A lot of historical moments occurred in 2015, but the progression of trans storytelling on television is one for the history books.
At the beginning of this year, Amazon made history when its freshman series, “Transparent” won at the Golden Globes for Best TV series, Comedy or Musical and Best Actor in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical. Series creator Jill Soloway dedicated the coveted award to those in the trans community,
“This award is dedicated to the memory of Leelah Alcorn and too many trans people who die too young,” she stated.
Alcorn was a transgender teen who committed suicide after her parents refused to accept her transition from male to female. Her suicide note made headlines and described in detail her parent’s forcing her to undergo conversion therapy. Soloway also dedicated her award to her parent whose own transition inspired the series.
“And it’s dedicated to you, my trans parent, my moppa. You’re watching at home right now. I just want to thank you for coming out because in doing so you made a break for freedom, you told your truth, you taught me how to tell my truth and make this show. And maybe we’re going to be able to teach the world something about authenticity and truth and love. To love.”
Jeffrey Tambor, who won the Golden Globe for the series as its lead, also thanked the trans community for their contribution to society. In September, he walked on stage again to accept an Emmy award for his performance on the series as trans matriarch Maura Pfefferman.
“I’d like to dedicate my performance and this award to the transgender community,” Tambor announced. “Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your stories. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for letting us be part of the change.”
An annual report by GLAAD, that was published in October, shows that there are no transgender characters are on prime-time broadcast television and only three recurring transgender characters on cable. The most notable achievements for trans on the small screen have come from streaming services Amazon and Netflix — with the latter supplying Laverne Cox the title of the first trans Emmy nominee for her role in “Orange Is the New Black.”
Broadcast edged towards progress when the CBS soap, “The Bold and the Beautiful,” announced in March that it will reveal a trans backstory by a character played by Kara Mosley — who isn’t transgender. ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” also followed a similar storyline when the series’ antagonist, dubbed “A,” was revealed as a transgender woman.
ABC also supplied the year’s most popular interview: 17 million viewers tuned in to see Diane Sawyer spend the day with then-named Bruce Jenner. E! later documented the Olympian’s transition to Caitlyn Jenner in the docu-series “I Am Cait.”
This moment in pop culture was soon followed by other opportunities for those in the trans community to appear on reality television. TLC’s “I am Jazz” documented 14-year-old trans activist Jazz Jennings and her family and ABC Family followed a family with a father transitioning to a woman on the unscripted series “Becoming Us.”
The year also supplied the first time that an openly trans person wed on television. VH1 aired the nuptials of transgender model Carmen Carrera during the season finale of “Couple’s Therapy With Dr. Jenn.”
As audiences embraced transgender artists of the entertainment industry, Hollywood was quick to jump at the chance to produce more trans-themed projects. Hopefully television will still aim to fill its disparities of trans representation after this historic year is over.