Bruce Jenner’s disclosure in a heavily promoted ABC News interview that he is in the midst of transitioning to a female gender identity comes at a time when TV has heightened interest in transgender life stories.
ABC Family took advantage of the natural tie-in to promote its upcoming docu series “Becoming Us” during Friday’s two-hour “20/20” special featuring Diane Sawyer’s interview with Jenner, the Olympian and former “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star.
“Becoming Us” revolves around a teenage boy grappling with his father’s transition to a woman. The series premieres June 8 and hails from Ryan Seacrest Prods.
The Discovery Life channel earlier this month launched the unscripted series “New Girls on the Block.” The series focuses on six women in Kansas City, Mo., who are beginning to live openly as transgender. Conveyor Media has produced five hourlong episodes.
Discovery Life’s larger sibling, TLC, is preparing to launch this summer “All That Jazz,” a series about Jazz Jennings, a transgender 14-year-old girl. The series follows Jazz’s efforts to navigate puberty and the drama of high school as a transgender teen. This is Just a Test produced 11 hourlong episodes for TLC.
Transgender issues came into the spotlight last year with Amazon’s narrative comedy series “Transparent,” which starred Jeffrey Tambor as a patriarch who jolts his family with the news that he is transitioning to womanhood. The growing number of transgender actors has also been highlighted by the prominence of Laverne Cox on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.”
Although the transgender community is no longer in TV’s shadows, the Jenner interview is sure to mark a milestone for mainstream discussion of gender identity concerns. GLAAD and other orgs were quick to issue media tip sheets for coverage of the Jenner interview and transgender issues in general — a signal that Jenner’s interview is a teachable moment for the country, journos included.
“Every transgender person’s journey is unique, and by choosing to share this story, Bruce Jenner adds another layer to America’s understanding of what it means to be transgender,” said Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of programs, transgender media. “We hope that after hearing Jenner’s story, people will want to learn more about the issues and challenges facing their transgender friends, co-workers and family members. Stories like these will help create a world in which everyone can express their gender identity without fear of discrimination and violence.”
Pictured: “The Girls Next Door”