In the popular HBO comedy-drama Hung, which stars Thomas Jane as Ray Drecker, a struggling suburban Detroit high school basketball coach who resorts to male prostitution, there is a new plot element.
According to TV Guide, Drecker will "bed down with a pre-op transgender receptionist named Kyla before contemplating a full same-sex encounter." Kyla is played by transgender actress Jamie Clayton, who previously cohosted VH1's TRANSform Me.
The TV Guide description suggests that transgender identity remains completely misunderstood by the general public:
"Hung's Thomas Jane has long maintained a "no gay sex" mandate for his male prostitute character, Ray Drecker, and "that maxim still stands," he says. But when a rival anything-goes gigolo (The Vampire Diaries' Stephen Amell) hones in on Ray's territory in Hung's third season (premiering on HBO in October), Ray inches closer to the forbidden LGBT zone."
"Gay sex" and "transgender" don't belong together in the same sentence. It might be argued that since the character is "pre-op transgender," the sex will be "gay," but that presumes that genitalia are all that count. And "the LGBT zone" suggests that it's still all one and the same to the great unwashed out there. And it also suggests that there's something way wrong with gay sex.
Still, it's a step up that TV Guide, serving the lowest common denominator of the American public, presumes that people will know what "pre-op transgender" means. And getting to know us is the key to obtaining civil rights legislation that will help protect our community. Perhaps the old maxim is true; any publicity is good publicity.
But, unfortunately, the article gets worse.
Referring to Jamie Clayton, a transgender woman, it says:
"When Thomas first got wind of Ray's new adventures, "the idea of kissing a man was not a comfortable one for him, but he did great," says creator Colette Burson..."
Still, it's all too often that trans female roles are played by non-trans women, so seeing another trans actress on television is thrilling. Jamie Clayton is a particularly interesting person, and seems to have a head on her shoulders. She was profiled a few years ago in the New York Observer, where she disclosed that, in junior high, she won the top awards for math and science. She also disclosed that she visited Dr. Toby Meltzer in 2003, so she is "acting" when playing a "pre-op transgender" character.
She also knows how to work it. She moved to New York from San Diego when she was nineteen to pursue her dream of becoming a makeup artist. In addition to her successful VH1 role, she has worked with some of the most recognizable names in the industry in makeup and advertising.
It is impossible at this point to tell how this series is going to portray Jamie Clayton, and whether it will result in more understanding by the general public of trans identity, or more confusion. Nonetheless, I do feel joy when one of our own makes good, and I'm putting my anxieties aside for the moment to congratulate Ms. Clayton on her new role.
Image source: publicity photo