The depiction of transgender women characters in mainstream television has been offensive, insulting and derogatory. An article from GLADD called “Victims or Villains: Examining Ten Years of Transgender Images on Television”, examines 102 episodes and storylines 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 has slowly increased to 4% in 2013.
Negative portrayal of transgender tv characters
Many television shows have transgender characters portrayed offensively, which clearly demonstrates a widespread problem. Transgender characters are being portrayed as “victims”, cast as killers, and working as sex workers. The first thing that writers in the media think of when using a transgender character is prostitution. This is the immediate preconception because in reality sometimes the only job a trans person can get is in sex work. 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 portrayed in media when it comes to assigning roles for transgender characters.
There are many shows that contain anti-transgender lingo and negative categorizations. A few examples of some of the cruel portrayals include: Rebecca Romijn played the first recurring trans character on Ugly Betty in 2007 on ABC. She was a scheming, lying and conniving woman. She went from “behind-the-scenes villain to a more complicated role as a ruthless magazine publisher” (Kane, 2013). Although this role was a first primetime show with a repeating trans character, it is important to note that the character was still depicted by the negative stereotypes that trans women are inherently deceptive. During an episode of The Cleveland Show a man sleeps with a character who turns out to be transgender and is literally sickened by this fact. Although not a television show, The Crying Game is partially responsible for bringing this idea to the general public. Serano references this movie in “Whipping Girl”, which shows a similar repulsed reaction when the character reveals she is physically male. Serano also states “the media hypersexualizes us by creating the impression that most trans women are sex workers or sexual deceivers” (Serano, 16). They are either deceptive by tricking us with their penises, or they are pathetic and ugly, which makes them look like a failed woman.
CSI featured a transgender serial killer in one episode. Stryker calls these “psycho-killer-in-a-dress stereotypes”. To make matters worse there were scenes in which transgender murder victims were ridiculed by the show’s main characters while investigating the crime scene and examining their bodies. The victim’s gender identity became the butt of a joke. But while the trans...