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Depiction Of Trans Women In Mainstream Television

2119 words - 8 pages

The depiction of trans women in mainstream television has been offensive, insulting and derogatory, and it can be argued that this depiction reflects mainstream and heteronormative America’s opinions on transgender life. Television has presented trans women as imposters, placing them into two categories: deceptive or pathetic. The GLAAD article “Victims or Villains: Examining Ten Years of Transgender Images on Television,” examines over 100 episodes on mainstream television that contained transgender characters since 2002. Of these, more than half were characterized as containing negative representations of transgender. In 2007 only 1% of television series had a recurring transgender character, which slowly increased to 4% in 2013. Characters who aren’t clearly identified as one gender or the other are never presented as “normal,” and are usually the subject of comedy or tragedy.
In television, the portrayal of transgender characters in a negative manner demonstrates a widespread problem of social stigma that has been directed against the trans community by mainstream culture. Storylines that include a trans character often depict those characters as “victims,” killers or sex workers. All too often on television, transgender life is paired with the criminal world, particularly with prostitution. Unfortunately in reality many transgender individuals are indeed forced into sex work by financial hardship, but this is due not to the inherent tie between gender and criminal behavior and rather to mainstream society’s discrimination against the trans community. As we saw in Screaming Queens, the transgender community was forced into prostitution among many other degrading consequences of being trans. This idea has stuck and is more likely to be used in media when it comes to assigning roles for transgender characters. As we read in Nevada, even before Maria knew she was trans, her assumption of trans people was that they “are all psychos with big hair who trick men into having sex with them. On television. Gross.” (Binnie, 15)
Discriminating depictions of trans women and even anti-transgender messages are everywhere on television. For example, in 2007 female actress Rebecca Romijn played post- op trans woman Alexis Meade on the hit ABC television show Ugly Betty. Romijn’s character became the first recurring trans character on mainstream American television, but Alexis Meade was a scheming, lying and conniving woman, who went from “behind-the-scenes villain to a more complicated role as a ruthless magazine publisher.” (Kane, 2013) Even though this was one of the first primetime shows to have a repeating trans character (which was a step in the right direction, because it provided exposure for the trans community), it is important to note that the character was still fulfilling the negative stereotype that trans women are inherently deceptive. It’s also interesting to question why Ugly Betty producers chose to cast an actress who isn’t trans in...

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