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Transgender Representation in Films and Shows

Cassandra Nguyen | October 6, 2022

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Everyday, people see reflections of themselves on their televisions and movie screens. They identify with the characters they see and often construct their preconceptions on other groups of people based on common media representation as it is most likely the largest and most accessible form of exposure that most people have to different identities. This does, however, lead to sometimes offensive or dangerous misrepresentations of various groups of people. 

Transgender representation in media is often tainted by negative things including harmful stereotypes and casting cis-gendered actors as trans characters. o 


Films and television series often label trans people, especially trans women, as villains. In a study done by GLAAD, 102 catalogued episodes of television since 2012 feature transgender characters, and out of those, 21% feature trans women as villains. In an industry where trans representation is already so stifled, having a significant portion of those characters be villainized sets a dangerous precedent for the overall antagonization of trans people.  A longstanding and disgusting trope of trans people in popular media is them being murderers, sociopaths, or sexual predators - deranged people hurting others due to being psychologically flawed. For many people, the only exposure they will have in their lives to trans people is through films and shows, and if that media say that trans people will act dangerously and violently towards others, this has actual tangible impacts. For instance, in many places, trans women are not allowed to use female bathrooms because people think, with no good reason, that trans women will pose a danger to cis-gendered women in the bathrooms. 


Sometimes, shows will flaunt their transgender representation to seem progressive without actually giving trans people opportunities to represent their identity on-screen. This takes away jobs from trans people, a community that already face discrimination and negative bias in the workforce and hiring processes. When cis men are cast as trans women or cis women are cast as trans men, this relays the message that trans men aren’t “real men” and trans women aren’t “real women,” which not only is a horribly transphobic message to spread to society, but also can directly hurt trans people who are experiencing gender dysphoria and trying to accept their identity while media is telling them that their identity itself is illegitimate. 


Derogatory stereotypes of trans people and casting of cis actors/actresses as trans characters has longstanding impacts on the trans community and the way society perceived them because of how influential and widespread media is. Society should be far past the mindset that any representation is good representation and instead have representation that actually does what it is meant to do: represent.

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