“Playing Buck was very personal, but I had to put myself out there. I want to be visible to people like me because, during that dark period, I needed someone to inspire me like that", told a 16-year-old Ian.
Ian Alexander is one of the few transgenders who showed the courage to disclose his true self to the world and inspired others like him at such an early age.
To know Ian Alexander, you must watch Netflix’s OA. But first, you have to know this. Earlier in the year 2016, he left a message which went frenzy all over the Internet.
In May last year, a picture of a group of four teenagers who had just participated a talk at the University of California holding cards went viral on the internet. The cards read,
Transgenderism is a mental disorder! Keep your agenda out of our restroom!
The post was instantly countered with mixed reactions with negative ones mainly from several annoyed members of LGBTI community. But one of the reactions was different. It was from a 15-year-old boy, Vietnam born American Ian Alexander.
When Ian saw this picture on Twitter, he could not stay silent but decided to simply reply with a four-word sentence. Guess what words did he choose? Ian's message read,
Shut the fuck up.
After he posted his picture with the message, it gained him a lot of supporters as well as haters. Soon after, an image including the original picture and his picture was placed alongside and is now retweeted more than 20000 times.
So how did the 15-year-old transgender land on Netflix OA?
Months later, star Brit Marling and her co-creator Zal Batmanglij insisted that only a real transgender would be fit to the character Buck, the hunt for the perfect character began.
As if it was fated, Ian found the requirement of the OA through Tumbler and sent a video to the cast members.
And who would do the character Buck more justice than Ian himself? So its no surprise he got selected for the role. Ian already had thousands of Instagram and Twitter fans who were more than happy to hear the good news.
After his role as Buck, his fan base grew even wider with more than 34k and 37k Instagram and Twitter followers at present.
In the OA, Ian appears as Buck who like him, to be exact, an Asian-American teen has a double identity, a disguised identity for the world and another true invisible true self-hidden one from the world.
Ian himself had admitted that the role just described him perfectly in an interview,
I'm having a really hard time in school because I wanted to act but it's not like the plays that are done in high school have roles that describe a person like me. You can't imagine what it was like to go online and see a posting for a Netflix show that describes me.
Growing up for Ian was not so easy, especially with his dad, an employee of Department of Defense by profession.
So he had to move several places and hence attended several schools with children from diverse backgrounds. But had a hard time connecting with them as he was shy and never had close friends.
I used to be so socially anxious and I wouldn't talk to people. I sat alone at lunch. I didn't really make close friends. Once I learned to accept myself, I've been able to branch out and really make a lot of meaningful relationships.
Alexander later discovered about queer communities when he was around 12 years old. He used to get self-absorbed into group discussions long before he realized that he would soon become one of them. Why?
Because for transgender like Ian Alexander, it’s very difficult to get support from your family members. Ian found different online communities his resort and finally was able to draw strength from them. Ian admitted,
Family can be made from strange places and broken parts and different homes, and be something very beautiful and supportive.
This might be why Ian had to record the video in his bathroom and send it, without telling his parents.
But thanks to the video he is now the only Asian-American transgender actor on screen. Not only that, he is recognized for his acting skills even though this is his first time performing in front of a camera.
The good news though is his parents have also become more understanding now. Ian tells,
My mother has been really great through all of this, with everything she's sacrificed for me. She's still coming to terms with my gender identity and struggles with noun and pronoun usage.
Can you believe the 16-year-old has now become the new powerhouse for young transgenders like him? In fact, many have drawn the strength from the life of the Buck character, he has been playing.
There are quite a few teenagers like Ian Alexander who is not afraid to show his true self. Here's cheers to his dazzling future!