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Trans Aussie Actor Responds With Heartfelt Message After Film Unceremoniously Banned

"I’m not a theme. I’m a person."
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Australian actor Zoe Terakes has spoken after their film, Talk To Me, was banned in Kuwait as a response to their gender identity

Kuwait has a history of strict censorship of films with queer themes. However, the choice to ban Talk To Me comes as a shock given the film doesn’t contain any queer themes. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the decision to ban Talk To Me was based on Terakes’ non-binary trans-masculine identity — an unprecedented move. 

Zoe Terakes in ‘Talk To Me’. (Credit: A24)

“Hello. I’ve been wondering how to respond to this. Whether it deserves the dignity of a response,” Zoe began a statement posted to Instagram.

“This isn’t the first film Kuwait has banned. If there are queer or trans themes or scenes in your film, it’s probably not gonna make it to the Gulf. Which is devastating and terrifying in its own right.

“But our film doesn’t have queer themes. Our film doesn’t actually ever mention my transness, or my queerness. I am a trans actor who happened to get the role. I’m not a theme. I’m a person. Kuwait has banned this film due to my identity alone.”

Terakes at Sundance Film Festival, where ‘Talk To Me’ received its international premiere. (Credit: Getty)

While Kuwait has banned countless films with queer references, including Thor: Love and Thunder, Spiderman: Across The Spiderverse and West Side Story, the choice to restrict a film based on the gender identity of a cast member is reportedly a first. 

“This is a new precedent. It is targeted and dehumanising and means to harm us. As much as it is very sad to be on the receiving end of this, what is even more heartbreaking is what this precedent means for the queer and trans people of Kuwait,” Zoe wrote. 

“Representation is hope. Representation is a light at the end of the tunnel, a reason to keep going, something to hold onto in the dark, a voice that whispers things can be better than they are. 

“Eliminating trans actors on screens will not eliminate trans people (as much as the government of Kuwait wishes it would) but it will eliminate a lot of hope. And hope is such a large part of how we live as marginalised people. It’s how we learn to move through the hatred and the mistreatment and the violence. We look to all the people who have done it before us, we look to all the people who are doing it beside us, and that gives us hope to keep going. We are a community that has learnt to depend on each other, because cis people have historically been no help. Therefore, our survival is so dependent on our ability to look to each other, to share with each other, to lean on each other, to love each other, to see each other. My heart breaks for the trans people and queer people of Kuwait who have so few places to look.”

Terakes shared a statement on Instagram in response to Kuwait’s censorship. (Credit: Instagram / Zoe Terakes)

Zoe encouraged those feeling “angry, sad or confused by this” to donate to Rainbow Railroad, a global charity which works to assist LGBTQI+ people worldwide. 

Terakes’ Hollywood star is rising after it was revealed they would be the first trans actor to join the Marvel cinematic universe. Terakes was cast in the Marvel TV series Ironheart. Terakes has previously appeared in Wentworth and Nine Perfect Strangers

Talk To Me, directed by Australian twins Danny and Michael Philippou, is a supernatural horror film which made its local debut in 2022 but premiered internationally at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival before receiving a worldwide theatrical release. 

It exceeded expected box office earnings, making it the best release for independent distributor A24, since its 2018 hit Hereditary. Talk To Me has been praised by critics, and currently has an impressive rating of 94% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

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