On bringing more non-binary characters to television
Pose wrapped up its final season this month, leaving behind a legacy for trans portrayal on television, as well as a huge gap to fill for more portrayal of the genre. As we look to the future of television, we need more shows that challenge society’s exploration of gender, especially with non-binary and non-gender-conforming identities. As we see more trans characters and actors appearing on our screens, it is important that we remember that trans identity extends far beyond binary.
A small but growing number of shows clearly identified non-binary / non-gender characters. In Billion, Taylor introduces himself clearly, indicating that their pronouns are they / them. Stevonnie is a combination of Steven Universeit’s Steven and Connie. And Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist‘s Mo identifies as genderfluid, using the pronouns he / him in the first season and also going through she / her and them / thes in the second.
These characters represent so many people in this world who don’t fit into the boxes that society has tried to put them in. But they are also almost drowned by the heteronormativity of their programs and their networks. Overall, the identities of these characters are clearly presented to the audience, making it easier for them to perceive what non-binary, non-gender-conforming identities look like.
However, several other shows with supposedly non-binary or gender-non-conforming characters feature them under the radar, offering no clear explanation of who they are. Certainly, this can certainly have its advantages. But in a world where so many people are quick to judge or misunderstand non-binary, gender-non-conforming people in person, maybe it’s time to put these characters’ identities in the spotlight instead of running away from them. .
For The dragon prince‘s Kazi, a non-binary identity was only suggested by the show Twitter account. As for The right placeis it Janet? The character is played by a cisgender woman, presenting herself in the feminine and using her pronouns. However, she often retorts “I’m not a girl” when called as such by other characters on the show. Its identity as non-binary is by no means official; But fans of the show were quick to point out that the non-binary is a damn good explanation for its portrayal.
In the United States, an unprecedented number of bills are circulating in several states targeting the rights of trans, particularly trans youth. These bills work to prevent them from playing on sports teams or to prevent them from getting vital health care. All of these bills highlight a massive misunderstanding of trans and gender non-conforming identities. Pediatricians across the country have said the bills will harm trans youth, not save them. So what can we do to help people understand the nuances and complexities of gender identity? We can start by putting more trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming people in front of the public, hoping to repeat what we did with gay rights in the 1990s.
In June 1994, gay rights activist Pedro Zamora became the first openly gay, HIV-positive man depicted in pop culture in The real world: San Francisco. He died in November of the same year, but his inclusion in the series drew international attention to the HIV / AIDS crisis and anti-gay stigma. Three years later, Ellen DeGeneres was released on national television, and a year later Will & Grace was the first sitcom on television to portray life as a proud and proud gay man. Not too late, shows like The word I and Queer as folk hit premium cable networks and gave us some of the hottest gay sex scenes ever on TV. All of this as America waged a very familiar legal battle against people in the LGBTQIA + community.
During the 90s, the country tried to fight against people of the LGBTQIA + community. We have seen President Bill Clinton pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and many individual states approve constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in the years since. But as the above shows began to progress, along with grassroots efforts, political activism, and more widespread efforts to educate people about the science behind homosexuality, the views of the nation did the same.
Once again we find ourselves struggling with de-education and lack of understanding; this time with an emphasis on gender identity. It is crucial to ensure that Pose isn’t the last show to grace our screens with a predominantly trans cast, and that the character’s explorations of their identities aren’t relegated to Twitter or fan theory. Including identities on television is one way to familiarize them with millions of people at once.
As a non-binary person myself, just coming to terms with my identity this year, I know how difficult it can be to figure it all out. Not so long ago, I questioned their pronouns, only to use them today. I was able to do that because somewhere along the way I learned the fluidity of the genre and saw characters like Mo and real actors like Alex Newell live their best lives. I envied these people for being able to live their truths. When I saw that they were capable of this, I finally learned: Hey, I can do that too.
Sometimes you have to see to believe, which is why it’s so important for the world to see more trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming identities on TV. When we are in front of you, in all of your favorite media, from TV to music to books, you can’t help but see us. You too may be able to believe that you can live your best life no matter what society tells you to be real.