Turn on your TV, and it's clear: Transgender issues are having a moment in our pop-culture conscious.
"Orange Is the New Black." "Becoming Us." "I Am Cait." "I Am Jazz."
Several TV series are telling stories of transgender people and characters in thoughtful ways that didn't seem feasible even a few years ago. And these series aren't just reaching niche audiences — they're being recognized at award shows and receiving critical accolades.
During the 2015 Emmys on Sept. 20, Amazon's series "Transparent" took home (not one, not two, but) three statues.
Jill Soloway won Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Jeffrey Tambor was named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy, and Bradley Whitford won for Guest Actor in a Comedy, all for their work on "Transparent." The critically acclaimed, buzzed-about series by Amazon follows Tambor's character, "Maura," who comes out as trans to her grown-up children.
Although the show has received valid criticism for casting Tambor, who is cisgender, in the lead role instead of giving the opportunity to a trans actor, many advocates have credited the show for setting "a new precedent for transgender storytelling."
The show's Emmy wins highlight progress all on their own, but it was Soloway pointing to a sobering reality facing her own transgender parent that truly put the state of transgender rights into perspective.
Because while transgender narratives and story creators are being hailed as winners on stage, transgender people are still being treated like second-class citizens elsewhere, including in Hollywood, where many trans roles are going, as previously mentioned, to cisgender actors.
“Something interesting about my moppa — she could, tomorrow, go and try to find an apartment, and in 32 states it would be legal for the landlord to say, 'We don't rent to trans people.' We don't have a trans tipping point yet; we have a trans civil rights problem." — Jill Soloway
Soloway's "tipping point" remark could be in reference to Laverne Cox's historic Time magazine cover from last year, which deemed the movement as such. But, judging from the state of trans rights, that tipping point hasn't tipped quite yet.
For all the progress we've seen on trans visibility in Hollywood, it's still legal to discriminate against transgender people in most U.S. states when it comes to things like housing and employment.
And research suggests special protections are certainly needed. A 2011 Williams Institute review of comprehensive LGBT studies found more than three-fourths of transgender people reported being harassed or mistreated at work due to their gender identity.
It's wonderful that Hollywood is being more inclusive of trans people and their stories. But the real world needs to follow suit.
That's why, in her speech, Soloway also made sure to note viewers could support progress by visiting the National Center for Transgender Equality, and help pass the Equality Act — a "clear and comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination law" that would promote equal treatment under the law for all sexual orientations and gender identities at the federal level.
Emmy awards are great, but laws that protect people for being who they are in their communities are even better.