The recent Amazon Prime remake of “A League of Their Own” demonstrates the highs and lows of what life was like in the 1940’s being a Black transgender man.
Playing Bertie Hart, the uncle of Maxine Chapman (played by Chante Adams), Lea Robinson (He/They) is a Black transgender and nonbinary actor. His character is estranged from his family and still currently living with his wife.
Robinson noted that the new remake brings attention to important stories of the time that haven’t been addressed and hopes that the show will help start those conversations about race, gender and sexuality.
“What’s so powerful about this series is we get to see some of the other stories that were not told.”
Over the course of the series, Robinson’s character also acts as a support towards his niece Max, who also is a gay Black woman. Her biggest dream is to play on a professional baseball team.
Max is constantly trying to figure out who she is between her sexuality and identity all while still continuously facing prejudice playing a sport that she loves.
Even with all the discrimination that Hart is faced, they still find a way to embrace his identity.
To Robinson, playing Hart is a once in a lifetime role, he was given the opportunity to show audiences of the show what it was like to be both Black and trans during the 1940s.
“It’s really powerful and important. What people will recognize and relate to is this challenge of being yourself … walking in your own shoes and being who you are in the world, navigating the ups and downs and everything. ”
When first approached about the role of Bertie, Robinson was confused how he could fit into the picture of the show since he has seen the original source material.
After he did some research and read the character breakdown, Robinson fell in love with the character.
“I knew that I needed to play this role. Bertie became a huge part of me as soon as I read his name and description,” said Robinson.
His role in “A League of Their Own” also comes out after a big year for trans representation in TV and film. Within the cast, there are other Black transmasculine actors like Marquise Vilsón who also appear in the show.
But still in comparison, those who are transgender men and more strictly, those of color are still underrepresented on screen.
“I didn’t have a lot of role models on television and that was one of the main reasons why I started acting. I want to be that for someone else, I want folks to see me and be like, ‘Oh, there’s someone that looks like me and I belong in this world.”
One of the scenes that acts as a standout for Robinson was a party that was being held in Bertie’s home that was actually filled with people of different sexual orientations.
“That party scene was unbelievable,” said Robinson. “The freedom that came with being in that space. The freedom to dance, to look at someone and be looked at and appreciate and be appreciated. Everything about that scene just hit me right in the heart.”
The TV and film industry are continuously trying to make efforts to become more trans-inclusive.
In an interview with NBC News, Robinson noted that on several sets that the staff is all respectful of each other and they ask what everyone’s pronouns are when they first meet one another.
“I’ve honestly been on sets where I felt really safe and comfortable and felt seen”
There have also been other cases where Robinson has been misgendered on set, and it didn’t sit with him lightly.
“If I’m misgendered … or someone doesn’t use the pronoun I’ve communicated it’s really hard. It’s hard to stay in scene,” Robinson said.
Even though the show aired for the first time just a few weeks ago, there was still some predictable backlash that followed the show due to some of the narratives.
However, for Robinson, the response for his portrayal of Uncle Bertie has been nothing short of overwhelming.
As the show continues to grow, Robinson hopes that this will help audiences to embrace the characters and the light and joy that they bring into their lives.
“There are many different ways that we can experience this lifetime, and we get to remember to experience the joy where we can find it as well,” said Robinson.
Nikki Indelicato is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.