Cross Country Checkup

LGBTQ representation on screen blossomed this decade, but greater trans visibility is needed, comedian says

As diversity grew across media over the past decade, several Cross Country Checkup callers shared their thoughts on how LGBTQ representation in particular has blossomed on screen.

Seeing gay and trans people in TV and film 'creates more opportunities for discussion,' says comedian

Cross Country Checkup callers highlighted Orange is the New Black, top left, Modern Family, bottom left, and Rupaul's Drag Race for bringing LGBTQ visibility to the forefront since 2010. (Clockwise from top left: JoJo Whilden/Netflix/AP, Amy Sussman/Getty Images, ABC/The Associated Press)

As diversity grew across media over the past decade, several Cross Country Checkup callers shared their thoughts on how LGBTQ representation in particular has blossomed on screen.

Calling from Winnipeg, Alex Krosney highlighted reality TV competition show Rupaul's Drag Race for bringing drag into the mainstream.

"It started in the fringe of the queer culture and has become not only a central, well-known, full thing within the queer community, but has also gone beyond the boundaries of that," Krosney told Checkup guest host David Common.

Michael Reyes in Toronto picked Netflix series Orange is the New Black as his top TV pick of the decade for its portrayal of women and LGBTQ people of colour.

"I think it's waking people up. I think it's part of a paradigm shift that's happening right now," Reyes said.

Brooke Lynn Hytes was the first Canadian to compete — and win — on Rupaul's Drag Race in 2019. (The Canadian Press/HO-VH1, OutTV)

Comedian and fundraising expert Layne, The Auctionista told Common that in a decade that brought sitcom Modern Family and Drag Race to screens, LGBTQ people have never been better represented.

Here is part of that conversation.

Do you think as boundaries are being pushed that we're also seeing gay or trans people being cast in gay or trans roles or even beyond that? 

I don't know if you're aware, but GLAAD — and if you don't know what GLAAD stands for, they're an American non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBTQ people in the media — and they do a report every year called Where We Are on TV.

They are saying that LGBTQ representation has grown and continues to grow. But I still think that there still is an absence of trans stories, and unfortunately that leads to the ignorance among members of the general public and isolation for those trans folk. 

Thankfully, there's been a backlash against cisgender actors playing these trans characters. For instance, if you think of Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of [transgender woman] Lili [Elbe] in 2015 Oscar contender The Danish Girl — that provoked complaints and I very much doubt that Eddie Redmayne would be cast in The Danish Girl if it were made today. 

So we still need to see more trans folks. When you think of Orange is the New Black, you've got a trans female of colour [actress Laverne Cox] playing and portraying a trans female of colour, so that's great, and we just need to see more of that. 

Laverne Cox received praise for her role as a transgender inmate in Netflix's Orange is the New Black. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Why do you think we've seen such success for queer comedy, particularly over the last few years?

There's been success because representation of the LGBTQ2-plus community in popular culture has increased, which then creates more opportunities for discussion and visual representation not only to the younger generations like Gen Z, but also creating awareness and conversation for us, older generations — the boomers....

That generation really is, arguably, the most challenging to have these frank conversations with. 

But in overall terms, I would say that for myself as an LGBTQ-plus entertainer, I'm able to talk about my life in a way that's much more normative, much more accessible, and that has to do to the fact that we are seeing many, many more queer roles and representation over the past decade or so.

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