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Towards a Queer Futurity: New Trans Television

Ralph J. Poole

Résumé

While gay and lesbian characters have a steady presence in American television series by now, this is not the case with transgender persons. Although there is a significant number of shows with such characters, sometimes even in leading roles, this still is a marginal phenomenon. Casting debates, depictions of sexual violence and transphobic harassment, generational conflicts, non-normative sexuality, and family constellations are amongst the most pronounced issues to be discussed, when asking for a queer futurity that these series possibly envision. Have series such as Transparent, Orange Is the New Black, The L-Word, or Hit & Miss started to exploit such a potential? The paper aims at both an assessment of the status quo of transgender representations in current television series and at evaluating their respective aesthetic and political potential for a re-queering the American nation under the sign of transgenderism.

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1. Why Is Trans So Hot? The Transgender Turn in Television

“We are in the midst of a revolutionary moment.” (Laverne Cox)

1The section “Hot List 2014” of Rolling Stone magazine announced the new television series Transparent as “Hot TV Show” (Glazer and Jacobson). The show’s hotness is based on the ‘real’ feeling provided, the flashback technique, the ingenuity of the scripting and the quality of the acting. Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent, says about the show: “There’s this zeitgeisty moment in the trans community, and this show happened to land in the right place, [it] couldn’t have been made five years ago” (Grow). Transparent is but one, if outstanding example of what has been called a present surge of trans TV: “TV is in the grips of a ‘trans’-formation,” writes Elio Iannacci. I want to pursue this claim to trans hotness and stake out some key issues that have popped up when looking at recent television productions which prominently feature transgender characters.

2While some critics assert the hotness of trans, others are more critical, even talking of a backlash. Does Kay Siebler’s suggestion of 2012, for example, still hold true that we are actually far less comfortable with gender ambiguity than a few years ago? “We want [transgender people] to be either/or: pre-op or post-op, transvestite or transsexual,” says Siebler. “There are few representations in mainstream media of a transgender person who defies these categories…. ‘trans’ means ‘transitioning,’ not moving outside of systems defining sex and gender” (75-76). Siebler asserts that what we see on television are primarily “transgender-on-the-way-to-transsexual identities” (76) rather than characters that mess up the gender/sex binary. And since these are the representations we get, we “internalize” that people must be either/or: “Surgery and hormones are required in order to be a content transqueer and that means being a masculine male or feminine female. Capitulation to the sex/gender/sexuality ideologies is neither transgressive nor queer,” concludes Siebler (76) perhaps polemically, but certainly with great commitment.

  • i It is even more disturbing to see that a 2010 collection of essays such as Janet McCabe’s and Kim A (...)

3Another field of concern is the academic discourse on transgender. Whereas television critics in the mass media have picked up the trend and indeed furthered a discussion on transgender presence in television, television scholars are significantly slower to follow. So far, full-length studies on LGBT television presence have largely ignored the “T”,i neither Larry Gross’ Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America (2001), Suzanna Danuta Walters’ All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America (2001), Stephen Tropiano’s The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV (2002), Ron Becker’s Gay TV and Straight America (2006) nor Samuel A. Chambers’ The Queer Politics of Television (2009) deal with transgender issues (and if so, as in Chambers, only in passing), while Steven Capsuto in his seminal study Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and Television (2000) makes a noteworthy, if symptomatic preliminary remark on his use of terminology that may account for the lack of inclusion in studies such as Gross’ and Walters’:

Except in stock phrases such as ‘lesbian and gay,’ ‘gay’ means both men and women in this book. I use the terms ‘lesbians’ and ‘gay women’ interchangeably. In the later portions of the text, I sometimes use contractions and abbreviations like ‘lesbigay’ (for ‘lesbian, bisexual, and gay’), ‘GLB’ (‘gay, lesbian, and bisexual’), and ‘GLBT’ (‘gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered’). Though a bit colloquial, they reflect the era being discussed, and they make for faster reading than constantly repeating ‘lesbians, gay men, bisexual men and women, and transgendered person’ multiple times on the same page.’ (10)

