A Tale of Two Trans Characters: Glee’s Trans Representation Problem

Last night’s episode of Glee introduced a storyline about a trans character into the final season of the show. Like a lot of people, you might think Glee already has a trans character. So that’s cool, now they’ll have two, right? That’s great! What other show on basic cable is that progressive? This probably also has you thinking Glee is doing some really great things for trans representation on TV. Well, it’s not that simple, and sadly, it’s not that positive.

If you’re surprised to learn the show is still on the air at all (which is totally understandable), here’s what you missed on Glee: It all started when they introduced a character named Unique in season three. At first, she only appeared in a small role, but over the next two seasons, she became one of the main members of the New Directions glee club. Early on in her appearances, she seemed unsure of her gender, but by the end of her run, she was clearly identifying as a trans girl.

Unfortunately, the show treated her like garbage. Nearly every character made transmisogynistic jokes at her expense. When she wasn’t allowed to use the girl’s bathroom, Mr. Shue swept in like a hero and gave her permission to use the staff bathroom. Just what every trans girl wants, having to use a special bathroom instead of the one for “normal” girls! She even had a storyline where she Catfished one of her male friends (because all trans women lie about who they are and try to trick people into dating them)!


Anyway, at the beginning of this, the final season of Glee, we learn that Sue Sylvester (who has always been mean but is still supposed to be a character we love) lets us know that she shipped off all the glee kids to other schools, so she no longer has to deal with the losers and “transvestites” in the club. So, the only trans woman character on broadcast TV doesn’t exist any more. In this week’s episode, we learn that Coach Beiste is a trans man and will start transitioning. So now we no longer have a trans girl of color; instead, the trans representation the show gives us is in the form of a white trans man. The way Sam, the assistant football coach, and Sue, the principal, react to his coming out is better than the way Unique was treated, but still very strange. They seem to have forgotten that Unique existed and that they had ever met a trans person in real life.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is wildly out of character for Coach Beiste. In his previous storylines, the main drive of his character seemed to be that even though he was not very traditionally feminine and even though he was tough and liked sports and didn’t act very “ladylike,” he still desperately wanted to be seen as and treated like a woman, because he seemed to strongly identify as such. The point of the character was “Hey, women can be traditionally masculine and still be women.” I’m not saying that trans people can’t change or be confused or be deeply closeted, but when he says in last night’s episode that he’s always felt this way, the writers are pretty much throwing all of his previous character development out of the window.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy

Photo by Jamie McCarthy

It could be argued that it’s about time trans men got some representation. I mean, come on, we’ve got Laverne Cox! We’ve got Janet Mock and CeCe McDonald! We’ve got Laura Jane Grace! Hey, even Transparent took home a couple of Golden Globes! Doesn’t that mean we should start evening things out between trans men and trans women? The answer to that is a big, loud, very assured “No.”

I’m not saying trans men or white trans people shouldn’t get any representation, but come on, until 2013, the two most famous trans people in America were Chaz Bono and Brandon Teena, two white men. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think we need more male characters on TV, and that’s exactly what adding trans men characters is doing. So when we have trans women characters, lets hold on to them for dear life (just like we should do with real life trans women). This might be where you interject and say that Brandon Teena was famous for being murdered, and while that is tragically true, why was he more famous than the dozens and dozens of trans women of color who are murdered every year? Where are the Oscar-winning movies about Angie Zapata, Nireah Johnson and Rita Hester? So I’m not upset that trans women, and specifically black trans women, are having a brief moment in the spotlight right now.

Also, when we look at who is getting stomped to the ground, we’ll find that it’s trans women and femmes of color. Yes, trans men and white trans people face discrimination and violence, but not in the same way that trans women of color do. Almost every person listed on the Trans Day of Remembrance website is a trans woman, and almost all of them are trans women of color. Trans women of color are the ones who, like Monica Jones, get arrested for walking down the street, or like CeCe McDonald get arrested for walking down the street and defending themselves against transmisogynistic, racist and violent attackers.


So Glee, no, you don’t get any brownie points from me for introducing this trans storyline in your final season. You had one and you messed it up terribly. You had Unique, a black trans girl who also happened to be one of the best singers on the show, but you treated her like trash. She was constantly the butt of jokes and bullying. Every time she had a storyline of her own, it just reinforced the idea that the characters within the show, and the show itself, didn’t see her as a “real” woman. You treated trans women as a punchline, or as deceptive and predatory. And now she’s gone; you made her completely disappear. Disrespected, othered and treated like garbage when she was around, and then suddenly and unceremoniously erased from existence. If that isn’t the perfect microcosm for how society treats trans women of color, I don’t know what is.

Trans representation is important, and we definitely need more of it, but despite what Glee thinks, not all trans representation is created equal. We need diverse representation. We need trans women, trans men and non-binary trans people. We need trans people of color, we need queer trans people, we need fat trans people, we need trans people with disabilities, we need young and old trans people. Basically, we need dozens more trans characters. What we don’t need, though, is for the only show that has a regular trans character on TV (streaming doesn’t count) to erase their trans woman of color character and replace her with a white trans man. You cannot treat your trans woman of color character like trash and then continue to pretend your show is an example of positive representation for trans people. You just can’t.

