Just for a moment, forget the fact that this blog is being written by a male-to-female crossdresser. Go on, briefly wipe from your memory any indications that I’m an everyday male; cover up those references on your computer screen if you must.
Okay, now that you’ve done that, go back and look at my photos, either the above header or my Flickr feed. Now, then, ask yourself this: Am I female? Well, since I am wearing clothing and hair and makeup that’s associated with being feminine, your usual answer when you saw me would be “yes.” But would your answer change if I restored to your mind the fact that I was born male? Or that I live my everyday life as a male? Or that, being a crossdresser, I consider myself part of the broad transgender community? And having reminded you of that, would your respect of me as a person change in any way?
Well, I sincerely hope that your seeing my visage first and then learning I’m a crossdresser would not lead you to lumping me in any perverse category of human being. Yes, I am indeed as human as you and have everyday issues and concerns similar to you. Thinks like, say, considering buying a new car, needing to have my old car fixed, or earning a living so that I can buy a new car or fix my old one. (Don’t worry, this post won’t be about buying a car. Well, not this post anyway.)
What I next want you to do is look at this screenshot, posted at this link, from the NBC series Blindspot. Or better yet, look at the one-minute clip from the show embedded at that very same link (my apologies that WordPress won’t let me embed it here).
The character is CIA agent Sabrina Larren. Unless you’re an avid and regular viewer of Blindspot, you may not know everything about Agent Larren, and even if you are you still may not since Larren is a relatively minor character. (I must apologize that I’m not in that “avid viewer” category.) Perhaps, though, you’ve heard of the actor playing Agent Larren. Jen Richards has been quite prolific as a writer, producer, and, yes, actor; she wrote and produced the web series Her Story and has a regular role in an upcoming HBO series, Mrs. Fletcher, occupying a spot in her likely busy calendar.
Oh, and I must note that Jen Richards is transgender. She has also been vocally standing up for positive representation of trans characters, and for calling out Hollywood, on more than a few occasions, for its collective practice of casting cis-gender actors in trans roles. Jen was writer of and made an appearance in a 2017 video, which was featured in this blog post from yours truly, encouraging Hollywood to cast and foster trans talent.
Having said all that, when you saw that footage of Jen Richards in Blindspot, did the fact that she is transgender affect your thinking in any way? Personally speaking, when I heard she was appearing on the show, I thought, “Cool beans! Trans talent on a mainstream network TV show! Even in a brief guest role, that’s always good to see!”
When I saw that Blindspot episode, another thing occurred to me, one that was more germane to the show’s content: “Wowzer, Agent Larren sure means business! She wants that CIA asset tout suite!” In other words, while Jen Richards may be transgender, not once while watching that clip did I stop to consider whether her character, Agent Larren, was trans as well. Sure, Agent Larren may possibly be trans, but they’re only an agent that’s trying to do their job and aren’t afraid to call someone out when doing so.
But thoughts of Agent Larren’s presumed gender identity didn’t stop the website Gay Star News from wanting to put two and one together. When reporting on Richards’ Blindspot role, the site initially assumed that Agent Larren was cisgender. Oh, really? The site would later backtrack on their report. Well, somewhat backtrack:
“Larren’s gender identity is not mentioned, which likely means she is cisgender. This is due to cisnormativity, especially in Hollywood, which implies that if a character is not explicitly denoted as trans, they are cis.”
That quote was in their article’s second paragraph. Down at the bottom, would add this editor’s note:
“A previous version of this article said the character of Larren was cisgender. This was not accurate, and the article has been updated to reflect this.”
Making such an assumption, while all so easy or tempting to do (especially with Hollywood’s track record on trans talent), isn’t always the best thing to do. I say this because it’s possible that Blindspot‘s creative team didn’t put gender identity, at least initially, into Agent Larren’s entry of the show’s “story bible.” That’s the term for the reference file that puts into figurative cement every thing, large or small, significant or seemingly passing, about the show’s world and the characters who inhabit it. Think of it as a rule book that those who work on the show must adhere to when it comes to bringing the tale to the screen.
While it’s likely that the Blindspot story bible, presuming they do have one, has pages upon pages of the lead characters’ backgrounds and on-screen actions, who knows how big that bible’s file on someone such as CIA Agent Larren may be? It’s possible that it could include info on Agent Larren’s work history, their spot in the chain of command, or even where they grew up or went to school. And, yes, perhaps even something such as their gender identity.
And how big may that “gender identity” entry be in Agent Larren’s portion of the story bible? Who knows? For all the layperson may know, it could be just a small one- or two-word entry. Quite possibly, too, it may still be blank, and that the Blindspot producers put their gender blinders on in terms of conceiving the role. Perhaps with Jen Richards in the role, they have or will make some note about Larren’s gender identity, even a fleeting one.
But if that “gender identity” entry is small and only mentions “trans female” in passing, that can be considered a good thing. Circling back to my initial point, trans people of all types, crossdresser or otherwise, are just as human as the cisgender world. That includes earning a living, serving our country, and being the best that we can be. That someone like Agent Larren is allowed to do that, regardless of whether their identity is cisgender or trans, is what should matter.
Still, though, this is awesome news on so many fronts: Trans talent is getting the chance to shine in the mainstream. They’re being shown in a positive light (i.e. they’re on the side of the good guys). They’re in a prominent platform (network television) that allows them to positively influence other trans people. And at the same time, they’re in a role that may not hinge on their gender identity. Kudos to Blindspot for letting Jen Richards and her talents shine.