The Trans Characters That Changed TV and Film

During this Transgender Awareness Week, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation looks back at some of the characters who have helped push the boundaries of acceptance in film and television.



Dirty Sexy Money's Candice Cayne (left)  and Ugly Betty's Rebecca Romijn

Ugly Betty and Dirty Sexy Money (2007)
Even after gay men and lesbians became more common on television, for decades transgender people were regulated to sporadic and often problematic appearances. Programs including The Education of Max Bickford and The L Word presented groundbreaking storylines with regular and recurring transgender characters, but things hit a high point in 2007 when two different shows on a broadcast network featured transgender characters in prime time.  On ABC’s Ugly Betty, Alexis Meade went from behind-the-scenes villain to a more complicated role as a ruthless magazine publisher. Around the same time, the network premiered the series Dirty Sexy Money, which featured a recurring transgender character named Carmelita who was portrayed by transgender actress Candis Cayne. It was the first time a mainstream broadcast network had featured transgender characters in such prominent storylines, which were followed by millions of viewers.