GLAAD Report: Still No Transgender Characters in Major Hollywood Movies

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 16, 2021
Originally published on July 16, 2021

Billy Porter as Pray Tell, left, and Mj Rodriguez as Blanca in a scene from "Pose."
Billy Porter as Pray Tell, left, and Mj Rodriguez as Blanca in a scene from "Pose."  (Source:Eric Liebowitz/FX via AP)

"Pose" star Mj Rodriguez made history this week as the first transgender actor to be nominated for an Emmy Award in a lead acting category. However, the same report found that the film industry still has much work to do when it comes to transgender representation.

A new report from GLAAD found that there have been zero transgender characters represented in major Hollywood movies in the last four years, reported Entertainment Weekly.

Published as GLAAD's 2020 Studio Responsibility Index, the organization prefaced the report by acknowledging COVID-19's impact on movie production and TV. However, out of 400 films since 2017 GLAAD estimates there have been zero trans characters of note.

"The last time a transgender character was included in a major studio film — Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount, etc. — it was an 'offensive caricature,' as GLAAD dubbed it: Benedict Cumberbatch's All in 2016's Zoolander 2," EW reports. Positive examples of transgender representation, such as Daniela Vega's performance in the Oscar-winning "A Fantastic Woman" were released through specialty indie distributors and were not included in GLAAD's reporting.

"GLAAD further stipulated that there were a 'handful of major releases' that featured trans and non-binary actors in recent years, but they did not count those in their tally 'unless their story was made clear on screen,'" reports EW. "A good example of this is trans actress Trace Lysette, who appeared in 2019's 'Hustlers,' though her character wasn't identifiably trans."

In a statement released with the report, GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said the time is now for a Hollywood transformation as COVID brings about a transition. "This transformation represents a great opportunity to swiftly accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ stories, break new ground, and invest in queer and trans talent and stories in an unprecedented way," said Ellis. "Hollywood and the business of storytelling must be more nimble, more creative, more open than ever before."

"Respondents who had been exposed to LGBTQ images in media within the past three months reported far higher percentages of increased acceptance of LGBTQ people in recent years compared to those who had not seen an LGBTQ image in media in the past three months," EW writes of GLAAD's report.

When it comes to areas of improvement, GLAAD found that 10 out of 44 movie titles from major studios included LGBTQ characters, including "Birds of Prey," "The New Mutants," "Like a Boss" and "Valley Girl."

"That encompasses 20 total characters, and that includes eight (40 percent) characters of color," reports EW. "They further found a decrease in bisexuality characters, an increase in lesbian characters, and zero characters living with HIV or disabilities."

Read the complete 2020 Studio Responsibility Index on GLAAD's website and leave a comment below.