The CBS drama CSI once featured a transgender serial killer who murdered his own mother. Fox’s The Cleveland Show showed a man vomiting for a lengthy period of time after discovering he had slept with a transgender person. FX’s Nip/Tick had an entire season of a psychopathic trans woman depicted as a baby-stealing sexual predator who sleeps with her own son.
It’s examples like these that illustrate why US television has done such a poor job overall in its portrayals of transgender characters in the past decade, according to a study released Tuesday (20 November) by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
GLAAD went through 10 years of episodes of transgender-inclusive television episodes (102 in all) and found that more than half (54 percent) were negative representations of transgender people.
In addition, 35 percent were categorized at ranging from ‘problematic’ to ‘good’ while only 12 percent were considered groundbreaking, fair and accurate.
‘Media has a history of telling the world a story that transgender people are always victims or villains, instead of true depictions that show the transgender community as citizens worthy of equality and respect,’ says GLAAD President Herndon Graddick.
The shows of the US broadcast networks and seven cable networks were reviewed in the study which also found that transgender characters were cast in a victim’ role at least 40 percent of the time and were cast as killers or villains in at least 21 percent of the episodes.
In addition, the most common profession transgender characters were depicted as having was that of sex workers, which a fifth of all characters were depicted as (20 percent).
Anti-transgender slurs, language and dialogue was also present in at least 61 percent of the episodes.
‘We hope television networks will think about what they can do to combat ignorance by improving their depictions of trans people,’ adds Graddick who hopes the portrayals will ‘become as diverse, nuanced, and inspiring as the community those images reflect.’
The study was released on Transgender Day of Remembrance which is held on 20 November each year to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of anti-transgender violence.