Margaret Mead wisely said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Ann Thomas has lived by that precept. A second-generation transgender activist, actress, scientist and talent manager she founded Transgender Talent, the first talent management company that exclusively represents transgender and non-binary talent. For years, the Los Angeles-based Thomas has been a champion for those in the LBGTQ Community
"If we get misrepresented continually as being sub-human it means death to us," says Thomas who started her agency in 2015. Thomas is committed to showing the world the humanity and dignity of being transgender and non-binary. The multifaceted company offers a talent, voice over, consulting, literary, music and production division committed to telling transgender and non-binary stories. Thomas also created a consulting division to get brands and Hollywood to be more authentic and truthful in their portrayals.
With Transgender Talent Thomas and her team provide clients with all the tools they need to get started which includes not only getting jobs but learning about medical resources, hormone treatments, and more. They provide a space for artists often at a very vulnerable point in their lives and careers and give them tools to succeed.
“Entering the entertainment business is tough no matter who you are,” says Thomas. “Though our work we try to make things a bit smoother for people. And my relationships in the industry can really help artists hit the ground running and get ahead.”
A fierce advocate, Thomas also is part of the UCLA Medical Center’s Transgender Patient Care Module. Thomas has provided training at UCLA Medical School’s Doctoring program.
“We gather a diverse team of speakers of all ages to speak to their experience and be there to answer questions and provide guidance for a new generation of doctors,” says Thomas. “That makes me feel good and helps me make sure that the transgender youth of today may not go through what I went through in my own life.”
Thomas assisted with developing the module and that has helped 1300 medical students from all over the world, many of whom are now practicing physicians. “I want to be some of the change I see in the world and have the Transgender persons who are coming of age now benefit from my experience.,” she says. “From my own and my community’s experiences I have learned that one of the major things missing is access to good, compassionate health care.”
Ann Thomas shared more.
It seems you are the only transgender manager in Hollywood. How has Hollywood responded to you since you opened your business?
At Transgender Talent, we focus on developing talent. We see kids right out of college or school who are looking for a career in the business for the first time. Usually, we are their first stop. Being a talent manager or agent is a challenge no matter what, let alone one in a niche like mine.
During the seven years we are in business we have seen companies focused on the transgender community come and go. Once casting directors started to know my agency, that the artist we were developing was talented, they started booking guest starring roles, now it has become about getting as many trans and non-binary actors working as possible. Most casting directors and those who are the decision makers in Hollywood are very supportive.
What are some of your success stories?
We go to showcases and events on the West Coast. And even now, with the pandemic, we can Zoom in all around the United States and discover really terrific emerging actors and sign them right away.
We put trans talent in national network shows in significant parts. There’s Emmett Preciado who last year was on ABC’s The Good Doctor and Freeform’s Good Trouble. Zach Barack was in Spider-Man: Far from Home. Zoey Luna was one of the leads in The Craft: Legacy. Zoey would have been the first trans person playing a lead in a major feature film in years, had Covid-19 not changed its release plan from wide theatrical release to streaming.
What do you look for in a potential client?
We want talented people who can act and who know their way around a camera. We also look for people who don’t give up. See are open to those who studied in school and actors who come from raw talent. We know it’s hard to be vulnerable and be a public figure. To become a successful performer is a long and hard process. In addition, combine that with the reality that trans persons are still being persecuted daily. We are sensitive to that. People who have the courage and strength to keep going and not give up is also very important.
Representation matters. There are many who feel that you must be trans to play a trans character on screen. Do you believe that and why?
Yes, representation matters. There are people who say that that only trans actors should play trans roles. But no one person, nor any one group, has ever been elected to represent all transgender people. There’s a lot of opinions on how to solve the problem of representation. In Los Angeles County alone, there’s at least 60,000 trans people if you use the Williams Institute 0.6% of the population figure on the LA County census. That’s a lot of opinions to consider.
What I see is that right now we still need trans actors of name and stature that Hollywood might consider A-list to green light a movie. Had The Craft: Legacy come out in theaters, and was a major hit, Zoey could have been that person. We are much farther along in TV than film.
Also, keep in mind that there are also just few well known trans actors, period. That’s why I went into this, to help change that. The more trans and non-binary actors I can find jobs for, the bigger the pool of people will be who have “credits.” I am sincerely hoping that if that happens, this problem will resolve itself. As of right now, who we don’t know if we have anyone to headline a major motion picture and when. I’m willing to work with production folks to find a way to make it work. If a name actor who is not trans has to play something because there’s no trans actors who fit the role, that is fine. As long as they hire a consulting producer who is transgender, to make sure the role is done correctly.
You talk about your father and how you came to find out that he too was transgender. Can you tell us a bit about what that first conversation was like and how you felt?
It was very emotional to talk to my dad about it. I knew it was likely that I would have few conversations about this topic ever again. I was wracking my brain for every question I could think of. So, the pressure was intense.
When did you know that you were transgender and what gave you the courage to come out?
I searched for some years to figure out what was going on in my head. I went to therapists, but none could help much. I sought out people who had figured out who they were. Finally, I saw videos of Stu Rasmussen, the first transgender person ever elected to public office, elected mayor of Silverton, Oregon. He was simply being himself. Through that, I that I saw who I was. He was the first person I came across who used the term “transgender.” And it fit me. I later met Stu in person, and it was a wonderful, joyous meeting.
What would you tell your younger self?
Live your own dreams, not someone else’s. Also, listen to your dad’s advice: do what you love, and the money will come eventually.
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