In comparison to 20 years ago, there has been a huge rise in the number of role models for gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. There are gay, lesbian, and bisexual actors, musicians, authors, journalists, artists, politicians, athletes, CEOs, and plenty of gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters in movies and TV.
Where are the transgender role models?
Teens tend to look for someone who is “like them” when looking for role models, real or fictional. That can apply to race, ethnicity, sexuality, religious views, gender, and other traits. The struggle to be a transgender teen in our society can eclipse almost all other struggles teens are going through; and they want to see people, or characters, who are both transgender and admirable.
The good news is, there are positive images of transgender people, both real and imaginary, out there. The bad news is, they’re a little harder to find than positive images of other sexual minorities.
Let’s start with the transgender characters in movies, TV, and young adult books. Keep in mind that some of the movies and TV shows have adult content. Please also note that I haven’t seen or read everything listed, but am posting information from an outside source. Make sure you check out the material beforehand and decide whether it’s right for your teen!
Ma Vie En Rose: An excellent, heartwarming French film about a little boy who wants to live as a little girl.
Normal: An HBO miniseries about a married middle-aged man with children, who realizes that he is actually a transgender woman and wants to transition.
Beautiful Boxer : A biopic about a transgender/ third gender biological male who went on to be a famous martial arts fighter and actress in Thailand.
Better Than Chocolate: This is mostly a lesbian love story (and a sweet one at that), but there is a transgender female character who is portrayed affectionately and respectfully.
Tomboy: The story of a 10-year-old biological girl who desires to be a boy. Upon moving to a new town, she begins living as one.
Transamerica: The character, beautifully played by Felicity Huffman, has been pegged by some as being too overloaded with confusion and issues overall. However, she is getting in touch with her past and working towards her goals, which is admirable in anyone.
Glee (Episode 316): I have to admit this is the only present-day TV appearance by a transgender person that I would recommend. I will also admit that I don’t watch much TV. The story behind this episode is neat, though: the actor/ singer, Alex Newell, competed in a reality show to star on an episode of “Glee” and ended up playing Unique, the first transgender character on “Glee”. And Unique sure can sing.
Luna: This is a novel about Liam, an MTF transgender teen, and the process of her coming out to the people she loves.
Parrotfish: This novel portrays Grady, an FTM transgender teen who rapidly transitions, and the reactions she receives from her family and friends.
Next week we’ll talk about real-life role models for transgender teens- including actors, musicians, authors, journalists, artists, politicians, athletes, CEOs. But I’d like to know what TV shows and movies do you think portray transgender people in a positive, or at least realistic, light?