Many people do not know what transgender means. In the fight for gay and lesbian rights, visibility has driven a lot of the changes we have seen. The presence of gay and lesbian characters on television and the willingness of celebrities to be open with their sexuality has created normalcy where before there was fear. And though there is still a lot of fear centered around the community, there are shows like Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, and Pretty Little Liars write characters who, despite sometimes extreme circumstances, are real, just living their lives as who they are. These characters are not just gays or lesbians. They are people, and their sexuality is simply a part of who they are. The trans* community needs more visibility.
There are not many shows with trans* characters. The most recent addition to the list would be the character of Unique on Glee, played by Alex Newell, who has been reported to return for this next season, so perhaps her storyline can be explored more. Degrassi, a long-running Canadian show, has another trans* teen, Adam Torres, played by Jordan Todosey. Adam’s story progresses through his struggle with gender dysphoria and is one of the most extensive explorations of a trans* character on television, although Max Sweeney also held a good role on The L Word. Played by Daniela Sea, Max transitions and explores what transitioning means to his sexuality in his four seasons on the show. A list of trans characters in television and film can be found here.
Celebrities also help to boost visibility. Last week, Lana Wachowski, one of the creators of The Matrix and of the screenwriters of V for Vendetta among other credits, came out as transgender. There are not many visible trans* people in Hollywood, and Ms. Wachowski’s willingness to be herself amidst all of the media attention associated with that world is inspiring. Her courage allows us to see others such as ourselves. Ms. Wachowski is not the only out trans* person in Hollywood though. Candis Cayne appeared in Dirty, Sexy, Money. Calpernia Addams performed in the Vagina Monologues and is a notable blogger. Laura Jane Grace is the founder and lead singer of the punk rock band Against Me! People such as these women inspire more people to come forward and be open and help to show the world we are only who we are.
As more people are willing to come out and live openly and more trans* characters are written into shows and movies, more people will be exposed to the community. The human element is crucial. When people can come to know others as just people, with the same problems and bills and hopes, some come to realize how essentially the same we are.