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Mey Rude is a fat, trans, Latina lesbian living in LA. She's a writer, journalist, and a trans consultant and sensitivity reader. You can follow her on twitter, or go to her website if you want to hire her.

Mey has written 572 articles for us.


  1. “You cannot treat your trans woman of color character like trash and then continue to pretend your show is an example of positive representation for trans people. You just can’t.”

    Sadly I keep seeing tweets and articles praising the show, so it seems they can get away with it.

    I wish the world wasn’t so quick to rally around white trans men while mocking and ridiculing trans women of color. It shouldn’t surprise me…but it does every time.

  2. It’s infuriating to see how competent and sensitive the writers can be, but only when it involves white male characters. The fact that they can write Sue supporting Bieste after dismissing a STUDENT as a “transvestite” is disgusting.

    This seems too similar to the dichotomy between Kurt’s coming-out story and Santana’s.

  3. Finally, someone with a bit of perspective talking about this. I was so jaded when i heard about this! All i’ve seen is cis white gay men talk about how progressive it is and sighing. I’m unimpressed by this, for exactly the reasons you’ve included, and also because Dot Marie Jones literally cannot be cast without eventually having a trans story.

  4. “Doesn’t that mean we should start evening things out between trans men and trans women? The answer to that is a big, loud, very assured “No.””

    Wow, and this is why Autostraddle disgusts me sometimes.

    • I’m sorry, I’m probably going to get flagged for saying this, but why are you still even here? Every single article that attacks patriarchy or racism or ableism or transphobia you pop in and whine about how much you hate Autostraddle for challenging these ideas. Some days I wonder if you’re just a spam account here to claim #notallmen

      • Really, cause I just commented on racism in the Oscar’s. Simply cause I am consistent in my belief that hating men isn’t the answer to patriarchy doesn’t mean I don’t fight the status quo.

        You don’t know what I do in my real life and that is my problem with mainstream feminism. This idea that if you don’t think EXACTLY the way I do, you must be on the other side of the aisle and you need to get off the bus.

    • I don’t think it should really come as a surprise that a queer women’s website has an article saying that we should have more representation for women before more representation for men.

      • Jessie, i think i’m on your side with this.
        Mey, I agree that the treatment of Unique was generally terrible, but to say that a story line about a trans man is unneccessary on broadcast television because you want the old character back? How do those two things have anything to do with each other?
        Also, when was the last time that a show on broadcast television had a trans man in anything but a guest appearance role? Never, i’m pretty sure.
        So mey, i am with you in a lot of what you say here, but it sounds like you don’t want to see trans men represented on broadcast television. Surely you don’t mean that?

        • I’m not saying I don’t want to see trans men represented, in fact I say “We need diverse representation. We need trans women, trans men and non-binary trans people.”

          • “I really don’t think we need more male characters on TV, and that’s exactly what adding trans men characters is doing.”
            I think you’re missing the fact that male representation on TV is white, cis guys. No men of color, no trans men, no trans men of color. Do I think it makes sense for Beiste to be a trans guy? No, not at all. And I LOVE Dot Marie Jones and I thought she was doing great things for gender non-conforming women by being on the show. But uh, saying that trans guys shouldn’t have representation because cis guys have plenty of representation is kinda dumb. There is truly almost zero trans guys on TV right now, and actually, that’s how it’s always been.

          • The problem isn’t adding a trans man. The problem is taking away the trans woman, and treating the character like crap when she was there. Not to mention that the character was played by a cis man, as I understand it.

            Glee has always been transphobic. Remember when the cast did a “Rocky Horror” production and the word “transsexual” was deleted from the famous song?

        • You got at the heart of what I was trying to say.

          When I think of trans male representation, the only character I can think of is Max from the L Word and I cringe every time I remember Max. Max was portrayed so badly it was offensive. The writers were at times good, letting other characters show their ignorance, because I do know that ignorance is prevalent in the lesbian community, but for the most part I think they were just ignorant, such as the misuse of hormone treatments.

          And it’s not just trans men. How about Asian men, who are still rarely deemed worthy of being on TV, let alone love interest, or black or Hispanic men who rarely rise above being comic relief or a stereotype, unless they have enough money and power to create their own show. Even gay white men have a very narrow way to be, to be accepted.

          So I guess my problem is with the sweeping generalization and use of the word men, as if it includes all men, when it really cis-gendered heterosexual white men.

          The site throws around misandry as if it’s funny. And of course you’re right. Misandry as oppression is not a thing, but it doesn’t stop it from being a prejudice. Prejudice in small communities is problematic.

          It seems the problem with this show, that I don’t watch, full disclosure, is the treatment of Unique and the way she was exited. Also, perhaps the way they chose to introduce the new trans character. Reeks of “Quick! We need more diversity,” than a real storyline. I don’t think the problem is that a trans man is taking up the space that should belong to a trans woman.

        • Degrassi: The Next Generation had a trans guy in the main cast for 4 seasons. Not just broadcast TV, but a show with the same sort of target demographic as Glee.

          • That’s great and would probably have more of an impact and compete more with Glee if it wasn’t an Canadian show.

