Leo Sheng, a Trans Activist Who Stars in ‘The L Word’

Leo Sheng, a Trans Activist Who Stars in ‘The L Word’

Leo Sheng, a Trans Activist Who Stars in ‘The L Word’

Leo Sheng, a Trans Activist Who Stars in ‘The L Word’

Name: Leo Sheng

Age: 24

Hometown: Born in Hunan, China and raised in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Now lives: In a four-bedroom house in the Mid-City neighborhood of Los Angeles that he shares with roommates.

Claim to fame: Mr. Sheng is a Chinese-American actor and transgender activist who stars in “The L Word: Generation Q,” a reboot of the trailblazing 2000s television show. Before the show, Mr. Sheng gained recognition for documenting his transition on Instagram with old childhood photographs, and updates on his gender reaffirming surgery. “Once I was able to start my medical transition, I started to document that on Instagram because I found a community there of trans guys sharing their journeys — whether that’s social, medical, different variations of journeys,” he said. “That felt really empowering to see.”

Big Break: In 2015 Mr. Sheng, then 19, was invited by the Happy Hippie Foundation­, a nonprofit for L.G.B.T.Q. youth started by Miley Cyrus, to participate in a transgender visibility campaign on Instagram called #InstaPride. In 2018, the filmmaker Rhys Ernst was looking for actors for his film “Adam” and reached out to Mr. Sheng on Instagram to audition for a transmasculine role. “I think they were drawn to the fact that I wasn’t an actor,” he said. “That brought another level of authenticity.”

Latest Project: In “The L Word,” Mr. Sheng plays Micah, a sweet and timid social worker who falls for his cisgender neighbor, José (played by Freddy Miyares). Unlike the original series, which focused on a tight-knit group of lesbians living in Los Angeles, the reboot is decidedly more diverse and inclusive. “There’s a lot that has become mainstream in the last 10 years,” he said. “These are conversations that not only queer and trans people are having, but cis folks are having and thinking about now. And I think that’s reflected in our sequel.”

Next Thing: Mr. Sheng is one of the featured subjects in “Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen” a documentary by Sam Feder that examines Hollywood’s perception and portrayal of transgender people, available on Netflix on June 19. He will also return for the second season of “The L Word: Generation Q.”

Queeroes: As a lifelong fan of comic books, Mr. Sheng hopes to play a superhero one day. In fact, he has a tattoo of Superman on his inner right forearm. “For a while I felt like there were similarities,” he said. “He was adopted, I’m adopted. He grew up feeling like he had to hide a part of himself. That’s super relatable for folks who have an identity they can’t share.”




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