Zach Barack Is Marvel’s First Openly Transgender Actor

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Who is Zach Barack? New Details On Marvel’s Openly Transgender Actor
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Seeing Laverne Cox on “Orange is the New Black” was a meaningful experience for Zach Barack, a trans person and actor in the new “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” DC recently introduced its first trans superhero with Nicole Maines Dreamer on TV network The CW’s “Supergirl,” and Marvel featured an openly trans character, Gillian, played by Aneesh Sheth, on Netflix’s “Jessica Jones.” Barack is incredibly excited to join the hopefully growing list of diverse actor representation in the comic-film world. Read on to learn more about Marvel and Barack’s milestone! Who is Zach Barack?

1. The only exposure to trans representation Barack had seen before OITNB was the 1999 crime drama, 'Boys Don't Cry.'

Not only does the 20-year-old film not feature any trans people, but it’s actually quite a sad and brutal story. “The prospect of coming out wasn’t super exciting after seeing that,” Barack recalled in an interview with Variety. “When I saw these messages of other people sort of being like, ‘it’s really meaningful’…I remember I cried the first time I saw one of those, because I remember wanting to write those.”

2. The cast has been immensely supportive.

His role in Spiderman (a classmate and friend of Peter Parker who gets caught up in mysterious forces creating worldwide mayhem) has also increased exposure of LGBTQ allies. Barack noted that his cast mates are just as supportive off screen as they are on. “I don’t think anybody had any doubt that Zendaya was a very supportive person who understands the nuances of identity politics and was always going to be an ally, but at the same time, her being a supportive person is still really, really meaningful because there are so many people that look up to her. Being on set and watching the way people interact with her and with Tom [Holland] and with Jacob…you realize how much of an impact people have.” 

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3. Marvel Studios plans for even more LGBTQ representation in the Marvel universe going forward.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and producer Victoria Alonso have said that they hope and are planning for more LGBTQ representation in Marvel films. And it’s a long time coming! After 11 years and almost two dozen movies, fans were a bit disappointed with the underplayed role of an openly gay character in Avengers: Endgame (a character credited as Grieving Man who mentions in passing to Captain America that he’s dating another man but finds it difficult with all the grief in the world). Feige responded to fans’ dismay by saying that it “was never meant to be our first focused character. That was just meant to be a matter of fact and a matter of life and a matter of truth. And I liked it that our hero, Steve Rogers, doesn’t blink an eye at that fact.” Nonetheless, Barack is hopeful that his casting will generate greater representation in the industry as a whole.

4. He believes there’s something “very inherently trans” about comic book stories.

Something that goes hand-in-hand with being trans is dysphoria—a feeling of unease as a result of feeling inconsistent internally with your external presentation. Barack captures the relationship between the trans experience and superhero tropes eloquently in the following quote, I’m not even going to try to paraphrase: “I’m not by any means an expert on comics, but I read them [comics] growing up, you know, and they were important. And there’s something very inherently trans about those stories, especially ones where identity and hidden identity is part of them. For example, Peter Parker’s journey [in Spider-Man: Homecoming] is a lot about balancing being a teenager and having this other part of your life. And that is just so trans, it’s something that I absolutely think I’ve felt on a daily basis sometimes—especially being a transmasculine person because sometimes there’s a pressure to be a different way than I feel naturally inclined to do because I want to fit in, and I have to actively fight that instinct. But the fact of the matter is, being in this movie is so beyond incredibly meaningful and I hope that it means something to other people.” 

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Congrats to Zach on this amazing opportunity!

Leah Scher is an ENFP finishing her degree at Brandeis University. She's an alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writer's Workshop the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. She's passionate about Judaism, poetry, film, satire, astrology, spirituality, and sexual health. She draws inspiration for her writing from writer/director Wes Anderson, and for her lifestyle from her grandmother. Lastly, she's always actively seeking two things: a job having anything at all to do with publishing, and a chance to meet Jesse Eisenberg.