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“Trans-misogyny does not deserve an award,” said the unidentified woman, who attended the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Virtuosos Award tribute honoring Leto and three others who gave breakthrough performances in 2013.
“What do you mean by that?” Leto asked, to which the heckler said, “You don’t deserve an award for portraying a trans-woman, because you’re a man.”
“Because I’m a man, I don’t deserve to play that part?” Leto asked, rhetorically. “So you would hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian — they can’t play a straight part?”
Leto is nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of Rayon, a transgender woman who is also HIV-positive. He is considered a favorite to win, as he’s already won the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe and SAG awards.
The woman continued the back-and-forth, arguing that straight people always play transgendered characters and receive awards for it. Leto repeated his argument that by the heckler’s logic, only straight actors could play straight roles.
“Then you’ve made sure people that are gay, people that aren’t straight, people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art,” Leto said to big applause from the audience.
He offered to continue the conversation with the heckler backstage after the end of the Q&A session, which also featured fellow Virtuosos honorees Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Brie Larson (Short Term 12) and June Squibb (Nebraska).
Leto met with the heckler and her friend afterwards, where the trio had a cordial conversation for about 15 minutes.
Leto and Dallas Buyers Club co-star Matthew McConaughey won Golden Globes for their performances, but offended some viewers with their acceptance speeches. McConaughey did not explicitly mention the fight against AIDS, while Leto joked about shaving his legs to play Rayon.
But at the SAG Awards, both men were more careful with their words, with Leto saying: “Today you not only honor me but also all those around the world living with AIDS and all those who have lost to this disease. Thank you for recognizing them and recognizing their struggle through Dallas Buyers Club.”
Listen to the exchange below.
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