4While this somewhat flip remark sounds like a fair and above all pragmatic way to organize one’s writerly tactics, it discloses a crucial blind spot: when writing about “gays” this more often than not does lead to writing about gay men exclusively without explicitly stating so, even though it may at times include gay women, which then usually is specified as such. Above all, such seemingly neutral use of terminology mostly ignores bisexuals and it certainly overlooks trans persons, except in the context of drag and cross-dressing. Walters discusses the appearance of drag queens as commodity and marketing strategy suggesting that in “films and in popular culture generally, drag becomes a safe and circuitous way of dealing with gay subjects without having to reckon with the homophobia of heterosexual society” (142), and Gross referring to La Cage aux Folles (1978) similarly contends that such a “film’s popularity with straight audiences can be explained in part by the perennial appeal of men in dresses, whether gay or straight, and the complete absence of any threat to what Christopher Isherwood called the heterosexual dictatorship” (71). Stephen Tropiano mentions transgender characters on television more than the other survey studies, and he is skeptical about the many instances of “how transgender people are too often used for a cheap laugh” (173). Tropiano especially sheds a critical light on law and order dramas where “[t]ransvestites and transsexuals, usually hookers, are either witnesses to or victims of crimes” (88), whereas in medical shows the transsexual characters served as educational tool for the audience by drawing “a generally sympathetic and sensitive portrait of the male-to-female transsexual by focusing on his struggle to get others (including the audience) to understand how he feels like a woman trapped in a man’s body” (27).

5There is another reason for channeling transgender issues primarily into the discourse on cross-dressing, which not only “illustrates a confusion commonplace in the media between transsexuals, hermaphrodites, transvestites and drag-queens” (Phillips 7), but also queer theorists’ reluctance to include certain transgender issues other than cross-dressing, precisely because it brings sex back into the discussion about gender. According to Jay Prosser, “the transgendered subject has typically had center stage over the transsexual: whether s/he is transvestite, drag queen, or butch woman, queer theory’s appropriation has been directed toward the subject who crosses the lines of gender, not those of sex” (Prosser 6, qtd. in Phillips 13). What Posser claims to be queer theory’s blind spot, namely the rejection of the transsexual as a discordant element of the otherwise hailed gender performativity, leads to Judith Butler as the first and perhaps foremost advocate of such performativity. It is, as Phillips points out, above all “the post-op transsexual who disturbs the performativity theory, in that (s)he has undergone a transformation, not merely of gender, but of sex—physical changes that impact permanently on the body” (14).

6Butler indeed has set a certain academic standard in famously choosing drag as illustration of her theory of gender performativity. In her 1991 seminal study Gender Trouble she explains that „[i]n imitating gender, drag implicitly reveals the imitative structure of gender itself—as well as its contingency” (187, original emphasis), but in the new introduction to the 1999 edition she also concedes rhetorically asking: “What about the notion, suggested by Kate Bornstein, that a transsexual cannot be described by the noun of ‘woman’ or ‘man,’ but must be approached through active verbs that attest to the constant transformation which ‘is’ the new identity or, indeed, the ‘in-betweenness’ that puts the being of gendered identity into question?” (xii). Butler’s late and rhetorically clandestine acknowledgment that the transsexual defies conventional sex and gender categories is only proof of Susan Stryker’s assertion that transgender studies are queer theory’s evil twin: “it has the same parentage but willfully disrupts the privileged family narratives that favor sexual identity labels (like gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual) over the gender categories (like man and woman) that enable desire to take shape and find its aim” (“Transgender Studies” 212, see also Heyes). Stryker’s use of the family metaphor is noteworthy, especially when looking into transgender representations in television that play on the family trope in a literal way as is the case in Transparent. Stryker mentions well-known dramas of familial abandonment (such as Frankenstein’s monster) to explain that transsexuals belong to the family of queers. While the field of transgender studies has begun to flourish both in the shadow of queer theory as well as adjacent to disability studies and intersex studies, Stryker—with a quip on Butler—remains disturbed about the fallacy that “transgender” has served as vessel for all gender trouble ensuring the normativity of homo- and heterosexuality:

