use they/them or he/him pronouns.
Theo spoke to British Vogue in an interview about their childhood and their experience of gender, gendered and Eurocentric beauty ideals, and just how important it is to break these ideals.
WHAT DID THEO GERMAINE SAY?
UNDERSTANDING THEIR GENDER IDENTITY
Germaine spoke about how as a child, despite being conditioned as a girl, they came to understand their gender identity.
“As I was evolving my understanding of gender, I was like, ‘I kind of feel like a boy, but I also really like dressing up like a princess.’ But then I really started having these gender feelings. I tried to reject them for a bit when I was 12, 13. I tried very hard to fit in with the popular girls at school, seeing what they were wearing and what kind of make-up they were doing, but then I was like, ‘This isn’t working. I like it as a costume, but it’s not me.’”
Even after coming out to the people around them with their true selves, many queer and trans individuals still have to censor themselves in order to fit in. Theo’s coming-out was no different.
“Because I grew up around these rigid gender roles, when I was 18, 19, my coming-out process was about over-correcting myself in order to fit into this other part of society. So there were certain things I started avoiding, like wearing make-up and bright colors. During that process, I was like, ‘Yep, I’m definitely a boy, I use he/him pronouns, nothing else.’ At the time, I still kind of felt like I was in the middle, but that space to exist in was very small. The work environments that I was in were very masculine and kind of intimidating, and I was trying to blend in. Then at some point, when I was around 22, I just stopped. I was like, ‘I’m just going to do whatever I want and I hope that some other people follow suit.’”
BEING TRANS AS AN ACTOR
No matter how accepting and friendly an industry may seem on the outside, the reality of every space can only be revealed by those who have been at the receiving end of it.
Theo Germaine spoke about their experience as a non-binary actor, which reflects the larger the idea prevalent in the society that some trans people don’t look “trans enough.”
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“In my experience, casting directors are more likely to say, ‘This trans person doesn’t look right’ or ‘I can’t imagine this person in this role.’ That’s a huge detriment. When I go into auditions where, let’s say, they’re looking for a white masculine person, who’s roughly this age — I’m probably going to be one of the few non-cisgender people showing up. So automatically I’m potentially the wild card. The casting director could already be on the fence about putting me on the audition list. So I know that my chances are a little bit lower than most people’s, and that’s because of gender stereotyping. But it’s part of a bigger conversation.”
THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
Like all aspects of society, the acting industry has also come a long way in terms of representation of queer and trans individuals, and people of color.
“I do think that things are changing. I don’t think that someone like me or several of my castmates would have been seen on television even five years ago. So there are little victories happening, but on the whole, it’s like a very slow-moving freighter that is kind of motivated by money.”
However, the society still has a long, long way to go, and we need to keep fighting to keep moving further.
“I want to fight for more opportunities in the industry. There’s so much change that needs to happen. I think it’s going to take a lot of people speaking up who we haven’t seen before; I think a lot of people who maybe have let themselves feel very comfortable need to start feeling uncomfortable. My wish also is that there’s a better sense of true fostering that happens within the arts at large, because there’s so much gatekeeping there. I think I just extend that to the world in the sense that, like, there are so many things we’re settling for, and it’s really scary to be like, ‘Man, this isn’t good enough.’ But I hope people will take more risks and start speaking out about stuff.”