Dear Hollywood Writers,
Now that the strike is over and you are back at work writing scripts for either what's left of the television season or in preparation for next fall, I have a request.
Dear Hollywood WritersFollow TransGriot
Dear Hollywood Writers,
While I am deeply appreciative along with the rest of the transgender community for the wonderful job you are doing on Rebecca Romijn's character, Alexis Meade, on Ugly Betty, and that great leap forward in having a transwoman play a transwoman in Dirty Sexy Money, when it comes to transwomen of color, you are still stuck in the demeaning stereotype of having us play prostitutes.
We African-American transpeople are literally under attack by people who hate us. We are struggling mightily within our own communities to dispel negative perceptions and myths about us that are perpetuated in no small part by some of the shows you create.
I was disappointed to find out that Kerry Washington in the upcoming indie movie Life Is Hot In Cracktown was going to be playing a transgender hooker.
The ironic thing is that it didn't start out that way.
Back in 1977, The Jeffersons broadcast an episode entitled "Just A Friend" in which George's old Navy buddy transtioned in the 25 years they hadn't seen each other and became Edith Stokes. The dialogue of Edith's character, played by Veronica Redd, accurately depicted the anguish a transperson goes through and was sensitively and thoughtfully handled.
But that's been the high point of African-American transgender characters on television. Most of the time when we aren't being depicted as hookers, we get killed in the first five minutes of the show or become the butt of jokes. As much as I love Tyra Banks, I didn't like the 2004 All of Us episode where she played Dirk's brother who had transitioned to become Roni. It came off as cartoonish.
The most realistic character so far from an African-American transgender standpoint in this century so far has been Sheryl Lee Ralph's portrayal of Claire on the short-lived Showtime show Barbershop: The Series for six episodes in 2005.
The reality is, dear Hollywood writers, that 90% of African-American transpeople do not earn their living from doing sex work, and we're more than fed up with repeatedly seeing that stereotype of us in movies and shows.
I have transsistah girlfriends who are accountants, IT professionals, supervisors in Fortune 500 companies, even mothers raising children. When are we going to get some balance and see a transsistah in an Alexis Meade type role?
I asked this question on my blog, so it bears repeating in the text of this open letter:
Is it so hard for you, Hollywood writers, to create an African-American transgender character that fits the reality of the 90% of us who don't partake of sex work to make our living? Is it that difficult for you to craft an African-American transgender character that isn't the punchline of a joke or doesn't end up dead in the first five minutes of the show?
If it is, then give me a call. I'll be happy, for a fee, to create a positive African-American transgender character for you.