A transgender singer has a message for American Idol: "I’m a #SINGER, who just happens to be transgender." Ryan Cassata posted an open letter to the reality show's casting directors on his Facebook page on July 30. In the lengthy note, Cassata alleges that American Idol producers actively pursued him this year after having rejected him last year, encouraging him to audition again solely because they wanted a transgender musician on the show. Cassata explains, "LAST YEAR I was interested, and I tried out but you DIDN’T WANT ME, I wasn’t 'contemporary enough' and being transgender wasn’t such a hot issue in the media like it is now. This year, I see what American Idol is all about, another pre-casted show, that’s looking for 'singers' to boost their ratings, and now they just need that TOKEN TRANS person for America to gossip about, to hype up the show." Cassata also accuses the folks behind the scenes at American Idol of making racist, sexist, and transphobic remarks when describing the contestants they were looking for to round out their pool in stereotypical terms. Cassata also read his open letter in a YouTube video, which has gained over 19,000 views in the last week.
The show has responded to Cassata's letter, writing in a statement, "American Idol searches far and wide to ensure that talent in any part of the country has a chance to audition. There are various ways for individuals to audition including our open calls, posting their auditions online, our east and west coast bus tours, through partner apps, etc. Our audition team has often reached out to former participants to audition again. Many find that their voice improves over a year and they have greater success in their second or third attempt. American Idol is about finding great talent and the show welcomes diversity in its participants. We will look into the veracity of the statements in Ryan Cassata’s open letter." According to his website, Cassata has toured widley, including internationally; his next appearance is scheduled at the Little Rock Pride Festival in October.