            Not that I don’t love Degrassi. I haven’t watched the show in a decade of seasons, I’m a little out of the demographic now, but they tend to do things a bit better. Hopefully I don’t have to eat my words on that.

            I think the over arching issue is that you have to search for representation of trans men on TV and that there is so little. One is better than none, but it’s still not much.

    • Seeing that comment in the article, seeing “The answer to that is a big, loud, very assured “No.”” broke my heart. As a trans man, it’s bad enough that I don’t get to see myself in very many corners of media (you should have seen how ecstatic I was when I found out about Krem in Dragon Age: Inquisition), but to be told that I don’t need/deserve it?

      I feel like I’m about to cry.

  5. Slightly embarrassed to admit it, but I watched The Glee Project when it was on tv. I’ll chalk it up to liking to keep tabs on Ryan Murphy. I remember when Alex, who played Unique, first dressed in women’s clothing for a number. Afterwards, Ryan couldn’t contain himself, he was basically salivating at the idea of having some sort of cross dressing character on his show with an amazing voice. I say cross dressing and not trans because I don’t remember Ryan referring to this hypothetical character as trans, and clearly even by the time he added Unique to the show he wasn’t sure if she was trans or what. I remember being skeeved out to see how much Ryan was interested in collecting these kids stories to put on his show. He kept assigning challenges where the kids had to bring to the table their biggest struggles in life and make characters out of it. It was weird, it literally felt like the contestants were being pruned and turned into little glee one-off episodes. They were no longer just talented performers auditioning for a chance to be on glee, they were “the one who overcame bulimia” or “the short guy who is beautiful on the inside”. The contestants who failed to embrace the storyline that had been bestowed upon them by the producers were eliminated pretty quickly. Alex the performer is not trans and even expressed some initial discomfort dressing up as a woman for the Glee Project, but when Ryan got the idea in his head that Alex could play a performer who dresses up as a woman every time they perform, Alex started dressing up for more performances because he knew that was what Ryan wanted. Unfortunately, once Ryan created Unique and got her on the show, he did a horrible job writing for and around her. He seems to be only interested in collecting representations of minorities, not actually creating admirablly written ones.

    I have a big beef with Ryan Murphy and how he has treated the minority characters on his show, especially his lgbt characters. On the plus side, about a year ago while driving down Sunset Blvd I spotted Ryan Murphy walking back to his car. I watched as he pulled a parking ticket off his window and threw a little hissy fit in front of the person he was with. Getting to watch that unfold while sitting at a stoplight was one of the most vindicating experiences I’ve ever had. Cant wait till this goddamn train wreck of a show concludes for good.

    • I also watched that season of the Glee Project and co-sign everything you said here. Alex is an amazing vocal talent and stage personality that got shoehorned into a 2D token character, like all the Glee cast members. That said, I love Unique and wish she were still on the show, as Mey described.

      • As a genderqueer transmasculine individual who works with transgender and gender-expansive youth, I try to keep tabs on any trans representation on television so that I know what my kiddos are seeing and we can discuss what’s out there, how it’s handled, and how we feel about it.

        The second season of The Glee Project featured Tyler Ford, a transman, and Ryan Murphy can be heard several times while interacting with Tyler saying that he [Ryan] knows nothing about transgender people, transgender issues, or much of anything (that last bit may be an exaggeration). This was a full season after Unique had been introduced to the Glee storyline, and years after Ryan had tried defending his right to make transphobic comments (which is nonexistent).

        I too, was very frustrated about the way that Alex was treated, and the way that the Unique character made a really strange transition from a drag character to a transwoman. My main issue being that it is clear that no one working with Glee seems to have any idea what trans people are actually like. Granted, I stopped watching after Unique first self-identified as a drag queen because watching up to that point had been painful enough and that self-identification was enough for me. We need so much more positive trans representation in mainstream media. It would be nice if the people who were writing/producing/performing these characters had any idea what they were doing.

  6. Reminder that the reason Brandon Teena was “famous” was because he was raped and murdered for being trans. I think it’d be nice to have more trans men who are well known who aren’t known for being killed. Just as we need more trans women in the media.

    • Every year, TDOR remembrances are filled with trans women of color who were murdered for being trans. It’s not a coincidence that the murdered trans person who got a movie made about them was a white man.

    • Like I said in the article, “This might be where you interject and say that Brandon Teena was famous for being murdered, and while that is tragically true, why was he more famous than the dozens and dozens of trans women of color who are murdered every year? Where are the Oscar-winning movies about Angie Zapata, Nireah Johnson and Rita Hester?”

      • I agree that there is a serious issue with transmisogyny, but I don’t think we should be against representation for transmen in favor of transwomen. I think we need to work on both, while also discussing the privilege attached to being a transman.

        We don’t need to shut up about one minority if we want to talk about another. We can show transmen in the media while also pushing to show more transwomen and talk about the violence and erasure that happens to transwomen every day.

        • When a trans woman of colour is mistreated terribly, then unceremoniously removed in time to make room for a white trans man’s story, the question is and always is: “Why did she have to go to make room for another man?”

          It shouldn’t be about “one or the other” but when the media is the one responsible for that kind of in-fighting, we have a right to call bullshit.

