BEVERLY HILLS — There are just 11 transgender actors in all of television. And three of them are on one show, Amazon’s Transparent.
GLAAD, the LGBTQ media advocacy organization, that tracks inclusion in media, would obviously like to see more and better characters. The group’s goals this season include stories that move beyond the transition narrative, casting transgender roles more authentically, and casting transgender actors in more diverse roles.
“There’s still a lot of misconceptions about who trans people are,” Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox told the Television Critics Association Friday. “There are so many representations of us being victims or predators,” and “they influence the way in which policies are made, so it’s so crucial that we have representations on television that are diverse, that represent the full humanity of trans people. We have to tell these stories better, because lives are on the line.”
Better, for example, than Julia Sweeney’s gender-ambiguous “Pat” sketch on Saturday Night Live, says Transparent creator Jill Soloway. “That’s one I look at with a lot of sadness, that it’s part of our culture.”
For Cox, the most horrifying, damaging representations are transgender people on talk shows being subjected to invasive, objectifying lines of questioning. And the most positive? Candis Cayne on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money. “She’s the reason, and that character is the reason I’m sitting here today.”
More actors like Cox might be there too if the few transgender roles went to trans actors, and if trans actors were allowed to play non-transgender characters.Like, for example, the non-trans role Transparent’s Alexandra Billings will play on the second season of Amazon’s Goliath. “Things are changing,” says Billings. “We certainly have to have more of the dialogue, but Hollywood is starting to take notice.”
Ultimately, Billings wants to see all references to LGBTQ disappear. “The label is for people who don’t identify that way, so you all can have some place to put us.” Someday, she hopes, we’ll all just be in one container: human.
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