In PART I, I offered you a shopping list of ways you could better understand and incorporate gender diverse characters into your scripts. In this post, I’ll give you some specific examples of how you might do that without adding a main character of which you have no understanding but think it’s socially expedient to have.
As an example of what I recommend earlier, allow me to elaborate script as an example. A cis-hetero white man I know made a comment at a trans/gender nonconforming training seminar not long ago that he will, or should, add a T/GNC (Trans/Gender Non-Conforming) character.
While I applaud his initiative, it smacks of political and social expedience, not genuine interest. I feel this way because he refuses to ask me questions about my gender diversity. He appears to have no desire to understand gender divergent people or, perhaps, he is afraid to say something wrong. Nobody should fear asking questions to better understand something. But many do.
This isn’t to say he shouldn’t add in a discussion about us, but what he needs to do is talk with someone like me about what we face, just as I reach out to Indigenous persons for the sitcom I’m currently working on, and will speak with a psychiatric nurse, psychologist and psychiatrist about my medical/mental health sitcom.
As for what this writer can do? First, let’s go with a sitcom set in an airport about TSA agents who are lax on smuggling. Our protagonist, however, is not. He’s catching all sorts of items that his co-workers are letting through.
As you all know, we go through scanners now. Scanners offer a unique problem for Trans/GNC people. It’s often referred to by TSA agents as “an anomaly.” Also known as a penis on someone presenting non-male.
Instead of adding a TGNC (Trans/Gender Non-Conforming) character as a main or ensemble cast member, it would be better if the episode addressed the intolerance of TSA personnel, and what they see and say about various people, particularly Trans/GNC people who are AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth).
By this I mean, address “the anomaly” topic itself. This is when a gender divergent person presenting as their authentic self goes through the body scanner and is pulled over for an “anomaly.” As mentioned, that anomaly is their penis.
I know from personal contact with some Trans/GNC people that several AMAB T/GNC people have been pulled aside, frisked and harassed by TSA. Address topics like this. It is a matter of “see something, say something.” Defending our right to exist is the Number 1 thing an ally can do to help us fight discrimination and, often, avoid being murdered. A basic Google search will lead you to some eye-opening revelations. For example, did you know that Indigenous communities recognized multiple gender identities, even holding some up as examples of perfection of the soul (male and female existing in harmony in one person), but missionaries saw only the binary and literally fed TGNC/Two Spirit person to their dogs. That’s not a typo. Christians fed gender diverse people to dogs. Literally.
That is another topic a writer can address: black trans women are especially victimized and murdered. Several states still have the “trans defense” which justifies the murdering of a TGNC person. The protagonist in this example can easily address the inequity of the situation. Introducing a TGNC person in order to illustrate the turmoil and discrimination we face shows you are an ally and sensitive to our existence.
In this or any other story, the protagonist could also address sex workers. Perhaps a sex worker—for example, a BDSM Master/Dom or Mistress/Domme—has a carry-on full of sex toys or whips and cuffs and other tools of their trade through check-in and the other TSA agents make fun of it. The TSA agent protagonist might choose to defend their right to do be a sex worker. If you don’t have BDSM experience, this is also a topic you should research thoroughly. BDSM is more about consent than sex; people, like the author of 50 Shades, misrepresent the lifestyle.
Too often my gender divergent family is misrepresented and misunderstood, relegated to props and characters to ridicule and use as the comedic prop (a man dressed as a woman prancing around, for example). Yet, interestingly, some of people’s favorite characters and people are TGNC.
One final reminder: Don’t confuse gender identity with sexuality.
Sexuality is to whom you are attracted and with whom you have coitus. Gender is your sense of self, who you are and how you display that sense of self. Trans men and women are male and female respectively. Simply because a trans person has the genitalia they were born with doesn’t mean they are gay or bisexual. Many are straight.
Often, gender and sexuality are conflated in real life and in Hollywood. Don’t make that mistake. Don’t’ think a character you write who is T/GNC MUST be gay. Some are. Some aren’t. That’s a decision you need to make. Once you do, you need to ensure you have shown the difference between their gender identity and their sexuality. After all, we can’t assume all cis white men are heterosexual, right? Why assume a T/GNC person is gay?
As you can see on my Script Reader Services page, I am open to script readings. See the list for pricing. I’m happy to assist you in adding LGBTQ characters to your scripts. You can and also DM me on Twitter with questions.