While queer studies remains the most hospitable place to undertake transgender work, all too often queer remains a code word for ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian,’ and all too often transgender phenomena are misapprehended through a lens that privileges sexual orientation and sexual identity as the primary means of differing from heteronormativity. (“Transgender Studies” 214)

7Even though, as could be seen in the examples above, the fields of queer TV studies and trans studies have not intersected much, “[t]ransgender histories and TV intertwine” according to Quinn Miller (216), who mentions several iconic historical television moments starting with Milton Berle’s drag performances or Mary Martin cast as Peter Pan in a NBC production of 1955 and leading up to shows such as Soap, Bosom Buddies, Ugly Betty, All My Children, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Dirty Sexy Money, America’ Next Top Model, The Glee Project, or Drop Dead Diva. While my own interest lies in scripted shows which feature transgender characters in lead roles, there are a whole host of reality shows with or about transgender persons on television and they have drawn the most media attention. Amongst the reality genres, there are for example bio documentaries such as Showtime’s The Opposite Sex series (2004), Transgenerations (2005), I Am Cait (2015-present), I Am Jazz (2015-present), Becoming Us (2015-present), New Girls on the Block (2015-present), the dating show Transamerican Love Story (2008), and other reality shows such as Brave New Girls (2014, by Jenna Talackova who was the banned transgender contestant for Miss Universe Canada), RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-present) and Laverne Cox’s TRANSform Me (2010). However, many of the trans appearances featuring above all drag queens have adhered to what José B. Capino has called “party[ing] on television” as a way of introducing and showing off gender “outcasts” in unexpected ways (qtd. in Miller 217). And while commercial television relies on “ciscentric market research strategies... television not only reinforces norms but also provides tools for nonconformity that people use to queer and feminist ends” (Miller 217). With this discourse of multiplicity relying on competing and conflicting representations of a wide range of experiences—including those of trans persons—television continues to offer important and helpful means for the transgender community: “gender performance, dysphoria relief, artistic expression, and queer family” (Miller 218).

  • ii See also Anohni, formerly known as Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, who was nominated for Best Or (...)

8A crucial point in current debates about transgender representation in current film and television revolves around whether the featured actors/actresses identify as transgender themselves or not. Recent Academy Awards nominations have been heatedly discussed in this respect since they included a perhaps surprising number of queer-centered films, amongst which were—maybe even more surprising—several films with transgender characters, most notably Dallas Byers Club (2013) and The Danish Girl (2015).ii Looking back a little further, the trans list includes Transamerica (2005), Boys Don’t Cry (1999), The Crying Game (1992), and The World According to Garp (1982). Yet, as Daniel Reynolds points out, “the honors have uniformly gone to the cisgender actors who are cast in these roles. Even in 2016, Eddie Redmayne was nominated for Best Actor for his role as transgender pioneer Lily Elbe in The Danish Girl.

