There is a sad lack of good stories with trans* characters. Most media is either incredibly sad or in some way fetishizes the character. The trans* canon tends to be overwhelmingly violent as well: in books, movies, and on television. But we want to see the good things. We want to know loves can work out and not everything is a horror story. We want happy endings. I would love to see a sappy romantic comedy with a trans* character and have it be just as sappy and romantic as any other, but we just don’t have that.
There are more trans* characters on television—and more trans* visibility in general—than a few years ago, but a recent release by GLAAD stated, “Since 2002, GLAAD catalogued 102 episodes and non-recurring storylines of scripted television that contained transgender characters, and found that 54% of those were categorized as containing negative representations at the time of their airing.” That isn’t very promising. Most representations of trans* people on television are not good portrayals, though certain shows have the potential for good storylines such as with Unique on Glee (currently debateable) or Adam on Degrassi (I have yet to watch this. Let me know if you have any insight). Max from The L Word had a decent storyline in the beginning, though I have not watched all of it. From what I have seen of it, there were some stereotypes played out. How did you see it? Do you think any of these shows should be listed as good portrayals of trans* characters? Or are they oversensationalized?
Most trans* movies and films are violent or sad: Boys Don’t Cry, Southern Comfort, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Even movies with a happy ending for a trans* character, such as Better Than Chocolate, have violence. Of the films I have found, the only one which has a happier story line is Ma Vie En Rose, a Belgian film following Ludovic who wants more than anything to be like Pam, a Barbie-like doll, and questioning his gender identity and how his family handles this.
The majority of media I have found which are more uplifting or realistic have not been in video form. Khaos Komix have some really great storylines following Charlie and Tom, though they don’t necessarily have happy endings. Questionable Content just recently introduced a trans* character before Thanksgiving who has been handled well so far. Rooster Tails is an autobiographical comic of a transguy from New Zealand which has some really great honest moments.
I think the most positive thing I have found for me personally, though, is Trans/Love. Edited by Morty Diamond, this compilation of narratives helped me come to terms with what love is and can be when you are trans*. I loved finding stories with good endings told from a genuine perspective.
Sadly, there is not a good answer to this question. There are no Imagine Me and You ’s or Keeping You a Secret ’s (both of which I love) of the trans* canon. We need to begin creating these works for ourselves. If you come across any positive portrayals of trans* characters I have missed or any you have created yourself which you want to share, please pass them along here or on tumblr. I am always happy to read or watch new things, and let me know your feelings on trans* characters on television. There will be more coming up on them shortly, and I would love to have your input.