7 TV Shows About Trans Women Coming Soon to Your TV

Just a few short years ago there were exactly zero shows on TV that I could watch to see transgender women like me, played by transgender women like me, on a weekly basis. Now, thanks in large part to Laverne Cox’s brilliant breakout Emmy-nominated role in Orange is the New Black, and the success of Jill Soloway’s Golden Globe winning Transparent, it seems like networks are scrambling to jump on the trans bandwagon.

For some reason, trans-based reality shows seem to be much more popular than scripted shows about trans people. Actually, there are lots of obvious reasons. The film and television industry’s reluctance to cast trans actors, especially in starring roles, the very palpable fascination that the public has with real-life trans people (and especially trans women) and the lack of creativity most writers have historically shown for telling stories with trans characters have all probably affected the amount of fictional trans characters we see on TV. Still, things are definitely getting better and according to casting directors, trans actors are in higher demand than they’ve ever been before. It would be nicer to see some more diversity, though. Seeing a teenage trans girl on a scripted show, non-binary trans people, more trans people of color (I personally, as a trans Latina, would love to see some trans Latinas on TV), and trans guys would be wonderful.

We don’t know how long this very welcome trend will last (especially since the scripted shows are just pilots and might not even get picked up), so while we’ve got options, we thought we’d look at the slate of upcoming shows and gauge our excitement for them. To be honest, I’ll probably check out all of these that are on channels that I get because I’m starved for representation and I have almost no willpower when it comes to things like this.


Some of the cast and producers of New Girls on the Block via Variety

Some of the cast and producers of New Girls on the Block via Variety

1. New Girls on the Block

Discovery Life

This show, premiering April 11, is about six trans women who are all friends in Kansas City, Missouri. According to the Discovery Life Channel, “after years struggling with their gender identities, they are finally finding themselves and learning what it means to be the women they always knew that they were.” It will follow their love lives (some came out after getting married, others are exploring the dating world as trans women), how transitioning affects their work lives and their efforts to be seen as human beings as and women.

While the actual trans women that star in this show seem cool and interesting, the way Discovery Life is presenting it makes me more than a little worried. It seems like the show is kind of preoccupied with their transition and the struggles they face because of it, which, if you’ve been reading and watching trans books, documentaries and stories for years (like I have), is getting kind of really old at this point. Even if you haven’t been watching a ton of trans stories, I’m sure it’s getting repetitive. Executive Producer Jay James’ comment that “to be perfectly honest, there’s a natural curiosity to see what transgender people are all about” makes me even more nervous. Mari will have a more in-depth article on this show soon, so keep an eye out for that.
Excitement level: I’d rather meet these people in real life than watch them on TV. 2/5 Sophia Bursets


Jazz and her family via aceshowbiz.com

Jazz and her family via aceshowbiz.com

2. All That Jazz

TLC

Despite only being 14, Jazz Jennings has been in the national spotlight for years as a trans advocate, someone who speaks up for trans kids’ rights and encourages acceptance of transgender children. Now she’s taking the next step and this summer will be starring in a TLC reality show about her and her parents, twin brothers and older sister.

Jazz already has a few years of being in the spotlight and being on camera talking about trans issues and how they relate to her own life, and from what I’ve seen, her family is super supportive, so those are good signs. On the other hand, though, TLC is kind of famous for its exploitative reality TV shows, like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and My 600-lb Life. So, hopefully this won’t turn into one of those.

Excitement Level: If it helps one set of parents learn to accept their trans kid I’ll be happy. 3.5/5 Sophia Bursets


Carly reading a letter to her family via Think Progress

Carly reading a letter to her family via Think Progress

3. Becoming Us

ABC Family

Also coming out this summer, this time from ABC Family, is Becoming Us, which is actually about a cis person, 17-year-old Ben Lehwald, and his parent, Carly, who came out as a trans woman during Ben’s first year of high school and is transitioning. He’s also dating a girl who has a transgender parent. This show seems to be focusing on how Ben, his older sister and the rest of the family process Carly’s transition and transness. ABC Family had previously featured a trans guy character named Cole on the show The Fosters and had a trans actor, Tom Phelan, play the character.