9With regard to television, Lavergne Cox is currently the most visible transgender person not least since TIME Magazine has featured her as “cover girl” in the June 9 issue in 2014 (see also the TIME article by Katy Steinmetz). Besides producing and starring in TRANSform Me, Cox at present is part of the cast—albeit not as one of the lead characters—of Orange Is the New Black, a Netflix TV series created by Jenji Kohan based on Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010) and launched in 2013 with plans to continue for at least seven seasons. The show is set in a women’s federal prison and is well-received for its inclusion of portrayals of women stemming from all kinds of social backgrounds, including Cox from the start as a post-op transwoman, possibly “the first women-in-prison narrative that includes a real transgender woman, a character played by an out trans actress” (Anderson-Minshall). Cox was nominated for various awards such as the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, the Primetime Emmy Awards, and the NAACP Image Awards. In their introduction to the inaugural issue of the journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, the general editors Susan Stryker and Paisley Currah link the popularity of Orange Is the New Black, especially referring to Laverne Cox, as a moment of cultural attention to transgender phenomena to the case of Chelsea Manning, who made the news first as Wikileaks whistle-blower and then by announcing her gender transition while being incarcerated in a US military prison. Due to the high media visibility of this case, the editors claim that it has become impossible to ignore transgender issues for much longer, regardless of one’s opinion on such issues, which in Manning’s case may range from “the relationship of transgender identity to issues of state, to moral and political agency, to visions of social justice, and to strategies of social transformation” (Stryker and Currah 2). Most directly, her case points to the deplorable medical (mis-)treatment of transgender persons in American prisons, a case that the Cox character exemplifies in Orange. More generally, given the many instances of media coverage concerning transgender topics from the transitioning of the Matrix directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski, who have recently excelled in their Netflix sci-fi series Sense8 (2015) that includes a transgender character played by trans actor Jamie Clayton, to daily news reports on global transphobic violence, the vast array of instances call for careful in-depth analysis and yet, taken as a whole these recent affairs can also be characterized as a significant “transgender turn” (Stryker and Currah 3).

10While Cox’s character Sophia has several key appearances from the show’s start, season one’s third episode of Orange stands out in that large parts of this episode, directed by Jodie Foster, deal with inmate Sophia, who works in prison as a hairstylist and provides beauty tips to fellow prisoners, for example on how to create your own shiny flip-flops with duct tape. While I agree that the series is “not the sexploitation women’s prison of flicks” (Anderson-Minshall), the portrait of Sophia offers some moments to reconsider, especially if we want to see such representations as marking a transgender turn. The episode starts with a flashback scene showing the pre-op Sophia at work with the fire-department. While her colleagues change clothes in the locker-room, she seeks refuge in a restroom stall. She undresses to disclose pink lace underwear and the scene ends with a brooding look into the mirror and then blends into yet another scene of Sophia looking into the mirror, this time with long hair and without beard. Clearly, this marks Sophia’s post-op condition, highlighted by a close-up showing her applying make-up and a full-body shot that reveals Sophia’s female breasts which she admires in the mirror. This filmic transitional moment signifies Sophia’s physical transitioning, a technique that is repeated several times in similar back-and-forth movements throughout the episode. Those flashbacks importantly include scenes of coming-out and transitioning which present Sophia’s at times troubled interaction with her mostly supportive wife Crystal, her irritated son, and her disregarding colleagues. One such sequence shows Sophia and Crystal trying on dresses with Crystal saying, “Can’t have my husband walking around looking like a two-dollar hooker.” There are moments of intimacy, even kissing, between the two watched by their vexed son. Nevertheless, Crystal also pleads: “Please keep it.… I’m fine with the rest of it. The hair, the make-up. I’ll teach you all of it. You’ll be a pro. Just please keep your penis.”

