This is the latest is a group of reality shows and TV documentaries starring trans women to come out or be announced lately. First there was former Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova’s show that debuted earlier this year, then it was announced that Against Me!’s lead singer Laura Jane Grace would be getting her own show through AOL, and now this one and the recently announced Trans Teen: The Documentary, produced and hosted by Cox for MTV, that are both coming soon. Hopefully with more trans representation like this, more and more people will start seeing and treating trans women (and all trans people) as the human beings that we are. Hopefully the more they see us on TV and learn about us, the less they’ll feel like they need to ask invasive questions. I’m super happy to be seeing so many trans women getting what seems to be positive representation on TV; now we just need to see the same kind of representation in film and TV, where trans women are still often played by cis men and are still usually only portrayed as sex workers and the victims of violent crimes. I’m excited to watch this show when it eventually airs later this year or early next, and I’m excited to see Carrera moving up in the world like this.
Carmen Carrera, a transgender model and activist, is set to star in a brand new docuseries about a group of young trans women living in Chicago. The series, produced by Tyra Banks, will debut its eight hour-long episode run in late 2014 or early 2015. The show, called TransAmerica, will air on VH1.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, “the series is described as an earnest look at a group of millennial women — who happen to be transgender — living, loving and building their careers. The series will explore how their sexuality impacts their lives.” Now, I’m pretty sure they mean “how their gender impacts their lives,” but hopefully the show will also have a diverse range of sexualities among the women.
Carrera, famously a Jersey Girl, will be moving to Chicago for the series and will also act as a sort of role model for the others/host for the show. Other prominent trans women (like Calpernia Addams in the pilot) will also make appearances. Carrera will be joined in the show by Giselle, who is applying for grad school, preparing for gender confirmation surgery and looking for the perfect man; Natalia, who works for Christian Dior cosmetics and is trying to gain the support of her family; Sidney, a party girl who is trying to juggle having fun and finding out what she wants to do in life; and Victory, a goal-oriented woman with dreams of becoming a doctor.
Initially, I was a little worried that a “docuseries” could end up being somewhat exploitative or over the top. Reality TV is often edited and even scripted in ways to make the people into characters and the moments into Situations. However, the people behind this series do seen to be taking a lot of steps to make sure things are done right.
Executive Producer Tyra Banks already has some experience working with a trans woman on her show America’s Next Top Model. Back in 2008, trans woman and model Isis King was a contestant after being discovered by producers the year before when they were doing a shoot with homeless youth. She has also featured transgender guests on her eponymous talk show. Although they had their missteps,for the most part, her shows treated King and other trans women with respect, and here’s hoping that this show will do an even better job.
As you might also remember, Carrera also has a TV background, first getting into the public spotlight as a contestant on Rupaul’s Drag Race. Since coming out as trans after being on the show, she’s has a successful modeling career, signing with Elite Model Management, walking in a Marco Marco runway show and having a spread in W Magazine. I’m glad that Carrera will be the star of this project. She’s shown in the past that she can be both hilariously funny and extremely well-spoken about trans issues. If you just watch her brilliantly handle the extremely uncomfortable questions she gets from Katie Couric or watch the YouTube video she made after one of her cishet friends told her that she couldn’t go out with her because it was “a straight night at the club,” you’ll see what I mean.
Additionally, Viacom (which owns VH1) already has a history of shows starring trans women on both VH1 and their other networks MTV and LOGO. There’s been I Want to Work for Diddy, which gave Laverne Cox one of her first breaks; Making his Band, which featured trans singer Jaila Simms; TRANSform Me, a makeover show starring three trans women (Cox, Jamie Clayton and Nina Poon); and the LOGO shows RuPaul’s Drag Race (which has featured trans women including Carrera, Sonique and Monica Beverly Hillz) and Transamerican Love Story, a dating show starring the aforementioned Addams. On the other hand, LOGO also recently came under fire from the trans community for transmisogynistic slurs and games used on Drag Race. LOGO eventually did decide to apologize and change the language, but they definitely dragged their feet in doing so.
This show looks like Viacom has learned their lesson. By featuring trans women of color and involving trans women of color in the making of the show, they’re giving me more hope for this show than I thought I would have. Banks said that “TransAmerica is a groundbreaking docuseries that will blow the roof off stereotypes and set the record straight as we experience the lives of these fun, stunning women.” Carrera added, “Being a woman means everything to me. Before my transition I felt trapped, and now I’ve been set free. Carmen has arrived and I can’t wait to share my story.”