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.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a trans* character on Glee, Unique. I expressed concern about how the creators were going to handle the presentation of Unique’s storyline and how realistic it would appear because despite Glee’s track record of presenting those who in other outlets are underrepresented, sometimes the verisimilitude of these storylines can be sadly lacking. I was hoping Unique’s storyline would follow the more realistic story of Santana coming out to her grandmother, who was not accepting. Unfortunately, most people who come out do not receive a welcoming reception from family, so to present the situation in such a way more realistically depicted coming out, which is one of the most daunting things people in the LGBTQ* community face. We need representation in the media to allow people from without the community to see what it is really like to be a part of the community. Creating that connection can help us in steps toward equality.
I have watched Glee since its beginnings. A show with musical performances each episode and Lea Michele from Spring Awakening, the soundtrack which gets played the most on my iTunes, sounded amazing. I got pulled in by the characters, the storylines, and the music. The show has had its ups and downs, but Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, has created an outlet for all kinds of different people. Most shows do not have average looking people, gays or lesbians, or individuals with disabilities. And now a trans* character has also been introduced to the mix.