Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why did Emmerdale cut a Transphobic Scene?

A scene in soap opera Emmerdale that had been shot and was due to be aired in early 2014 has been cut following a complaint by a transgender actress Samantha Valentine. However having read the reports of the scene, I am a bit dissapointed that John Whiston, the creative director of Emmerdale has decided to drop the scene rather than take the opportunity to address the issue that led to the complaint.

 According to reports today the scene involved Laurel, Marlon, Rhona and Vanessa in a gay bar where they compete to get phone numbers from other women. Lauren chats up the barmaid, a trans woman played by transgender actress Samantha Valentine, and gets her number. However Marlon objects saying "That's not fair, that's a he, not a she."

Samanta then complained to ITV saying that she would never have agreed to play the part if she had known that the scene would ridicule trans people.

John Whitton has appologised making it clear that this would never have actually been aired as it would have been picked up by the producers at some point.

What suprises me is that Emerdale has been addressing homophobic prejudice for months now in the storyline with Rhona's addiction and relationship with Vanessa. I assume that these four characters were in the gay bar as part of that ongoing storyline.

So if a transphobic comment was made, that is frankly not all too surprising. Lots of people see transwomen as "he rather than she" and becaouse there is little education on this topic in schools or anywhere, this was a great opportunity to help change attitudes.

We seem to be getting to a position where media are now afraid to address the issues. Coronation Street have recently reminded us that Hayley is a trans women when her son turns up and blackmails her into giving him £5000 if she wants to see her grandchildren and then claims it was compensation for the humilliation she put him through.

Many trans people have challenges with family when they come out and although initially this was a major part of the storyline, Coronation Street has not really used the opportunity as well as they could have. Most people had forgotten Hayley was trans until this final exit storyline.

Of course most trans people don't want the trans issues to be there, they just want to get on with life in the gender they wish they had been born and to be fair to Corrie, they have tackled issues of prejudice, getting married, adoption and fostering and family rejection. There is some evidence that Roy and Hayley's relationship highlighted to the public the difficulty facing trans people and the public pressure influended the goverment at the time to start to process which led to the Gender Recognition Act in 2004

The reason why most people forget that Hayley is trans of course is that the actress, Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays the part is female. When Corrie decided to provide Audrey with a cross dressing lover Marc, it was far less forgettable and after 6 months the character was axed because the plot was not popular with the audience.

Over the six months that the story ran however they did manage to address a number of challenging issues and there was plenty of discrimination, harassment and hate crime and some homophobic and transphobic storylines that highlighted the kind of challenges we face day to day.

Hopefully Emmerdale and Coronation Street will continue to feature storylines that address sexuality and gender identity and will do what they can to show harassment and discrimination as unacceptable behaviour.

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