5 television shows that champion trans and non-binary actors

From Grey's Anatomy to The Umbrella Academy, these five shows respected the identities of their LGBTQ+ cast members.

3 Trans and non-binary actors in popular television shows.
Image: Left to Right: Twitter: @MjRodriguez7, @netflxdiaries, @buddiesimpala

For most of Hollywood’s history, trans roles in film and television have been written by cis writers and performed by cis actors. Unfortunately, this means that trans experiences have largely been misinterpreted and misrepresented on the screen.

Cis actor, Eddie Redmayne, acknowledged that it was a mistake for him to play a trans character in The Danish Girl in 2015, because even with the best of intentions, cis actors are unequipped to embody a trans experience. While there has been more trans representation in film and television in recent years, without trans and non-binary writers creating the scripts, actors risk being placed into roles that feel inauthentic and potentially harmful.

When trans characters are created by trans writers, however, everything changes.

Here are five films and television shows where trans and non-binary actors worked alongside queer creators to tell their stories:

Grey’s Anatomy
E.R. Fightmaster intentionally collaborated with Grey’s Anatomy writers to make sure that different aspects of queerness were represented through their non-binary character. They said, “I knew what energy I wanted to bring to the role to make sure that the queers got their version of McDreamy (McFruity!). At the same time…as much as it’s important for the queer audience to see a romantic lead, it’s also important…to see queer people in STEM, you know, the non-binary doctor…being great and being smart and being intelligent and being capable.”


Our Flag Means Death
During an interview about playing a non-binary pirate in Our Flag Means Death, Vico Ortiz said:

“When I first read the script, I cried… In part, it’s because we had three nonbinary writers in the writers room. So there’s already this space in which this character is being nurtured and taken care of…people already are vouching for this character and their storyline. It felt incredible.” 

Zeke Smith, writer of Wasps! recognises how, too often, Hollywood centres cisgender perspectives. He said, “There was a time not too long ago…where the only people writing television were straight, cisgender, white guys. The reason why stereotypes develop in television is because they’re written by people who do not have a particular experience. In the trans context, people who don’t know trans people intimately probably think [our] lives revolve a lot around bathrooms and saying our pronouns.”

The Umbrella Academy
Series creator, Steve Blackman, rewrote Elliot Page’s character after the actor came out as trans, but Blackman also acknowledged that as a cis man, he was unequipped to do this alone. Blackman said, “…to be honest, I did not know a lot about what it is to be transgender and I didn’t know how to tell that story,” so he elicited the help of Thomas Page McBee, a trans writer, to develop the part.

Pose writer, Janet Mock, shared that, “When girls like us flitted onto my screen, we were seen through the narrowest lens — either as points of trauma, treated as freaks, or mere punchlines. Rarely were we given a chance to be the center of the story, to be the protagonists, the antagonists and the damn villains. And I knew with Pose, I would hold the pen.” Pose stars an incredible cast of trans actors including Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar, Angelica Ross, and MJ Rodriguez who was the first trans woman to win a Golden Globe for Best TV Actress in January 2022.

The only way to create authentic, multi-dimensional trans stories in film and television is to let trans people write them. While there is still a lot of work to be done to improve representation in media, every new television show and film that meets this criteria feels like a victory.

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