11In another set of scenes of the same episode, we are shown disturbing moments of medical maltreatment and sexual harassment within the prison confines. A horny prison guard, who jokes about the female inmates, calls Sophia a “whole different species… a cyborg pussy” and proceeds to offer for Sophia to perform fellatio on him in exchange for favors. He brags to one of his colleagues that this would be an especially good blow-job, since “she used to have a dick, so she knows what it likes.” But the guard is not the only person from the prison’s administration whom a critical light is being shed on. When Sophia gets told that she will not be allowed her hormones anymore for budgetary reasons, the new female supervisor in total disregard of Sophia’s gender identity as the use of pronouns shows remarks: “He can suck it up. She … Jesus.… This is a federal system. If he wanted to keep his girlish figure, he should have stayed out of jail. Why would anyone ever want to give up being a man. It’s like winning the lottery and giving the ticket back.” The Sophia story-line of this episode ends with yet another mirror shot. Sophia takes off her make-up, tears in her eyes, and pulling a hair from her chin with tweezers, suggesting the lack of estrogen is already showing effect. Although this is a melodramatic, even haunting moment, underlining Sophia’s utter victimization within a totalizing system, it is relevant that the show calls for an empathetic response to Sophia’s plight and disavows the supervisor’s blatant transphobia, which tries to insert Sophia’s body into a system of sexual economy reliant on phallic dominance which, according to Jean Baudrillard, is “organized entirely around the fetishization of the phallus as the general equivalent” (qtd. in Phillips 170, see also Serano). Orange’s sexual politics resort to unearthing such “truisms” instead, vouching for diversified and respectful representations of ethnically and queerly marked individuals, communities, and families.

12The show and especially this episode are important to sense the vagaries of the ongoing transgender turn. For Cox it is undoubtedly crucial to have a trans person playing a role such as Sophia’s, not only for the sake of heightened realism (“I would rather see a trans person playing that character than a cisgendered male actor in a wig” [qtd. in Ryan]), but also to prove that such a person can really act. Cox remembers her first acting teacher Susan Batson who told her “it would be my job to bring truth and rawness” to stereotypical, two-dimensional roles (qtd. in Ryan), “[i]n other words,” as Hugh Ryan explains, “to act—something that network executives and casting directors all too often believe trans people are incapable of doing.” Cox believes that most directors think “all she could do was glamour” and “that trans actors can’t or won’t go deep, because… people think that our identities are not real. We are fake women” (qtd. in Ryan). But Cox at the same time is worried that this turn is but a fleeting fad remonstrating that “[t]rans people have been used as the new, cool thing—just as black or gay once was.” Along with the idea of trans people “trending,” she warns, comes the idea that one day “we may be ‘out of fashion’” (qtd. in Iannacci).

2. Thrilling Trans Moments for New Queer Cinematic TV

13‘Transphobia’ (literally, the fear of the subject in transition), the stigmatization of transsexuals as not ‘real men’ and ‘real women,’ turns on this conception of transsexual as constructed in some more literal way than nontranssexuals—the Frankensteins of modern technology’s experiments with sexual difference. (Jay Prosser)

14Laverne Cox’s character Sophia gazing at her naked self in the mirror can be perceived in different ways. We can read this as a crucial moment of self-acknowledgment in the process of transitioning, or we might discern this as a dramaturgically superfluous instance of voyeurism for the sake of titillating the spectator. Yet another way of understanding such mirror moments is to succumb to a moment of identification by taking on the character’s self-identifying perspective of her/himself. Analyzing Boys Don’t Cry, Halberstam makes a claim for such a transgender gaze in “forcing spectators to adopt, if only for a short time, Brandon’s gaze,” which in turn “reveals the ideological content of the male and female gazes and it temporarily disarms the compulsory heterosexuality” (294) of such a film. In the case of Boys, however, adopting the subversive gaze of transman Brandon ultimately fails collapsing into a female or rather lesbian gaze, according to Halberstam’s assessment of the final intimate encounter between Brandon and his girl-friend Lana. By first shifting to an empowered female, i.e. Lana’s, gaze, which still upholds the claim to Brandon’s authentic masculinity, the film eventually divests the transgender character of such legitimacy and disempowers Lana’s initial readiness to accept Brandon’s trans identity through representing their final love scene as a romantically clichéd lesbian coupling. Halberstam points out the problems that arise when the Brandon-Lana relationship shifts from an earlier explicit sex scene, in which Brandon uses a dildo and Lana willingly relinquishes a probing look at Brandon’s naked body, to a more romantically depicted love scene that features the characters as two women. This woman-on-woman scene thus gives up the transgender agenda altogether by fixating Brandon’s gender with the help of Lana’s now inquisitive gaze on his female body. Halberstam calls this shift catastrophic, since this scene takes place after the rape in which Brandon’s body was brutally violated by John and Tom, and Brandon “now interacts with Lana as if he were a woman” (297). Indeed, Brandon in these two scenes gets disrobed and reduced to her naked ‘true’ self as a woman. What in the graphic sex scenes between Brandon and Lana was depicted as a suspension of expected gender roles now becomes stabilized again “by a Hollywood-style dissolve as if to suggest that the couple are now making love as opposed to having sex” (Halberstam 297).

