March 31 marks Transgender Day of Visibility. Much like the annual Transgender Awareness Week the day is meant to promote transgender visibility and highlight issues the community faces. Trans advocate Rachel Crandall created the day in 2010 when she saw media stories about the community focused around violence and wanted to shift the conversation to celebrating their lives, according to GLAAD.
While the trans community has things to celebrate – the U.S. Senate confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine and election of local leaders including Delaware state senator Sarah McBride and Kansas state representative Stephanie Byers – the community still faces many hurdles.
More than 90 anti-trans bills have been introduced in more than 25 states in 2021. And at least 12 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed so far this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Plus just this week, the Arkansas Senate approved a bill banning gender-confirming treatments for transgender youth.
As for how trans people are viewed in media: representation of LGBTQ characters will slightly decrease on broadcast TV this year, from 10.2% to 9.1%, according to GLAAD’s annual “Where Are We on TV” report. GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis previously told USA TODAY that she was “encouraged over the past five years of how far we’ve come on, including trans and nonbinary characters.”
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But “if you remove ‘Pose’ from the study, or from the airwaves, you lose a lot of if not the majority of trans characters,” she says. “And we can’t rely on one show to lead the way,” she says. The show recently announced it would be ending after its next season, its third.
One way the public can educate themselves about the transgender community is by watching movies, television shows and documentaries that reflect the transgender experience or feature transgender talent.
The tide has shifted – albeit slowly – toward more thoughtful transgender representation in the media, as discussed in Netflix’s transgender history documentary “Disclosure,” which premiered last summer.
“I’ve seen the real impact ‘Disclosure’ has already made in my conversations with the creators and industry leaders who’ve watched it,” Nick Adams, director of transgender representation at GLAAD, tells USA TODAY. “I don’t have to explain the stereotypes, tropes, and clichés to avoid, and we can go directly to a conversation about how to create more multi-dimensional and authentic trans characters. It’s been a game changer.” GLAAD is partnered with the film to spotlight the transgender crew behind the film.
Here’s a look at other entertainment GLAAD recommends.
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- “Pose” (FX): The series explores the world of ballroom in the 1980s and 1990s, boasting the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars.
- “First Day” (Hulu): A transgender girl begins middle school.
- “Dispatches from Elsewhere” (AMC): The Jason Segel drama also features transgender actress Eve Lindley.
- “Veneno” (HBO Max): This series follows a young journalism student named Valeria (based on a memoir by Valeria Vegas) who finds she has a lot in common with ’90s Spanish transgender icon of the Cristina Ortiz (La Veneno).
- “Sense8” (Netflix): Netflix’s “Sense8” has been lauded for its LGBTQ representation.
- “Tales of the City” (Netflix): Based on Armistead Maupin’s book series, this new iteration of “Tales of the City” features transgender man “Jake” in each episode, and episode eight includes transgender actresses Jen Richards and Daniela Vega.
- “Supergirl” (The CW): The first transgender superhero can be found on the show: Nia Nal/Dreamer, played by Nicole Maines.
- “9-1-1: Lone Star” (Fox): Transgender actor Brian Michael Smith stars as a firefighter.
- “Billions” (Showtime): Star Asia Kate Dillon is non-binary.
- “Star Trek: Discovery” (CBS All Access) The series has cast the first transgender and non-binary characters in the franchise’s history.
- “Good Girls” (NBC): Audiences have seen the character Ben grow up over several seasons; the character told his mom he was a boy last year.
- “The L Word: Generation Q” (Showtime): This reboot features a transgender man, and seems to be an improvement over the original’s trans man storyline.
- “Work in Progress” (Showtime): As Jude Dry writes in IndieWire: “‘Work in Progress’ has radically reshaped what queer stories can look like on TV, blowing the competition out of the water with its sharp black comedy, lovable trans characters, and refreshingly unfiltered take on mental illness, body image, and gender non-conformity.”
- “Euphoria” (HBO): Hunter Schafer’s Jules, who is transgender, is an integral character on HBO’s teen drama.
- “Saved By the Bell” (Peacock) – The reboot features transgender actress Josie Totah.
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- “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” (Vertical Entertainment): The film is a coming-of-age story about fears and emotions transgender people grapple with in the face of transition.
- “A Fantastic Woman” (Sony Pictures Classics): The Academy Award-winning movie (for best foreign language film) stars Daniela Vega.
- “Lingua Franca” (Netflix): Written by, directed by and starring Isabel Sandoval, a trans woman.
- “The Craft: Legacy” (Blumhouse/Sony): The film features transgender Latina actress Zoey Luna.
- “Adam”: (Wolfe Releasing): “‘Adam’ isn’t really about trans or even gay people – though there are plenty on-screen – so much as an open-minded but clueless teen getting a crash course in complex new gender-identity rules that are way over his head,” writes Dennis Harvey for Variety.
- “Call Her Ganda” (Breaking Glass Pictures): This documentary focuses on the killing of a Filipina trans woman and, in the wake of the incident, a quest for justice.
- “The Trans List” (HBO): Watch famous faces from the transgender community share their stories.
- “Real Boy” (Independent Lens; PBS): This is “an intimate story of a family in transition.”
- “Kumu Hina” (PBS): “During a momentous year in her life in modern Honolulu, Hina Wong-Kalu, a transgender teacher uses traditional culture to inspire a student to claim her place as leader of the school’s all-male hula troupe,” according to the film’s website.
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