Tyra Banks is producing an upcoming VH1 series called TransAmerica, which will follow the lives of five women "who happen to be transgender." The purpose of the show is to show audiences how the characters' sexuality impacts their lives. According to Susan Levison, executive VP of programming for VH1:
This is a show about a group of compelling, gorgeous young friends who are on a unique journey while staying true to their authentic selves. We believe that message resonates.
Somewhat surprisingly, the show does seem to be legitimately focused on presenting a positive message not steeped in damaging stereotypes. The synopsis focuses more on the personalities of these women and their direction in life than any lingering tropes about their trans identity. For instance, Sidney—who we're told loves to party—is said to be "struggling with the idea of juggling a social life and professional goals. She is focused on finding her true direction in life." Sounds like about 90% of single women I know.
With sinfully stunning trans model Carmen Carrera as host, people will hopefully be pulled in to to see transgendered women humanized. It seems like a great concept, and we have no doubt that the folks behind it have the best intentions.
We do have one concern, though, and it's this: we don't really trust reality TV. And can you blame us? To take just one representative example, Toddlers and Tiaras was (supposedly) created to give viewers a glimpse into an unusual hobby, but instead was blasted for sexualizing young girls; controversy struck after a child did a routine dressed as hooker Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
We could glean a lot more examples where that came from, but the bottom line is that reality TV has traditionally favored the sensational over the, well, real. Can we trust that this show will actually present the trans community in a nuanced, humanizing way?
We're hoping for the best. But we won't be too surprised if it ends up disappointing us.
Image: Remember when we said "sinfully stunning?" Courtesy of, Facebook