  • iii Dirty Sexy Money has been said to be the first prime time series to cast a transgender person to pl (...)

15Halberstam’s observations are essential in that they question the sustainability of any such transgender gaze for more than just “a short time” and allow for a contrastive transfer to assessing the visual politics of other works, especially when belonging to the romance genre and asking “about the inevitability and dominance of both the male/female and the hetero/homo binary” (294). One such work is Hit & Miss, a British Sky Atlantic television production from 2012, yet whereas Boys “became a critical and commercial hit, propelling issues of transgender identities and homophobic violence into mainstream culture” (Gieni 1), Hit & Miss so far has remained a fairly unknown show. The most obvious link between the two is the casting with Chloë Sevigny as Brandon’s lover Lana in Boys now being cast as the transgender character herself. In Hit & Miss it is Sevigny’s transgender character Mia that is being looked at, variously by herself and others, including her male heterosexual lover Ben. And like in Boys, the transgender character was played by a cisgender actress. As for the choice of casting a cisgender actress as Mia instead of an actual transgender actor, creator Paul Abbott mainly argues for the selling points: “The idea is that selling a series like this that’s going to cost about a million an episode, you need an international name to hang it on.… Chloë Sevigny is so enigmatically perfect for this” (qtd. in Egner). Contrary however to Abbot’s assurance that he did not want to create a stereotypically glamorous drag queen, I would argue that it is precisely Sevigny’s propensity to glamour which—perhaps fatally—makes her character Mia so fascinating that at least in some scenes she adheres to such a standard of glamour. I want to call Mia a “trans fatale” and a highly ambivalent one at that as is the case with most visual representations of femmes fatales. But what makes Mia’s glamorousness different from transgender characters “such as Laverne Cox on I Want to Work for Diddy, Carmelita on Dirty Sexy Money,iii and Isis King on America’s Top Model [who] all fit the ‘chick with a dick, gay Barbie’ stereotype of MTF transqueers” (Siebler 91)?

16Hit & Miss is a generic hybrid, part romance and family drama, and it also connects to the transgender thriller genre, a genre known for its prior trans-ploitation. Abbott admits that he mashed up two separate projects, one about a transsexual mother and the other about a hitman (Hale). Thrillers such as Psycho (1960), Dressed to Kill (1980), and Silence of the Lambs (1991) feature men who, as Phillips explains, dress as women for psychological reasons. In these films as in the thriller genre in general, “[t]he narrative is driven centrally by the quest for knowledge of the killer’s identity” (85). Crucially, the unveiling of the murderer’s identity comes with the second unveiling of his gender. This ultimate comingling of criminal behavior and gender transgression is represented “as perverse or hysterical symptoms of a psychotic condition,” and transgender therefore remains delegated to negative associations with “castration, madness, murder and monstrosity” (85). Phillips importantly points to a consistent critical reading of the thriller as being misogynist, relegating the transgender appearance to the function as “metaphorical vehicle for the demonization of the feminine” (86). In contrast, he suggests that if one wants to read the transgender trope as a metaphor, “it is a metaphor for the psychotic erasure of the self” (86). All in all, such thrillers are concerned with the anxiety of transgender as gender-bending danger.

