I just couldn’t bear the bicker and bile of hard news this week and decided it’s more important to celebrate soaps! Everyone’s favorite Australian soap, Neighbours, has cast its first transgender character, played by eighteen-year-old actress Georgie Stone.
The beautiful blonde told the BBC, “I am so excited to be joining such an iconic show. Neighbours is all about telling stories we can connect to, stories that reflect our society today… I thought it was time to have a trans character on the show. I can’t wait for everyone to meet her!”
Transgender TV is changing the culture at its core and increasing diverse visibility.
In the past few years, transgender characters have been all over television. Some are complex and nuanced representations, and some are in woefully transphobic scripts as a psycho killer embittered by botched reassignment surgery. We’ve got to iron out the whole cis actor playing a trans role thing, and we’ll need more range for talented trans actors to shine in, but we’re moving forward and that’s great news for TV.
Here are some recent television shows featuring transgender women.
Orange is the New Black
The larger than life Laverne Cox put 110% into her role as inmate Sophia Burset, showcasing impressive acting chops in a drama with a lot of mega talents. It was the first major role for a black transgender woman, and Cox’s amazing performance helped put trans women on the map of popular culture. The show has been criticized for making Burset’s role more about the abuse and misunderstanding she endures than about her character outside of her trans identity, but everyone praised her performance.
La Mante (spoiler alert!)
Mon Dieu, what a mess. This terrible French police drama has been billed as a feminist triumph, because, oh, yay, the serial killer is a woman for a change! And her sadistic crimes are attempts to make the world a better place with her own warped brand of justice in healing from abuse and other evils of men. If that wasn’t bad enough, the big reveal is that the copycat killer turns out to be a psycho tranny bitch out for blood because some cis guys don’t want to fuck her and that makes them just as bad as child molesters and wife cheaters. Thankfully, it’s a quick series with a single season, and I only wasted six hours of my life.
Diehard fans and regular watchers of The Simpsons more offensive cousin will recall that perv neighbor Quagmire’s dad is a transgender woman.
The Love Boat
The Love Boat was ahead of its time, even if it was corny and excessively sweet. An episode in the 80s featured a transgender character (though not actress) played by Mackenzie Phillips. The episode is as milquetoast as they all were, with the characters friend struggling to accept her as she is and then realizing love conquers all and everyone should just be who they are.
Pretty Little Liars (spoiler alert!)
This was a bit of a mess—cis actress Vanessa Ray is outed at the last minute as a t-girl AND as the villain, having gone mental due to her dad’s transphobia. It’s a painful effort to capitalize on being a woke show, but a plainer character—a Starbucks barista, or someone’s date—would have been way better.
Hit and Miss
This was a wonderful series, intelligently constructed and well acted. The smart and stunning Chloe Sevigny plays a contract killer. Though the high drama would be hard to swallow from lesser talents, it’s a surprisingly subtle and complex treatment. Of course, as much as we adore Sevigny as one of the world’s most interesting actresses, we are also pleased that just a few years later, it’s becoming expected that trans characters be played by actual trans women.
Criticized for being stereotypically campy and flamboyant—in other words, focusing on performative aspects of transgender or LGBT identity—it’s also great fun and a pioneer for featuring so many transgender characters and actors. Enjoy.