    • The idea that some people would turn this into the oppression Olympics, when both groups are incredibly marginalized is sad. It reminds me of an Immortal Technique song.

      “Many of us are in the same boat and it’s sinking, while these bougie Mother-Fuckers ride on a luxury liner, and as long as we keep fighting over kicking people out of the little boat we’re all in, we’re gonna miss an opportunity to gain a better standard of living as a whole.”

      All because someone got a movie. Movies have been made about black history, about black poverty and suffering. Laws have been changed. We have a black president! That didn’t stop a cop from choking a black man to death on camera and getting away with it. These little tokens don’t necessarily mean anything.

      • Except not everyone even gets a token.

        Of course, I am not sure why I am trying to have a discussion with someone who uses the phrase “oppression Olympics”.

          • I hate how you recently made fun of other people’s identities with Chickenpantsexual in another thread and then here mock people’s lives with your oppression olympics comment.

          • My intention wasn’t to mock, simply to say that you can call yourself whatever you want, I don’t care, by the way. I picked those words, cause I just don’t take myself that seriously. Though, I don’t know why I’m explaining myself you to you since you clearly jump to whatever predetermined conclusion you want.

            Oppression olympics is about invalidating other based off of them not being oppressed as you, even though they are incredibly oppressed, so if you feel mocked by it you should, because I think people who partake in it are incredibly hurtful, short sided, and selfish.

          • You may claim to not be mocking people, but making up absurd names to make fun of how people describe themselves is cruel.

            You don’t attempt to have a discussion, you just dismiss others out of hand. Calling people’s discussion of their lives and the lack of representation they get in media “oppression olympics” is utterly dismissive. I hope you realize how needlessly mean you are being to people who come to autostraddle to find a place to belong.

    • Actually, the first nationwide coverage of the Brandon Teena story was not about him being trans at all. It referred to him as Teena Brandon, used female pronouns and as a predatory butch woman, not a trans man. It was in a long, detailed 1995 account of the murder published in Playboy Magazine. It was this article which ultimately led to the documentary “The Brandon Teena Story (which first ID’d him as a trans man) which subsequently led to “Boy’s Don’t Cry.” For a decade later, many feminists and lesbian activists got in huge arguments with the trans community about even daring to identify Brandon with male pronouns.

      • Not just for a decade. The “conventional wisdom” among TERFs is still that Brandon Teena was not a trans man, but a confused young lesbian, and should be referred to with female pronouns. Was it Julie Bindel who wrote a notorious article some years ago referring to him as such?

      • Here’s the link to the article. As a warning, I found it pretty difficult to get to. They go into vivid detail about Brandon’s rape and murder, while turning his story and romances into rage-inducing pulp. To give you an example of the type of stance this story is taking, here is a line from one of the opening paragraphs: “Teena Brandon was killed, prosecutors now maintain, by John Lotter and Tom Nissen, jealous friends of a girl she’d been dating. She was killed, essentially, because she was too successful in passing herself off as a man. She underestimated her own attractiveness and the envy it wrought.” Disgusting.


        • to *get through. It’s a hard read, but it’s absolutely and horrifically fascinating to see how Playboy approaches a trans story in 1995

          • It was such a horrible world to be trans…sometimes I forget why I could have hated myself so much back then…then things like that article remind me.

  7. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think we need more male characters on TV, and that’s exactly what adding trans men characters is doing.

    I’m personally not interested in male characters at all, but this doesn’t feel right to me? As women, we’re not obligated to care a whole lot about men’s representation, but “eh, whatever” is different from “marginalized men don’t deserve representation ever because they’re men.” In this specific case, this writing decision was terrible on many, many levels, and in general, men definitely are overrepresented on TV. But representation of marginalized men doesn’t always need to be at odds with representation of women, especially when the majority of TV characters are non-marginalized men. One of the presumed-cis guys could have come out as a trans guy, AND Unique’s story could have been taken seriously. A show can respect trans women and gender-nonconforming women and trans men all at the same time (though maybe not this show, because it’s terrible).

    • You pretty much stated exactly what was itching at my mind when I read this post. I don’t think I have seen a trans man as a regular or recurring television character ever. Saying there are enough men on television, in this particular context, seems to be equating cis male representation with trans male representation.

    • In the article I do say “We need diverse representation. We need trans women, trans men and non-binary trans people.” So I do call for more representation for trans men, just not at the expense of trans women or in the place of trans women, like it was in this case on this show.

      • I do not think you wrote an article saying trans men don’t need representation; rather it’s that there is this awkward paragraph in the middle that sounds like that’s what you’re arguing.

  8. Her character was obnoxious, poorly written and then turned into a punchline – sloppy work by the creators. And I agree with your point about how horribly she was treated in the name of making a joke – that is irresponsible. However, she isn’t the first Glee character or storyline to disappear: Joe and Rory to name a few. Without a doubt they carelessly handled her character, yet the issue with dropping her character doesn’t have to do with her status as a trans character. It has to do with them completely screwing up a character. “Let’s erase and start over.” A weak decision by a weak creative team.

