The LGBT community is a group that often falls victim to negative stereotyping. LGBT is an acronym for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender that categorizes a community of individuals that are a part of the sexual minority (Swain, 2007). One community that falls under the umbrella of the LGBT acronym is the transgender community. This community consists of transgender individuals, a general term to describe those who do not conform to typical gender roles, transsexuals who desire to be recognized as a member of the opposite sex, and transvestites who dress in clothing associated with the opposite gender. Transsexuals are a group that are largely ignored on television, and when they are portrayed they usually belong to roles in which they are ridiculed and objectified. The Netflix original series Orange is the New Black features a transsexual character named Sophia Burset who is Male-to-Female (MTF) transgender, meaning that Sophia was born a male and has undergone a transition to a female. The character is played by real life transgender actress Laverne Cox. Orange is the New Black addresses many of the stereotypes associated with MTF transgender individuals and works to counter many of the stereotypes found on other television series through interactions between characters and conflicts that are unique to transgender individuals.
Transgender characters on television are often flat; they are portrayed as a surgical product rather than a human who has problems aside from transitioning to the opposite gender. This portrayal leads to a stereotypical type of transgender character that can often be categorized as one or more of “the four P's: Prostitute, Punchline, Psycho and Poor thing,” or fit within a similar category (Addams, 2009). Of the four P's, Sophia Burset falls under the categories of prostitute and punchline, whereas the psycho and poor thing categories are not applicable to this character.
The prostitute is a prototype example of transgender portrayal that constituted 20% of all transgender characters within the last decade. This stereotype is a prototype because it is consists of a large percentage of transsexual portrayal, especially on crime reality shows and satire crime comedies where prostitutes are MTF transsexual (Suh, 2014). The punchline character is one in which the transsexual character is recognized as trans, often by exaggerated visual cues, but this recognition is surrounded by jokes and situational comedy related to the character's transition. Along with the major character types, other common stereotypes associated with MTF trans characters are that they are all homosexual, males are overly-feminine before transition, transsexuals are hermaphrodites with both male and female parts, and/or that their desire to transition to the opposite gender is a choice rather than an innate medical condition.
The portrayal of characters on television can fall into one of three different categories: assimilation, pluralist, or...