Actor Annette Bening—best known for her starring roles in films like American Beauty and The Kids Are All Right—has condemned the right-wing efforts to exploit anti-transgender sentiment for political purposes, expressing her deep concern over the current state of LGBTQ+ rights and the increasing discrimination faced by transgender individuals.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bening emphasized the importance of understanding and empathy while addressing the alarming rise of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from Republican politicians and far-right activists.
Bening, a four-time Academy Award nominee and recently appointed chair of the board of the Entertainment Community Fund, spoke passionately about the need to respect and honor the personal journeys of transgender individuals. She underscored that efforts to instill fear and legislate against transgender rights are not only misguided but also heartbreaking.
Bening's connection to the issue is personal, as her son, writer Stephen Ira, is transgender.
Although Bening is a private individual and acknowledges her son's right to share his own experiences, the escalating anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric pushed her to use her platform to speak out against discrimination and bigotry.
“They are trying to stir up all this fear in people about trans kids and parents, and they are trying to legislate that. This should not be scary to anybody else. This is a private, legitimate, complex, deep, spiritual, physical, psychological experience that has to be respected and honored.”
“For me, the real transition has happened as the right wing in the country has become more and more mobilized on misinforming people about the LGBTQ community. They have been vilifying our community and creating problems that do not exist and creating and sowing hate and fear as a way of rallying their base."
"That’s obviously not new, and it’s happened in the campaigns of the past, especially against gay people. But now it’s transphobia, and it’s just rampant.”
Bening added that the right-wing is ramping up these attacks "at a time when there are more and more trans people who are living openly and who are our teachers, our writers, and our doctors, adding:
“One of my most favorite doctors is a trans woman. What I would wish is for every person to have someone who is trans in their family because once somebody you love is trans, then you get it."
“Certainly, what’s happening in the political world with trans people is so concerning and so dire. It’s only going to get worse as we go into the election cycle.”
Many have praised Bening for speaking out.
Bening—who will next appear in Nyad alongside actor Jodie Foster—said her son was an "inspiration" upon coming out and admitted she had to educate herself on trans issues as a result.
Bening acknowledged she "was very ignorant about what that meant to be a trans kid" and "didn’t always know what to do, and I didn’t always make the right choices because of my own ignorance, but we got through it.”
The actor also expressed her support for transgender people across the country who are being denied access to gender-affirming healthcare.
She noted that it is a human right to "be able to make the decisions about our bodies without the government interfering" and said that we all "have a responsibility to protect and defend the rights of trans folks in our world."