    • The biggest difference is that for every Joe or Rory who disappears, a Ryder, Spencer or Roderick shows up to take his place. There is no shortage of white men on Glee, so you cannot compare their representation when there are no replacements for Unique. Glee removed their only trans woman with no replacements in a reality where Unique’s existence on TV was revolutionary (not that her portrayal was anything groundbreaking).

      • That’s what I meant by Beiste being their idea of a replacement – which yeah, is another white person. I never defended their decision, just pointed out that loose ends is kind of what Glee does and that it didn’t have to do with her being trans, just a shitty character. I by no means think they should act like a character is disposable, especially when that character represents an underrepresented group (or two). I also pointed out that they handled it carelessly and without much thought of what this would look like to the trans community.

  9. What’s disappointing to me is that I thought Beiste was a great example — the only example, really, besides Sue Sylvester and Brienne of Tarth — of a masculine straight woman on television. Representing trans women and representing trans men is important to me. But, also, from the perspective of a feminist wanting more diverse representation of women on television, it’s epically disappointing that Beiste is been ret-conned in this way. It plays into the idea that all masculine women are trans men. At the same time I felt almost relieved that Unique was being written off because she was handled so poorly to begin with, I found myself torn between wanting to root for there being a TWOC on television and cringing at the storylines they gave her (catfishing being the worst). What Monique said upthread about The Glee Project was really, really interesting, and also unsurprising. I just wish Glee would stay away from trans characters altogether. They can’t handle it. I hope somebody else steps forward who can.

    • This is totally how I felt about Max in The L Word. Even as a trans person, it pissed me off that they couldn’t just introduce a masculine-of-center woman without having to wrap her up in essentialist gender dysphoria bullshit. Trans representation and female representation are both really fucking important but when looking at representation I think people forget that quality is way more vital than quantity.

      • Aaaaaand I apparently don’t know how to format a comment properly. This is probably because I insulted Max, God of The Computer Realm.

  10. I remember when the article about what Glee had in store for Bieste this season came out, and feeling like as a cis woman it wasn’t really my place to say I thought ret-conning Bieste to be a trans man was disappointing because we lost a good portrayal of a non-gender-conforming woman on television. (Well, mostly good. It’s still Glee.) Ideally it should be the same project, and accepting trans people should go hand-in-hand with allowing cis people to deviate from gender roles more, but I’ve seen enough derailments of this conversation by TERFs to know it doesn’t always play out that way in real life.

    So reading this article reassured me that I wasn’t the only person having these thoughts. Particularly the parts about how it’s wildly inconsistent with Bieste’s character! That was my first reaction. Bieste’s struggles early on seemed very much about wanting to be seen as a woman AND be able to dress and act in a more masculine manner, and echoed problems I’ve seen a lot of cis women I knew deal with who were masculine-of-center in appearance or interest. And as Riese said, it also promotes a lot of crappy stereotypes about trans men and butch cis women alike. There are other female characters it would’ve made more sense to ret-con into trans men based on their personalities and character arcs, but of course they pick the one who is most masculine in appearance even though it totally conflicts with Bieste’s character arc. I wonder if they’re also going to ret-con Bieste to being attracted to women, and probably exclusively, too.

    (Also, personal bias over this in that I liked seeing a woman who knew a lot about and excelled in coaching football. My mom’s a football fanatic who knows more about the sport than anyone I know, and a lifetime of watching her get mansplained when watching games with less-knowledgeable dudes made Bieste’s portrayal on Glee important to me.)

    • oh yeah with this: “echoed problems I’ve seen a lot of cis women I knew deal with who were masculine-of-center in appearance or interest.”

      I didn’t mean to exclude trans women there, where I’m sure problems about not fitting female stereotypes are even more entrenched. I just got so focused on making that distinction throughout my comment, I didn’t even think about what that implied.

  11. Also (I don’t know how reliable this is) but apparently Coach Bieste is getting a girlfriend? Like wasn’t there a big story about Coach Bieste being a masculine and a lady and liking men? It seems to have come from nowhere and makes no sense to me. Bring back Unique :(

  12. “I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think we need more male characters on TV, and that’s exactly what adding trans men characters is doing.”
    No. Just..no. I agree with most of what you said, but this is horrifying.

  13. Along with what a lot of other people have said, this is just one more instance of Murphy reusing a plotline from one of his old shows. In Popular (1999-2001), there was another middle-aged teacher who came out as trans in the middle of the school year, leading to controversy. Now he’s reusing the plotline, but with a trans man instead of a trans woman. He’s reused at least a dozen plots from Popular in Glee and it’s a bit irksome.

  14. Yes, I do think that Unique was written off the show unfairly and prematurely, like the rest of that season’s newbies. Yes, trans characters should be played by trans actors. I’m not a trans woman, so my opinion matters less on this, but I don’t see her storylines as the show shitting on her. A lot of the other characters are mean and condescending to her, but Unique herself demands respect when Ryder misgenders her, and leads a musical number for her best friend when she thinks a boy is playing her, and she’s clever and sad and slightly odd and fierce.

    I don’t think Glee as a whole deserves as much hate as I always see it get on this website. I mean, of course it has problems, but it tries at a level a lot of other shows don’t. This past episode featured a storyline about respecting an intellectually disabled girl’s right to choose her own sexual/romantic relationships. Glee’s always going to matter a lot to me.