17Just like in these thrillers, Mia in Hit & Miss conjoins criminal actions with transgender veiling: Mia is a contract killer whose transgender identity is unknown to most. She kills, however, not out of a psychic disorder or for gaining pure profit, but to earn money for her planned sex reassignment surgery, and her secret life is turned upside down when she receives a letter from her dying ex-partner not only telling her that she fathered a by now 11-year-old son, Ryan, she was unaware of, but also that it is her last wish that Mia should take care of all children left behind. In its earnest probing into the psyche of a transitioning person, Hit & Miss stands apart from the older psychotic model of the thriller, the anxiety is one that is plausibly linked to the character’s transgender development and not primarily a vehicle to thrill the audience. Also and importantly, in contrast to Mia’s fictional environment we know from a very early moment that Mia is transgender. Only minutes into the pilot episode of this six-part miniseries we witness a scene of unveiling that—like the mirror scene in Orange discussed earlier—may or may not be said to be gratuitous and in the tradition of prior thrilling transgender unveilings. After a kill, which shows Mia dressed in a gender-neutral jumpsuit outfit, Mia first puts on thll, baBoys

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Notes

i It is even more disturbing to see that a 2010 collection of essays such as Janet McCabe’s and Kim Akass’s on Quality TV does not have a single essay on any GLBTIQ-related topic, although claiming in their introduction that each contributor „aims to make sense of what quality TV means to our present television cultural zeitgeist“ (2). Supposedly, the volume wants to emphasize difference and “deliberately promotes discordant voices” (2), assert the editors, who already in 2006 have edited their first edition of Reading the L Word, which includes a discussion of the character Shane in the context of female masculinity as “soft butch/inbetweener” (Moore and Schilt 160). So are we to believe that omitting a discussion on transgender (or queer, for that matter) television within the context of quality TV is supposed to indicate that there are no GLBTIQ-related quality programs, or is this ‘simply’ a gross oversight?

ii See also Anohni, formerly known as Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, who was nominated for Best Original Song with “Manta Ray,” her collaboration with J. Ralph from the film Racing Extinction. Anohni was the second out transgender performer to be nominated for an Oscar after Angela Morley, a transgender composer, who received two nominations for The Little Prince (1974) and The Slipper and the Rose (1976) (Reynolds).

iii Dirty Sexy Money has been said to be the first prime time series to cast a transgender person to play a transgender character.

iv In this paper, I do not follow Siebler’s and some other transgender scholars’ use of gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze” and “sie” instead of “he” or “she,” or “hir” instead of “his” or “her.” Stryker refers to such practice given the fact “that the English language doesn’t allow us to refer to other individuals without gendering them” (Transgender History 21). I use the gendered pronoun, instead, which the characters at stake have chosen as appropriate to their gender identity and for the rare cases of undecidability I have used the more common variant “s/he.”

v The second proposal, reintroduced in 2009 and again 2011, included gender identity as a protected category besides sexual orientation. In 2013, the proposal passed the Senate but not the House of Representatives.

vi Tales of the City has two sequels, More Tales of the City (1998, here Channel 4 co-produced with Showtime) and Further Tales of the City (2001, produced by Showtime without Cannel 4). The transgender character Anna Madrigal appears in all three installments and is played by Olivia Dukakis in all of them. As a consequence of the PBS-airing fuss, More Tales of the City was not shown on public television, however. Maupin himself was not unhappy about the decision, since “cable allows you the opportunity to tell grown-up stories without restrictions” (qtd. in Gross 193).

vii See also Soloway’s contributions to the series Six Feet Under as well as United States of Tara (Showtime 2009-2011) about a woman with multiple – male and female – personalities.

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Ralph J. Poole, « Towards a Queer Futurity: New Trans Television », European journal of American studies [En ligne], 12-2 | 2017, mis en ligne le 22 novembre 2017, consulté le 16 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/12093 ; DOI : 10.4000/ejas.12093

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