tv needs more trans characters

Because on primetime broadcast programming there are currently NONE.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
28 October 2015, 4:48pm

Caitlyn Jenner is 2015's unofficial woman of the year. Jazz Jennings premiered her reality TV show I Am Jazz on TLC in July. And Jill Soloway's groundbreaking Amazon series Transparent cleaned up at the Emmy Awards. But, according to GLAAD's newly released "Where We Are on TV" report, there are no transgender characters on scripted primetime broadcast programming in 2015. Huh?

It's not all bad news though. GLAAD's CEO and President, Kate Ellis, points to the comparatively higher (as in, higher than zero) number of trans characters on series hosted by streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. The report finds that compared to primetime and cable, "streaming series boast the highest percentage of trans characters at 7% (4) with two notably being series leads." (Shoutout to Transparent and Orange Is the New Black.) Still, of those four characters, only one was a transgender man.

And again: There are no trans characters on scripted primetime broadcast programming in 2015.

Which means that if you're not paying $7.99 a month to Netflix or Amazon (or still secretly using your ex-housemate's password) you're not seeing trans characters in any of the shows you're watching. Underlining the significance of this, the report points out that "an overwhelming majority (84%) of Americans learn about trans people through what they see in the media." The analysis goes on to stress the importance of not only including more trans characters but also "telling a wider variety of stories." The report highlights the tendency of shows to portray trans characters in harmful ways - as victims, sex workers and villains who are often mentally ill.

GLAAD also presented data on racial and gender diversity. Some stats to chew on: 43% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women (up from 40% last year, but still underrepresentative). In the 2015-2016 season, 16% of regular characters on broadcast TV will be black - the highest percentage since GLAAD began counting, but again still underrepresentative. And things become even more interesting when the stats go intersectional. The report finds that black women remain significantly underrepresented: only 59 of those 145 black characters on broadcast TV are female.

In Kate Ellis' words, "We've witnessed tremendous progress [...] but there is still a great deal of work to be done."


Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Image via YouTube

Orange is the New Black
Jill Soloway
kate ellis
trans character