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Creating a Trans TV Show? Here Are 4 Rules to Follow

Creating a Trans TV Show? Here Are 4 Rules to Follow


Transparent creator Jill Soloway gives advice to Hollywood on creating projects that humanize rather than sensationalize transgender characters.

After what has been dubbed the "transgender tipping point" in 2014 by Time magazine, Hollywood has experienced a surge of interest in LGBT issues, green-lighting and casting a number of projects that incorporate trans issues and characters.

Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon's Transparent, has been at the forefront of this movement. In addition to winning accolades at the Golden Globes, her show, based on her own transgender parent who came out late in life, has been lauded for the informed way it portrays trans people with dignity and humanity.

But not every upcoming show is guaranteed to treat its characters in the same manner. At a recent "Hitmakers" luncheon for the Hollywood Radio and Television Society, Soloway expressed enthusiasm for the number of projects that America will soon be watching -- "The more, the better," she says -- but also offered some guidelines for showrunners to avoid negative media portrayals that may be detrimental to the LGBT rights movement.

1. Hire trans people. "Have trans people behind the scenes at the early stages. Trans creators are really important [as well as] trans producers, trans consultants, so that they can really give the feedback of how the product will resonate within the trans community. It's important not only to hire those people, but also to listen to what they tell you about ... what works, what doesn't work."

2. Humanize, don't sensationalize. "Focus on trans people as people, as opposed to the spectacle of the 'before and after.' People are really into the sensational aspects of trans-ness, and in particular, a lot of people will focus on the gender the person doesn't identify as anymore. People like to talk about the past. Trans-ness is about the future. Trans-ness is about looking forward."

3. Be an ally to the transgender community. "Be an ally. And the most important thing about being an ally is to listen."

4. Educate yourself and your team. "There's a book called Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. And she 100 percent illuminated the connection between transmisogyny and transphobia -- and transmisogyny as this very particular way that society makes it really, really hard for trans women. Anybody who's interested in getting an entry-level, have-your-mind-blown [experience], it would be: Read Whipping Girl. I bought like 300 copies and gave them to everyone on the crew. That book has really informed the way I see the world."

Any other tips for Hollywood? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

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