Skip To Content
The Schmooze

Controversy As Scarlett Johansson Cast As A Transgender Man

Scarlett Johansson has been cast in the provocatively titled movie “Rub and Tug,” which tells the extraordinary real-life story of Dante “Tex” Gill, a 70’s-era, mobster-esque impressario of sexual massage parlors.

Tex Gill was a woman…if you ask Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, or Variety.

Tex Gill was a man…if you ask ScreenCrush.

And according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which published Gill’s obituary, Tex Gill was “sexually ambivalent.”

Gill, writes the Post-Gazette, was masculine-presenting and may have gone through some degree of gender-confirming surgery. “She was always ‘the woman who prefers to be known as a man,’” the newspaper reports, continuing to refer to Gill with female pronouns throughout the article. A writer for ScreenCrush lays out a case that Gill “lived as a transmasculine person,” arguing that “while it is often tricky to know the exact language a historical figure used to describe their identity, especially for a trans person who’s no longer living,” descriptions of Gill suggest that the “massage” proprietor was a transgender man.

This is problematic, they argue, because Johansson is a cisgender woman, meaning her gender identity corresponds to the gender she was assigned at birth.

Johansson, no stranger to this type of controversy since playing a cybernetic Japanese woman in 2017’s “Ghost in a Shell,” won’t be the first cis star to portray a trans character — Eddie Redmayne did it in “The Danish Girl” and Jared Leto did it in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

But is it acceptable now? Was it acceptable then?

Scarlett Johansson, as always, gives us a lot to consider. We’re going to have to sip some SodaStream seltzer and think this over.

Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning journalism this Passover. 

In this age of misinformation, our work is needed like never before. We report on the news that matters most to American Jews, driven by truth, not ideology.

At a time when newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall. That means for the first time in our 126-year history, Forward journalism is free to everyone, everywhere. With an ongoing war, rising antisemitism, and a flood of disinformation that may affect the upcoming election, we believe that free and open access to Jewish journalism is imperative.

Readers like you make it all possible. Right now, we’re in the middle of our Passover Pledge Drive and we need 500 people to step up and make a gift to sustain our trustworthy, independent journalism. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Our Goal: 500 gifts during our Passover Pledge Drive!

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.