While fans eagerly await the July premiere of the docu-series that follows the journey of Caitlyn Jenner, who was formerly known as Bruce Jenner, there are several other shows and films to about the transgender community are waiting in the wings as well.
-- ABC Family is set to debut a new unscripted drama series next Monday entitled “Becoming Us,” based on a teenage boy who is learning to live with his father becoming a woman and is billed as “a generational story of a loving family and circle of friends supporting one another through this unfamiliar situation.”
-- TLC’s “I Am Jazz,” also slated to air in July. It will document transgender teen Jazz Jennings’ experiences starting a new school.
-- Amazon recently launched an online documentary series “This Is Me” about trans and non-conforming gender individuals.
These shows come on the heels of the April release of Discovery Life’s “New Girls on the Block,” about a community of transgender women in Missouri and of course the critically-acclaimed Amazon series “Transparent.”
Additionally, real life transgender actress Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia in “Orange is the New Black,” has scored another role in a new CBS transgender legal drama entitled “Doubt.”
Several upcoming movies also focus on the transgender journey, including the drama “Three Generations” with Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon in which Fanning’s character transitions into a male, and the Eddie Redmayne-starring “The Danish Girl,” centered on Lili Elbe, considered to be the first person to go through genital surgery to change their sex physically. In addition, “Boy Meets Girl,” a love story about a transgender character, was released in April.
The fashion industry too is starting to embrace transgender models after years of criticism regarding its overall lack of diversity. Last week, the world’s leading agency IMG signed its second transgender model, Hari Nef.
But according to one former television and theater producer, who has had experience working with the transgender community, Hollywood can sometimes do more harm than good when it comes to spotlighting individuals within this community.
“It’s an entertainment business; the objective is to entertain not illicit sensitivity and empathy. Anything considered unusual or odd to mainstream America on some level can get twisted into a voyeuristic freak show by Hollywood,” said the producer, who preferred to speak without attribution. “That can be dangerous and do more harm than good, especially when the lights go down and the show is over. It simply becomes exploitation for ratings.”
However, Matthew Breen, editor-in-chief of LGBT publication The Advocate, remains optimistic that the entertainment arena at large is a great platform to educate Americans and bring a wide acceptance to the community when done with sensitivity.
“One simple way to reduce exploitation and sensationalism is to get transgender people involved in making and telling those stories,” he said. “A number of reality TV shows since then have shown different cultures and experiences with compassion and humanity. There's no reason that well-made, thoughtful programming cannot do the same for the real stories of transgender people.”