Chaz Bono’s appearance on Dancing With the Stars last year turned out to be a tremendous step forward in raising awareness of the transgender community, and it highlights the fact that much of the public first learns about transgender people through popular culture. Though those representations have often been very problematic, there are also many films and television shows that deserve recognition for complex and truthful depictions of transgender characters.
These are by no means the only ones, but here are a handful of some of the most memorable characters we at GLAAD have seen over the years that helped change the way audiences viewed the transgender community.
The World According to Garp (1982)
Based on the celebrated novel by John Irving, the film adaptation costarred John Lithgow as transgender former football player Roberta Muldoon, who lives in a home for abused women run by the protagonist’s mother. Roberta is considered by many to be one of the first sympathetic transgender characters in a film made for a mass audience.