Back when Transparent was first coming out, Mari and I talked about our mixed feelings regarding the show, and one of our issues was that it was re-hashing the tale as old as time: a Well-Off White Trans Woman With Kids who comes out later in life. This seems like it might be basically a reality TV version of that show, but hopefully Carly’s family isn’t full of absolutely horrible people like Maura’s is.

Excitement Level: I’ll just stick to watching Transparent (but will probably watch at least one episode of this). 1.5/5 Sophia Bursets


4. Transcendent

Fuse

There’s not a ton of information about this upcoming series that was just announced today, but it does seem kind of interesting. Fuse already has Big Freedia, which stars the gender non-comforming (but not trans) Queen of Bounce, and this fall they’ll be adding this show which is about “the triumphs and struggles of a group of transgender San Francisco cabaret performers.”

I don’t get Fuse, but I do enjoy the episodes of Big Freedia that I’ve seen. And this show seems to have a different spin on it than all the others, so this show does have my attention.

Excitement Level: If I had Fuse I’d watch it. 4/5 Sophia Bursets


carrera-banks

5. TransAmerica

VH1

There actually hasn’t been any news about this show in a while, so I’m not 100% sure if it’s still coming out, but there was a lot of excitement for it when it was first announced. TransAmerica is going to feature of group of trans women living in Chicago named Giselle, Natalia, Sidney and Victory with transgender model Carmen Carrera acting as a sort of mentor for them and host for the show.

When this show was announced, Carrera was fresh off of flawlessly reacting to Katie Couric’s extremely uncomfortable questions to both her and Laverne Cox, and Tyra Banks has been a reality TV queen ever since the first season of America’s Next Top Model. However, despite getting an eight episode order, and having a pretty detailed description about the show and the trans women who were starring in it, a premiere date still hasn’t been announced. Since then, Carrera has also made more than a few missteps when it comes to policing other trans women’s bodies and lives, so that makes me a little worried about her role in the show. There are a bunch of news stories about this show being announced last May, but nothing since then, so really, the future of this show is up in the air at this point.

Excitement Level: Is it still going to happen? Who knows! 3/5 Sophia Bursets


Cox in her recent appearance on The Mindy Project via Variety

Cox in her recent appearance on The Mindy Project via Variety

6. Doubt

CBS

I was extremely excited when I first heard that Laverne Cox had been cast in this show. Her performance on Orange is the New Black (as well as just her talent as an actress) had earned her a few guest spots on shows like Faking It and The Mindy Project, but this will be her first regular role on another TV show. Created by Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, two long-time Grey’s Anatomy executive producers (which I think is a good sign), Doubt is about a defense lawyer (played by KaDee Strickland) who gets involved with one of her clients (Teddy Sears, who played Zachary Quinto’s boyfriend in the first season of American Horror Story) who may or may not have murdered a 15-year-old girl. Cox plays Cameron Wirth, a “fierce and funny, competitive and compassionate transgender Ivy League-educated attorney. The fact that she’s experienced injustice first hand makes her fight all the harder for her clients.”

Now this is what I’m talking about. Cox’s role seems to be a substantial one, it also seems to not be overly stereotypical and the producers said that they sought a trans actress to play the role from the beginning, so all of that looks really good. Plus, I like the fact that, from the get-go, this is a scripted series that is committing to a trans character who has defined characteristics that have nothing to do with her gender or her transition. And it costars Dreama Walker, from the amazing and canceled-too-soon Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, so it’s got that going for it.

Excitement Level: I can’t wait for the Doubt/Elementary crossover event so that I can see Laverne Cox’s Cameron Wirth and Lucy Liu’s Joan Watson team up. 5/5 Sophia Bursets


7. The Curse of the Fuentes Women

NBC

Are there really two trans women being cast as series regulars in upcoming network pilots? Yes, there are! Transparent‘s Trace Lysette is joining this show about three generations of Latinas who are unlucky in love and in life until a mysterious man emerges from the ocean and comes into their lives. This magical realism drama comes from Silvio Horta, who adapted Ugly Betty for American TV and served as a head writer and executive producer for that show. Lysette plays Gloria, a “brash transgender hostess at Café Fuentes” who “is never shy about voicing her opinions, often to her own detriment.”