    • “I’m not a trans woman, so my opinion matters less on this, but I don’t see her storylines as the show shitting on her.”

      If trans women are telling you that Unique’s storyline was transmisogynist, then it was.

      • I’d be happy to shut up when people tell me to shut up. But I’ve seen some trans women liking Unique and her stories, and thinking that they are important. So I don’t think it’s a matter of having the right opinion in this case.

        I don’t know what to do. Sorry.

    • ‘Yes, trans characters should be played by trans actors.’

      Excuse me? What are you talking about? Acting is portraying a character, and you don’t have to be what you portray. If that were the case, gay characters only should be played by gay people, disabled characters only played by disabled people, doctors only should be portrayed by doctors, and so on.

      • On the other hand, characters that are people of color really should be played by actors of color. I think that there have been some cis-people who have fairly represented trans characters, but there are some things (medical transition for example) that can really be better portrayed by people who are experiencing it (otherwise we see situations where trans characters leave a show or are killed because the producers have reached the limit of how far a cis actor can go).

        There is also something to be said for making more space for people with marginalized identities to be able to play characters with those identities. Not saying that always has to be the case, or that minorities should be pigeonholed into minority roles, but for how few representations of trans people there are in the media, absolutely trans people should be the ones cast for those roles.

  15. It just feels like such a cop out for me. From watching the episode, they clearly needed Coach Bieste gone so that Sam could take over as Football coach. [Bieste tells him that while he’s going through the process of transitioning he wants Sam to take over full time].
    So clearly RIB needed a reason, plus wanted to pat themselves on the back. It seems like they literally just said, ‘Hey! Dot looks pretty manly. Let’s have her play a trans man!’
    Like others have said, Shannon as always adamant that she was feminine, and comfortable with that, and wanted to be treated as a woman. In real life, obviously people can say one thing and feel another. However this is Glee. Glee already has shocking continuity issues and I’m way too jaded at this point to see it as anything else.

    Besides which the replacement of one trans character with another as if that’s supposed to be groundbreaking is really gross. Unique was treated like crap, and I can’t help but notice that they never allowed her to defend herself, or even explain her identity/pronouns to others, whereas within seconds of having a white trans man everything has been spelled out clearly, and he’s been treated with respect and kindness.

    Glee is the problem with people who think all representation is good representation.

  16. It’s one thing to state and understand that black trans female characters on television/in movies are under represented, but I wouldn’t say that means that we no longer need any more white/transmen characters. We should all be working together to get our transgender brothers and sisters visibility and accurate descriptions. This article angers me. Degrassi had a transman(Adam) on it, though played by a female. That’s the only reason why we knew Adam’s story could not continue. I don’t know about you guys, but if the opportunity popped up to play a transman on a tv show, I would jump at the opportunity because it would mean I wouldn’t have to lose that character after I’ve already developed a bond for the character. This writer needs to realize that it should not matter the colour of a persons skin, trans representation is still representation. TV needs more transmen and transwomen as far as I am concerned. As for Coach Biest(sp?), perhaps they are fine with his transition because they realize the error of their ways and in fact will try to make up for it. This is why I never bothered with watching Glee. Too much drama for my liking.

  17. “Doesn’t that mean we should start evening things out between trans men and trans women? The answer to that is a big, loud, very assured “No.”…

    I’m not saying trans men or white trans people shouldn’t get any representation, but come on, until 2013, the two most famous trans people in America were Chaz Bono and Brandon Teena, two white men. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think we need more male characters on TV, and that’s exactly what adding trans men characters is doing.”

    You actually are saying that trans men or white trans people shouldn’t get more representation. You’re saying that adding trans men characters = adding more men and that we don’t need more male characters on tv.

    A lot of people have touched on this, and no it’s not surprising that a queer women’s website is promoting more representation for women before more representation of men, but when we’re talking about trans representation, the truth of the matter is there isn’t a lot of it, even these days. I agree, we do need to hold on to the characters we have — the trans women of color, white trans women, and any stray trans men that may be in there — but adding trans men does not just add more men to tv.

    To say that adding more men to TV is the same as having trans men is like saying, why bother having more trans women on tv? Lets just have more women. Same thing, after all.

    And it is not the same thing.

    I’m all for promoting more women on tv, and more trans women, and hell, if you want to talk about that to the exclusion of other underrepresented minorities, go for it. It is, after all, a queer women’s website. But when you go and actively say that representing another minority is basically pointless, you’re no better than what you’re trying to fight against.

    • Actually, I literally call for more representation for trans men “We need diverse representation. We need trans women, trans men and non-binary trans people.”

  18. I regret that Glee didn’t treat the original trans character, who was MTF and of color, in a respectful way. But it is a separate issue from the addition of a transman to the show. Specifically, it doesn’t detract from nor replace the original trans character. It is simply the addition of a transman who happens to be white. It makes perfect sense for the show to have this particular character transition to male because they already have a cis-female character who is perceived by the audience to be very masculine in mannerisms and appearance. In doing so, the show’s creators know that the audience already has familiaraty with this character and will buy into the character’s transition empathically.

