Transgenders trickle into television

Sandra Sepaniak

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Throughout the past several decades, LGBT-oriented plots and characters have started to trickle onto television, and there has been some focus on the topic of transgender issues.

Although the presence of transgender people is still considered a controversial topic in the mainstream media, several transgender characters and personalities have been featured in television shows and movies. Often, they’re able to improve the image of the community as a whole in the process.

One of the most prominent transgender personalities in American television today is a man named Chaz Bono. The only child Sonny and Cher had together, Chaz was born as Chastity Sun Bono and came out in the late 1990’s and in the past few years has undergone gender reassignment surgery.

He has worked as a musician, written two books on the subject of coming out and, most recently, has been competing on Dancing with the Stars. Unfortunately, he is still the subject of controversy, with some fans of the show claiming that it’s “no longer a family show” because of his sexuality.

When one hears comments like that, one has to wonder why Dancing with the Stars can no longer make these claims. Is there any sexual activity or drug use present? The claims seem to be largely based on a lack of knowledge or plain fear, and it feels like the people making those remarks aren’t being educated at all.

Adam Torres, a boy who is played by Jordan Todosey on the teen drama series Degrassi: The Next Generation, is shedding more light on the daily life of a transgender teenager. The writers of the show often document Adam’s daily life, depicting his struggles to fit in.

However, it should also be noted that they usually portray him as a normal, video game-playing, wise-cracking kid as well – often something forgotten by television writers when an LGBT-themed character is introduced on a show.

It should be noted that Degrassi: The Next Generation was a 2010 recipient of the Peabody Award for the episodes focusing on Adam’s struggles to fit in and getting his mother to accept his gender identity.

The women of the transgender community should not be forgotten, either. Despite their often-obscured presence in major roles in the media, a few have had their moments in the spotlight.

One example can be found in the twenty-first season of The Real World, which aired back in 2008. Viewers may remember Katelynn who was often forced to confront her housemates over her situation and got into a lot of arguments over it.

She also participated in a few events for HIV/AIDS research during her time on the reality show, and she seemed to contribute to the same amount of drama that everyone starring on a reality TV show must create.

Often unspoken is the fact that being transgendered, much like being gay or being tall or having blue eyes, is not a personal choice. In fact, it’s quite often related to a mental condition called gender dysphoria, and those who are transgender spend most – if not all – of their lives struggling with it.

Despite this, transgender people are often the butt of jokes on sit-coms and teased in real life for something over which they have no control. One should remember that teasing people for being transgender – calling someone “he-she,” “tranny,” “she-male” or variations thereof – is very hurtful and akin to being made fun of for race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.



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