BBC Calls For Trans* Inclusive Comedy Scripts

Television’s portrayal of trans* characters will 99% of the time send you into fits of semi-incoherent, apoplectic rage. “Give me a freaking drink,” I implore, after watching another shitstorm of an episode of Glee, “so I can throw it in Ryan Murphy’s eyes! Won’t someone please give Unique the fabulous storylines she deserves?!”

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“Stop calling her “he,” you arseholes!” I yelled at my telly on Saturday, as a long-running medical drama presented a young transwoman who was consistently referred to by everyone – even the HOSPITAL STAFF – as being male. And that’s not even starting on the fact that transmen are horribly, hideously under-represented anywhere that’s not Degrassi: The Next Generation (which I have never actually watched) or Boys Don’t Cry. Isn’t it just infuriating?

Luckily, I’m not the only one who thinks this needs changing, and if you live in the UK, then you – yes, YOU, RIGHT THERE, reading this right now, drinking tea from your chipped mug – can help be the change you want to see.

The BBC Writersroom has joined forces with Trans Comedy to launch the Trans Comedy Award, a competition for writers to create a script which actually represents trans* people accurately:

The Trans Comedy Award opens up an opportunity for the transgender community and members of the general public to portray transgender characters and the transgender experience in a fresh affirming manner, without resorting to cliché or stereotype.

We are looking for original comedy sitcoms, comedy dramas or sketch shows featuring transgender characters and/or themes and written for television. An award of up to a maximum of £5000 will be shared between the selected writer(s) in order that they may develop a pilot or taster.

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image via bbc.co.uk

Yup – the BBC is running a nationwide search for new comedy writing talent, which actually talks about what it’s like to be trans* without resorting to those squick-worthy “jokes” about Thai ladyboys. Scripts should be a half-hour pilot episode, and can be sitcoms, comedy-dramas, or even sketch shows with recurring trans* characters.

We’re not looking for issue-led stories. We want to see comedy which comes from the characters and their interactions with friends, family, colleagues etc. So you can touch on the issues of relationships for example but keep it balanced with always comedy in mind.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, then you’d better start writing: the deadline for entries is February 28th. Check out the BBC Writersroom website for more information on rules, FAQs, and how to enter. And if this leads to some trans* friendly shows being (finally) commissioned, then all the better.

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17 Comments

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    Degrassi is one of my favorite shows because of how Adam (the FTM character on the show) is portrayed. 90% of the time he’s just a normal guy in the plot progression of the show. The other 10% of the time he’s on screen the show brings up issues that trans guys face in real life, like chest binding, using public bathrooms, dating, being “one of the guys” and dealing with wanting to get chest reconstruction and get on T when he’s 15 and it sometimes just seems like the whole world is against him.

    Degrassi gets and A++ for keeping it real.

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    Out of morbid curiosity, which medical drama? I’ve actually lost track of the demeaning, misgendering portrayals of trans people on television, though I’m most familiar with police procedurals’ and sitcoms’ horribleness.

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    Very interesting. I wonder if anything will actually come of it. I really hope so. BBC seems to pay lip service (pun intended) to notions of inclusivity, but their actions don’t bear it out much. At least that has been my perception. I don’t live there though so I could be wrong. The way they treated us about Lip Service still stings as well.

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    Trans-men may be horribly under-represented, but that’s because they aren’t being made fun of. Degrassi doesn’t treat the trans-man character like a joke, and Boys Don’t Cry won a freaking oscar. Trans-women may have more representation, but that’s just because we are punching bags. Nothing is funnier than a “man in a dress”, apparently.

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    The main problem i see is ‘accurately represents trans* people’ which basically means ‘write a comedy script, character, who is an actual character with a real personality happens to be trans’ because you really can’t pin down an ‘accurate representation of trans people’ without having the entire cast of about 1500 people at least all be trans with their own stories…

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    Another issue not mentioned is… who’s going to be judging these scripts? What assumptions do they have about the process, about what’s funny about a trans person, what’s potentially offensive? Imagine if you were asking for comedy scripts about Asians (an equally vague category) and the only people judging the quality of those scripts were white. More to the point, are there even any trans persons even employed by the BBC?

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