    Transmen have not been portrayed in a positive light in media over the years. I am a panel speaker and a latino transman who transitioned 27 years ago and I can tell you that most people in my audiences thought that Branden Teena was a “tomboy” and not a transman. Even for those who realze that Brandon Teena was a transman, you, yourself, admitted that he was murdered in the movie, and in real life. That isn’t a positive portrayal nor is it a happy ending. We had a transman character on the “L Word” who was a passive, doormat, for his cis-female lesbian friends and received no respect as a transsexual or as a gay man. Now we have a transman character on “Transparent” who was the victim of a cis-female’s hyper-masculine fantasy and then the show’s writer’s had the transman character clumsily drop a dildo as if to say, “See—not only does he not have a penis but he can’t even handle a fake one!” It was played for laughs by Ian Harve, the transman comic, who I believe, didn’t think it through about how the scene appeared. Most of us transmen were embarrassed and appalled by the portrayal.

    Needless to say, there is a lot of work to be done in film and TV regarding minority characters: transpeople, obese people, mentally ill, little people, etc. Unfortunately TV and film often represents majority culture because majority culture has the majority dollars to pay for production of these features and to buy the products advertised on the commercials that interupt these shows. The same can be said for this year’s oscars—“white gold”. Unfortunately people of color are at a disadvantage because we have less dollars and less power than majority whites.

  19. I would have been fine with it if Glee had any history of treating its characters with respect, dignity, or hell, continuity, but they’re batting 0 for 3 so nope.

    And what happened with Unique was an utter fucking disaster.

    • Exactly. This is why all the articles commending the show on the new character arc…well, they just make my skin crawl. Especially if they lead into their praise by talking about Leelah Alcorn.

  20. @Jessie @cyindigo @K‘idazq’eni @Midgey @Alice @Haley @Parker @Coal @Paul

    A really common argument, which Mey was actually adressing in advance, is that ~greedy awful trans women hog the spotlight at the expense of beleaguered trans men’s visibility!~ The people who believe this argue that clearly the solution is to actively work towards centering and promoting and listening to trans men at all times, while working to silence and smear trans women.

    That’s what Mey was referencing wrt “evening things out”. The problem isn’t trans guy representation, but the common idea that trans women get an “unfair share” of representation, which needs “evening out” by shifting focus from trans women to trans men.

    It’s not her fault that y’all don’t know about this yet decided to attack her about it anyway. (Althoughly most of the trans men coming out of the woodwork probably DO know this and have even argued for it yourselves…)

    Y’all might’ve also noticed Mey mentioning how this is not “good trans representation” and how Glee should not get lauded for it. But nah, why do that when you can paint her entire article as nothing more than saying there shouldn’t be any trans men on TV?

    • Because it is what she said. Saying that by adding transmen to tv, you are just adding more men and they are not needed. That and bringing up Brandon Teena, who was RAPED and MURDERED by supposed friends of hers for being female assigned at birth. I fail to see any note here of Gwen Araujo, who was a transwomen of mexican decent, if memory serves.

      I’m not saying that Glee should get praise for this character development. I’m not going to defend a show that treats trans people in general as the butt of a joke. And I sure as hell will not support the idea that transmen shouldn’t have someone to look up to on tv.

      When Degrassi introduced Adam, they did a good job as far as I am concerned. By them introducing Adam, I finally had a character on TV that I could relate to. Up till then, I was deeply closeted and saw no hope at all for ever being able to be myself.

      When you compare on tv how many trans characters there are, you’ll see there are more trans women. It’s not about getting coverage, it’s about being able to look at something and think “See, maybe there is hope. Things will get better. I can do this, and I can live a meaningful life.”

      I’m not saying that transmen should be the main focus. Nor should trans women. If we want equality, then that’s what we have to do. To follow what the writer has stated, this is just plain old-fashioned feminaziism. I’m an equalist, I have friends who are trans, and my mentor when coming out is in fact a transwoman who I respect greatly. I shared this article with her, and she sees it the way I do. The solution is awareness, not pushing some into the shadows.

      • *his friends (See, this upset about the whole thing that my thoughts are running around between Brendon and Gwen)

      • God, where to start with this trainwreck.

        First off, @Riese – can you ban this mra who literally signed up for this site a day ago to come yell at trans women and call us “feminaz*s?”

        Secondly, just to clarify in case more of his ilk come along, I was not asking for a blatant demonstration of how you are intensely misogynist MRAs.


        When you compare on tv how many trans characters there are, you’ll see there are more trans women. It’s not about getting coverage, it’s about being able to look at something and think “See, maybe there is hope. Things will get better. I can do this, and I can live a meaningful life.”

        … I have literally NEVER felt that way about a trans woman TV character. ~Oh yes, I can have a meaningful life as a murder victim, a source of jokes and disgust, or a serial killer!~ That’s the vast majority of trans woman characters there have ever been on TV.

        And current TV characters? This made me laugh, actually – I had to look it up and I found: Fosters has a trans boy, Orphan Black has a trans man, Glee now has a trans man, Transparent has a couple of trans women (might be inaccurate, I don’t actually watch any of these).