No joke, despite how hetero this show sounds, it also sounds like it’s right up my alley. Magic, Latinas, trans women are pretty much my Holy Trinity. Also, Lysette was always completely charming in her limited screen time on Transparent, so I’m excited to see her in a bigger role.

Excitement Level: I know one Bruja Femme who’ll be watching this show (it’s me). 4.5/5 Sophia Bursets


Which of these shows (or another one featuring trans women that I didn’t’ mention) are you most excited for?

Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 574 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. “More than a few missteps” = being routinely super antiblack and racist. Carrera can’t stop/won’t stop using the n-word and spewing shit at black trans women (she said, and I quote, “some trans need to be put down” IN REFERENCE TO A BLACK TRANS WOMAN). Wouldn’t call that all a “misstep” but I guess that’s just me…
    So Carrera, in conjunction with Tyra, who lives for problematic shit (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE ANTM, but goddamn)…it’s not going to be anything less than problematic as fuck.

    • As a trans actress, “Doubt” is one series I wait with baited breath on. Laverne’s talents are incredible but there are many of us very talented trans women who also act and to see our talents being used is so refreshing! Does Laverne need a secretary?

  2. But what about: a spinoff of OitNB featuring Sophia Burset going to the grocery store, chilling with her family, fixing the sink, getting shit done, outdressing everyone, being her flawless self. When are they going to make that show?

  3. Considering Sophia Burset deserves about 0.5 Sophia Bursets, I’m not sure i get the rating system.

    Most of these seem pretty meh to me. While I appreciate Jazz and her lovely family, this is by the network responsible for Honey Boo Boo, another show which ruthlessly exploited a child to make money.

    The Curse of the Fuentes Women role sounds real heee-larious. So, the fact the sassy waitress is trans is going to be key point in for the character’s development? Not a good sign. The bright side is I do think Trace Lysette can make something human out of this no matter how trashy the concept.

    Shows which focus on transition are, IMO, little better than modern ‘freakshows’ — basically putting someone on exhibit for the titillation and morbid curiosity of the audience (not to mention the cis producers controlling the trans narratives). I think trans people have a lot more to offer than that. The “New Girls” title alone makes me sick.

    “Transgender San Francisco cabaret performers” I’m smelling yet another showcase for overexposed publicity addict Cassandra Cass and Asia SF, a trans exploitive restaurant owned by cis gay men. Expect to see lots o’ “tranny talk,” puttin’ on a whole mess of makeup, hamming it up for the camera and gyrating on the runway. This deserves a score of zero. (it’s also to be produced by World of Wonder who do “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.)

    I actually think a show focusing on the child of a trans person is a good idea. As to the white/upper-middle class aspect of it, yes, been done. But having it focus on the son’s relationship with his family, trans parent and how it impacts his life is an important story. Sorry you don’t have kids and can’t seem to appreciate this, but there are a lot of trans people who are parents out there and have long been looking for any kind of these stories to point their kids to.

    Tyra Banks has a long history of exploiting trans people. Sometimes she would make some genuine breakthroughs (like Isis on ANTM) only to trash them up and clearly make them about getting publicity and viewers. She is not a friend to the trans community and has little interest in genuine trans stories.

    • ‘Considering Sophia Burset deserves about 0.5 Sophia Bursets, I’m not sure i get the rating system.’

      haha yes glad there’s someone else thinking that – i couldn’t possibly imagine a more boring, hollow, inexpressive and meaningless storyline than Sophia’s, and in that statement i do include 80s mexican soaps with an amnesia plot twist. I hoped LC will live up to her own promises to actually play a lesbian char the way such are supposed to be played and i would have something to watch with my gf (who’s transsexual&queer and i really wished we could watch something she could relate to)…. but well i also had the foolishness to hope the new Robocop will have plot, immersion and urban cyberpunk feel.

