CW Developing Transgender Teen Drama, Will Hopefully Cast Actual Trans* Actor

Today, the CW is a station mainly known for fierce reality competitions, angsty vampires and overly dramatic demon-hunting brothers. That could soon change as they’re adding a completely different type of show to that lineup. The channel is currently developing a new hour-long drama focused on the life about a transgender teen growing up in Texas. This show would be the first mainstream TV show to be centered around a transgender character.

The show will be executive produced by Michael London, the producer of such movies as Thirteen, Milk and Sideways and will be written by Obie award winning playwright Kyle Jarrow. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show will be called ZE.

Written by playwright-musician Kyle Jarrow, ZE revolves around a Texas teenager who announces that she is transgendered and will be living life as a boy. As his dysfunctional family spirals into identity crises of their own, he discovers that despite his appearance, he may be the most well-adjusted of them all.

While the initial report does fumble a bit with its terminology (using “transgendered” instead of “transgender” and using “she” to describe a trans man before he comes out), the series does seem to be approaching the issue with care. However, if the show is titled ZE, a pronoun often used for non-binary or gender neutral purposes, one has to wonder if that is the pronoun that the main character will use.

Adam Torres from Degrassi

Adam Torres from Degrassi

Recently, more and more trans* characters have been getting roles on mainstream TV. There are characters like Adam Torres on Degrassi, Alexis Meade from Ugly Betty and Unique from Glee, but none of them have been the main character of a show. This will mark the first primetime television show to have its main character be transgender. Additionally, trans* actresses like Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black and Candis Cayne on Dirty Sexy Money and Elementary have been blazing trails by having trans* characters actually be played by trans* actors and actresses. Hopefully the CW will pick up where they have left off and cast a trans* actor in the lead role and any other roles that are for trans* characters. For the popular network to put a trans* actor in a starring role like this would be a great step in transgender visibility.

The CW does have some experience with trans* people on their shows. Back in 2008, Isis King was a transgender contestant on the eleventh cycle of America’s Next Top Model. She was eliminated in week five, but later returned in America’s Next Top Model: All Stars and has since had a successful career in the modeling and fashion worlds. Another transgender model, Virgg, was featured on the current cycle of the show.

Isis King from ANTM

Isis King from ANTM

With the recent developments in Adam’s storyline on Degrassi and Glee’s rough track record regarding trans* issues, it’s nice to see another show featuring a transgender teen. And this time he’s not just a side character or the focus of one or two episodes; the transgender character is the focus of the show. Hopefully he won’t stand alone as the only trans* character on the show. It would be extremely refreshing to see a trans* character on TV interact with other trans* people like we so often do in real life. With any luck, ZE won’t just lead to more trans* characters on the CW. Other channels should follow the lead that CW is taking with ZE, and look at the success of Orange is the New Black, Glee and Degrassi, and see that having transgender characters shouldn’t be such a rare thing.

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Mey is a lesbian Latina trans woman living in Idaho. Her areas of expertise include comic books, trans issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a tumblr that she uses a lot and a twitter that she only uses occasionally.

Mey has written 160 articles for us.

11 Comments

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    tentatively excited as fuck
    If it turns out that the show’s title does reflect the fact that the main character will be nonbinary instead of male (and I’m thinking it’s possible that the Hollywood Reporter saw a trans CAFAB teen and assumed that meant “dude”), then they will be (to the best of my knowledge) the first nonbinary character who is human and trans instead of an alien/robot/angel/demon/monster/etc. Which would be awesome.

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      I think the asterisk is sort of an umbrella for all the terms trans* can be short for. Like trans man, trans woman, transsexual, transgender, and I think it sometimes even covers non-binary identities like genderqueer. Of course I could be totally wrong, and I apologize if I am.

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      It’s no problem, of course you can ask! By writing it as “trans*” with the asterisk is a way of showing that we’re not just talking about transgender or transsexual people, but about the whole trans* umbrella. It includes transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, agender, two-spirit and other non-binary genders. It’s just a way of being more inclusive. Does that make sense?

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    Writing trans without the asterisk is not incorrect. There are lots of trans people who don’t like the additional character and feel as if it was basically imposed upon trans people by many in the queer community. To be honest, most trans people don’t use it. Trans (or the term ‘transgender’) has always included genderqueer and two-spirit persons. Use it if you wish, ignore it if you don’t but absolutely don’t allow anyone to give you attitude you because you haven’t used it… they usually don’t know what they’re talking about and more often than not aren’t even trans themselves.

    More to the point of this thread, I’m neither looking forward to this project (considering the soap opera trash the CW has doled out in past) and can pretty much guarantee a trans person will not be cast in the main role. I’m very curious what kind of input anyone in the production is actually getting from people in the trans community. Every time you read interviews with cis people in media imaging trans lives, they always have (dubious invisible?) “trans friends” who taught them all about us.

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      As a genderqueer person, that asterisk tells me that a person or organization is at least superficially, abstractly, against binarism. That is vital information, because a lot of people and trans support groups are very binarist, but do not advertize as such. They just assume everyone is. Exposing myself to binarist support groups could cause me a lot of harm, so knowing that I am at least explicitly supported on paper is important.

      Trans without the asterisk does not necessarily include nonbinary people, because to many people, including trans people, our existences are not valid.

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        Okay Shaed, I can certainly accept what you’ve said. While I would hope trans support groups not be stuck in a binary-first way of thinking, unfortunately, a lot of support groups are more about people being entrenched in their own niche and not openly listening and supporting others. I have always assumed the terms transgender and trans included non-binary people but I agree that’s not universal. I’m not sure the asterisk therefore means everyone in the group is cool with all gender identities but if it makes your presence feel safer, then I can see it’s worth a lot. I just want to say that a lot of non-binary people (and non trans people in the queer community) talk a lot about smashing the gender binary (or refusing to accept that all trans people aren’t third gender or ‘gender rebels’) and as a trans person who isn’t non-binary, that doesn’t seem especially welcoming either.

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    Crossing fingers the writers did their research.

    I seriously doubt they’ll cast a trans actor, as the character is a teenager, so they’d want someone pre-transition. :\

    But I’m staying cautiously optimistic about this whole thing!

    (And I love me some overly dramatic demon-hunting brothers)

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