        That’s it as far as I can tell. ~Wow, so many more trans women! You’re totally not a living representation of the thing where people look at a situation with majority male representation, and angrily denounce it as being overrun with women who are crowding out the men!~

        • I am far from misogynistic, just so you know.

          So, the article writer can use Brandon Teena’s name as a public figure but I cannot state Gwen’s?

          I also never said there was good representation of trans characters in today’s media, with the exception of Adam on Degrassi, and even Adam’s character lacked a great deal that could have been beneficial.

          Also, I feel the need to clarify. When I said to have trans people in the media to look up to, I don’t mean the ones who’ve been unfortunate to die at the hands of people who feel such hatred for the trans community.

          What I meant by “When you compare on tv how many trans characters there are, you’ll see there are more trans women. It’s not about getting coverage, it’s about being able to look at something and think “See, maybe there is hope. Things will get better. I can do this, and I can live a meaningful life.”” was more along the lines of we NEED positive role models for the younger generation to see that things can be okay.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transgender_characters_in_film_and_television#Depictions_of_both Feel free to check out this display that even shows the depictions of transgender characters in the media. The mtf list is far longer than ftm.

          That was not the point however than I was making. It is flat out stated that no more men are needed on tv. I’m not saying that I am against women, be they cis or trans, being on television. I’m simply saying that it really would not hurt for there to also be more ftm’s on tv.

          The writer even says it herself. “Doesn’t that mean we should start evening things out between trans men and trans women? The answer to that is a big, loud, very assured “No.” ” If anyone is being sexist, it’s the writer.

  21. I haven’t seen all of the Unique storyline or any of the Bieste one yet, and im not trans so can’t say I know what I’m talking about, but perhaps that was the point, to show how badly Unique was treated, cos that’s what happens (as wrong as it is) though I guess you’d argue it’s showing those reactions as NormAl when they shouldn’t be. I just know there is a depression storyline at the moment on another show i watch, and the reactions to it on the show are so awkward,but that’s exactly how it is. Though I guess most people would miss that point unless they’d been there, so maybe it doesn’t actually help to have it on TV. I mean it would nice if these story lines were wrapped up with everyone realising they are wrong to react the way they have, but life doesn’t work that way either sadly. You’re probably right though, that the story lines are more harm than help. Especially with young people watching, it’s maybe not setting a hopeful example for trans people and a bad example for those who treat them badly. So even if he writers were trying to make the point I’d originally said, maybe it didnt quite work that way.

    • The problem with this article is the same one that is pervasive in the transcommunity. It is ok for MTF to complain about transmen but it isn’t ok for transmen to complain about transwomen as evidenced by my reply being flagged and removed when all I had to say is that there is extreme jealousy from transwomen regarding transmen. Why? Transmen generally begin to physically pass very quickly when we begin transition and our voices deepen. Because we appear so mainstream, many of us drop out of the LGBT community and disappear into the suburbs. We also experience male privilege that we didn’t have as women. Now contrast that with transwomen. Many will never pass and many retain a very deep, masculine voice. They can’t sit in the back of a bar and when they see a friend walk in, yell, “hey, I’m over here.” Because that behavior is not seen as being politely female so they are forced to get up and walk to the front of the bar and inform the person that they have reserved a table in the back. My 27 years of experience being a transman around transwomen tells me from further behavior of theirs that they resent the loss of male privilege. Consider this, along with male privilege comes respect and safety as well and if you are white, you have even more privilege. Frankly, I think that if you are trans, whether transwoman, transman, of color, disabled, elderly, young…who cares…because the fact is that everytime media rights a wrong by creating and then treating a trans character appropriately as they have with Laverne Cox’s character or the character of Maura on Transparent, it is one less suicide in our community…so I am telling transwomen again to back off of transmen and look at the bigger picture.

  22. I’m very disappointed in this article. Yes, trans women of color absolutely need more and better representation, and so do transgender men. I sincerely doubt that when people say “We want to see more positive depictions of trans men in the media,” they’re also saying “therefore we also want LESS positive depictions trans girls in the media.” Erasure is a form of oppression and violence, and trans boys need good representation and role models just like trans girls do.

    When it comes to trans issues, this shouldn’t be men vs. women. We’re a small enough minority that we need to work together the best we can and stop with all the infighting. Yeah, trans men need to step it up when it comes to adequately addressing the problems trans women face, but we’d appreciate it if you didn’t act like throwing trans men under the bus would be good for trans women.

    • Ironic when you consider that the article was all about how poorly Unique was treated and thrown off the show, then, lo and behold, she is back for the “Transition” episode so apparently she wasn’t so disapproved of to begin with. I resent having to mince words in order not to have my comment flagged by a MTF and removed but the fact is that there are many, many transwomen who are jealous of transmen, in general regardless of our color, because so many of us pass very quickly after beginning testosterone and then we disappear into society and no one can tell by looking at us that we were ever female. Most MTFs don’t have that luxery and have to deal with a lifetime of prejudice and discrimination. There is no reason to be jealous of us transmen because of what majority culture is doing to you. Frankly, I feel that this article should have never been published in ths blog because it is blatantly anti-transmen. If a transman attempted to write a similar article that was anti-transwomen, it wouldn’t have been published because it wouldn’t meet the criteria for neo-feminism.

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