Exploring Gender : Trans Character on Glee
2013 Dinah
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Exploring Gender : Trans Character on Glee


Glee trans character

I have watched Glee since its beginnings. A show with musical performances each episode and Lea Michele from Spring Awakening, the soundtrack which gets played the most on my iTunes, sounded amazing. I got pulled in by the characters, the storylines, and the music. The show has had its ups and downs, but Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, has created an outlet for all kinds of different people. Most shows do not have average looking people, gays or lesbians, or individuals with disabilities. And now a trans* character has also been introduced to the mix.

In "Saturday Night Glee-ver," a competitor from rival Carmel High School’s Vocal Adrenaline approaches Kurt and Mercedes asking for advice. Originally introduced as Wade, the character then reveals an alter ego, Unique, a girl who is much more confident than Wade. The question becomes: should Wade perform as Unique at Regionals? Kurt and Mercedes listen to Wade’s struggle up to the point where it is revealed Unique is a girl, and although they originally pushed for Wade to be confident enough to be Unique, the gender identity change retracts that support. They do not know how to handle the situation. Sue Sylvester then brings Kurt and Mercedes into her office where they talk about Wade’s decision, and Sue decides they should sabotage Vocal Adrenaline by pushing Wade to go on stage as Unique (a sad comment on how being trans* is perceived). Kurt and Mercedes later feel bad about this decision and approach Wade backstage at Regionals to convince Wade to go on stage instead of Unique. Unique performs and wows the audience despite her lack of support and those pushing her to make a different decision.

But how did Glee handle the character and the storyline?

I like the character. She is interesting, and I would like to see more of her. I do not like that she lacked any kind of support, but that is really how life is, making the situation more realistic. Kurt and Mercedes do not know anything about being trans*, and really, there are not many outlets there which would allow them to absorb that information. Kurt’s lack of knowledge about the trans* community was a nice touch because he is a gay character. Being within the LGBTQ* community does not give you automatic knowledge of all those within the community, despite that being the common assumption, and it was nice for this to be recognized.

The language used was pretty spot-on. I liked the line, “You identify as a man,” which was the only point within the episode where it got closest to identifying the character directly as trans*. The situation displayed well the fear many people have at the unknown. And that is the general reaction: play it safe and be normal even if you don’t feel that is who you are. But the great thing about the storyline was Unique got to be herself in a really powerful and amazing way. She nailed it. She put it all out there on stage and was amazing despite the criticisms.

Two things were disappointing about the storyline.

  1. There wasn’t a lot of education going on. There is a trans* character, but there is no education on what that means. She got to be herself, and that’s great. It’s empowering, but the kids didn’t come out of the episode knowing much more than they did in the first place. It was a continuance on the basic premise of let everyone be who they are even if they aren’t along the curve of normal, which in itself is a fabulous message and admirably what Glee tries to inspire. The truth is, this character’s story is a sidebar to the big picture. There is not a lot of time to address a full picture when you have over ten central characters, but you still want to get the message in. And trans* 101 is not something to be glossed over easily. It would take a full episode as a central storyline even to get down the basics.
  2. There wasn’t really a resolution to the story. She was brilliant on stage, but that’s the last we see of her. Alex Newell who plays Unique was a contender in The Glee Project, winning a two episode spot on the show, so we will see Unique again. But how will the storyline play out? Will the character come back only as a competitor, or will there be some kind of conclusion to this brief arc?

What are your thoughts on the episode and the portrayal of the character and the story? Anything you would like to add? 

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