Jared Leto Spins Heckling Into Serious Discussion of Transgender Roles

Jared Leto Talks Transgender Roles with Santa Barbara Film Festival Hecklers
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club and at the 2014 Golden Globes
Anne Marie FOX/Focus Features; Angela Weiss/Getty

updated 02/05/2014 AT 03:30 PM EST

originally published 02/05/2014 AT 12:00 PM EST

Jared Leto was onstage at the Virtuosos Awards during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Monday, speaking with Fandango's Dave Karger, when he heard a shout from the audience: "Trans misogyny does not deserve an award." Leto chose to handle the incident beautifully.

"Well, what do you mean by that?" Leto asked the hecklers, a pair of women near the front of the Arlington Theater.

"You don't deserve to play a trans woman," the heckler answered, referring to Leto's character, Rayon, in Dallas Buyer's Club.

"… Because I'm a man, I don't deserve to play that part?" Leto said. "So you want to hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian – they can't play a straight part?"

"Historically," the heckler continued, "Straight-gender people always play transgender people, and all of them received awards and credit for it."

"Then you make sure that people that are gay, people that aren’t straight, people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art," Leto answered, and the auditorium applauded.

Leto then offered to meet the women backstage and continue the discussion.

Karger said the women were brought backstage after the event, and Leto had a "private, peaceful-looking" conversation with the two. The pair left hand-in-hand, looking happy.

Leto later dedicated his award to Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Reporting by Scott Huver
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