Transgender Actor Scott Turner Schofield on J.K. Rowling and Feeling ‘Invisible’ in Hollywood
“The lives of trans men are stories worth telling,” says the Studio City actor, who got his start in 2015 on The Bold and the Beautiful
“Growing up in a small town called Wolfe City, I used to walk to the library while reading a book,” Schofield recalls in this week's issue of PEOPLE. “I was queer in a lot of ways,” he adds with a laugh before growing serious.
Today, Schofield is an Emmy-nominated actor for his work on Studio City — the first trans man actor ever to earn the honor — working steadily in Hollywood. “It's taken me a long time to learn my self-worth. Today, I’m just a man living my truth.”
Schofield’s childhood and adolescence in Texas and North Carolina have provided inspiration for several autobiographical works, including a one-man show that recently became a short film that had its debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. It centers, in fact, around being male: Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps. “It’s the story of a queer, non-binary feminist who became someone everyone sees as a straight white man,” Schofield says. “I do have privilege today — until I disclose that I am trans.”
- For more from Scott Turner Schofield, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
He graduated from Emory University. Schofield arrived in Hollywood at an interesting time. “I call that year the Hollywood transgender tipping point.”
Schofield maps out three major events in 2015. Laverne Cox broke through on Orange Is the New Black. Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. “And even I was a part of it, the first openly trans man actor in daytime television with The Bold and the Beautiful.” He knows some are skeptical of daytime television’s influence. “Except that The Bold and the Beautiful plays to tens of millions of viewers globally every day.”
Schofield is now married (his wife is musician and YouTube star Terra Naomi) and he’s “a working actor, which means I have several jobs to pay the bills.” He says he’s struggled with whether or not to disclose his identity during auditions. “People can say, ‘I know that you weren't always a man, I can't see you as a man now,’ or getting parts and people saying, ‘Well, you only got that because you're trans,’ not because I'm talented.”
Currently, he’s acting on Studio City and consulting on Euphoria, advising the series on trans issues and to avoid stereotyping in its storytelling. And he’s an “accidental activist,” whereby his daily interactions can inspire and affect change. He knows it’s needed, particularly for trans men.
“Unfortunately, as trans women become more visible, trans men are still invisible in Hollywood,” he says. “We still feel marginalized. Even talking about our own story hasn't happened yet.” He admires Cox for her visibility and voice. “Laverne uses her platform as a visibly trans person. She is a wonderful activist, a brilliant advocate. She stepped up, and I appreciate the allyship on that level. But we are hoping for the time when trans men can speak for ourselves.”
Recent events have inspired Schofield to speak up, and a little louder. “Take the last week in the news to understand the intensity of just being trans,” he says. “Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling writes a public essay, referencing debunked science and conspiracy theories that all reputable medical and legal organizations have fact checked.” Schofield says he can’t believe she wanted to say anything. He says her words have had severe impact: Shortly after her statement, Schofield counseled a trans teen who wanted to commit suicide. “Why would you be one of the richest women on earth and come for us? That really says something about her that's ugly. She could have gone through life, and everyone would still believe that she made the universe a more magical place.”
Schofield goes on. “Also, in the last week, two more Black trans women are murdered (14 now this year). The White House erases protections for trans people in healthcare. And then the Supreme Court delivers what feels like a miracle — and confirms that trans Americans deserve equal protection under the law.”
“People are right to think that being trans is a difficult experience. When your existence — your presence in public, your ability to go to the bathroom outside of your home, your right to healthcare and a job without legal discrimination against you — is up for public debate all the time, it is very hard to get out of bed and look in the mirror and feel good about yourself," says Schofield.
But Schofield is hopeful. “Maybe someday I'll be able to just be the guy I am and see what that's like all by itself.”
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