      Also Becoming Us is uber-obviously a ‘safe’, sexuality-free way not to offend feminist ‘progressive’ academia and political interests – and being right there in the same bag with fothermuckery like Transparent and Transamerica, it should only be sold in a boxed set bundled with those so there is only one article to steer clear of, not 3.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only person who is hesitant about the show about Jazz. I mean, she seems like a very intelligent young lady, but she’s still a child and that network is so exploitative, to the point where I wonder sometimes how it’s not considered abuse.

  4. I find myself rooting for actors and actresses that are trans…but cringing at the way they are exploited. I know it is better than cis actors pretending to be trans, but we still have so far to go.

    I wish I had never given up on being a writer…there is a serious need for trans writers to bring some authenticity to the roles. Right now it feels like everything on television is based on stereotypes, and worse, stereotypes that are at least a decade or two out of date.

      • Thank you Abibelle.

        I wrote a novel after college when I was trying to come to terms with my teen years, but by the time I finished it the world had changed so much.

        Maybe I should dig it up or write something new…

  5. I have no interest in trying out any of the first five, they just sound like more exploitative and unoriginal reality shows and I’m totally over trans puns. I’m excited about the two scripted shows though!

    Laverne Cox as a defense attorney with an actual personality! Ahhh! And it sounds like a major role that will actually mean something other than the writers throwing in a trans character for a novelty. ♥

    The Curse of the Fuentes Women does sound really het but also yay magic! I think the fact that Gloria is described as really assertive is a good sign for the way she’ll be represented, I just really hope the “often to her own detriment” thing isn’t overdone.

  6. This is the first time I hear about Doubt but oh my god if they do this right it’s gonna be my new favourite show possibly. I’ve been getting into legal/police dramas lately and I’ve been itching for more. I just marathoned the first six episodes of How to Get Away with Murder and Elementary is absolutely my favourite show on television. Laverne Cox is just the icing on the cake.

  7. Where is my favourite though?!? This list needs some Candis Cayne, she is UNREAL and should most definitely have her own TV show by now!!!
    (I always wondered if Lucy Liu had something to do with her being cast on Elementary because they were in Dirty Sexy Money together and LL seems like the kind of person who’d do that kind of thing)

  8. “to be perfectly honest, there’s a natural curiosity to see what transgender people are all about”

    Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ewww!

    We are all about precisely what we’ve been trying to tell you we’re all about, living our lives in our true genders.

    I agree with what you said about the show about Jazz. I hope it helps someone. She’s done great things already, but I worry about a teenager on reality tv.

    I totally get what you mean about representation. I’ve tried so many shows with anything to do with transgender topics, and unfortunately am often disappointed. I’m sure there will be missteps, but eventually I hope that we’ll move past tokenism. Then tv, like life, will have people who just happen to be trans.

  9. It is kind of a shame that so many of these are ‘reality’. The tendency to put scripted scenes into an unscripted show just confuses me. Why not get real writers, real actors and do this shit properly????

    Okay, getting off my soapbox, I just wanted to shout about Hit&Miss, which although the trans character wasn’t portrayed by a trans actor, was so much more than a programme about all things trans! Give me an assassin and surprise children and living in poverty by Manchester any day. Storylines ftw!

    • I so agree!

      I’m not particularly thrilled with any of the above shows, and there hasn’t been much I’ve cared for in the last couple years either, But…

      “Hit & Miss” really struck chords with me. Mia having a child and dealing with dating and starting a relationship, as well as her maternal feelings and sadness really hit home for me, along with the great storyline and location… I was sad when the show didn’t get a second season.

  10. I’m pretty the channel four/E4 Russell T Davis masterpiece is only about to start airing in the US after, finishing in the UK about a month ago. One of the episodes of Banana focuses solely of a trans character played by trans actress who then cameo in the last episodes of Cucumber by moving in to Henry’s collective. It really should be on the list as her character was just like all the other character it wasn’t over-exaggerated to make a point, it was just an ordinary Transwoman working and ordinary job and accidentally getting a sex tape leaked. Could happen to any woman very Well done, Russell T Davis.

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