These trans artists reveal the first time they truly felt represented in TV and film.

A new TV series is helping spread the word about why representation in entertainment matters.

Identifying with characters onscreen is a privilege many people take for granted. That kind of representation is vital — but it's not something everyone is lucky enough to experience.

"First Time I Saw Me," a new series of videos from Netflix and GLAAD, features eight transgender artists sharing the first time they felt represented in TV and film.


Seeing people we relate to onscreen makes us feel like full members of society, while seeing people different from us helps us overcome stereotypes and fear of the unknown.

"When it comes to transgender characters, we need more of them," said Nick Adams, director of transgender media at GLAAD. "But then we need to improve the quality of them."

For people in underrepresented communities, greater inclusion also means stories and characters that move beyond surface descriptions and stereotypical tropes. "I would love to get to the point where there's a transgender character on a show and literally nothing about their storyline has anything to do with them being trans," said actor Elliot Fletcher.

The artists featured in "First Time I Saw Me" said that getting there means breaking down the barriers to entry and including more trans people in auditions, the writing process, and behind-the-camera work like directing and producing. Telling more authentic stories means involving those people directly in the creative process.

"If you want to create an authentic trans experience on film, involve trans people," actor Jamie Clayton said.

Greater inclusion makes for better stories that more people can enjoy and identify with.

We've seen great strides made in recent years, including in the portrayal of transgender characters.

"Having this kind of representation of different types of people allows us to complicate human experience for other people," said writer and trans advocate Tiq Milan. "That's the starting point, when people start to see trans people as complex individuals."

There's still a lot of work to be done, but the good news is that audiences have been responding well to greater representation.

Diversifying our media is not only the right thing to do — it also results in more interesting and diverse storytelling.  

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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