Quid pro quo, Doctor


A long time ago, in a cineplex, not so far away, I – a late teen – sat in the audience watching Silence of the Lambs. Thrilled and occasionally horrified, it’s quite a ride as a film. For me, it’s the performances of the actors rather than any effects. Foster’s performance as Clarice: her wide eyed fear, her vulnerability, and also strength in, quite frankly, an insane situation. Likewise, Hopkins’s turn as Lecter: the quiet, cerebral menace, and then… well, the demonic glee towards the end.

There’s a reboot coming to TV called Clarice and like older subject matter, through the lens of post MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and/or the transgender tipping point, things are more complex, or occasionally problematic, now.

Or, perhaps more accurately, a lot of us are able to see certain productions in a new light and maybe we now question if certain characters, scenes, or dialogue is okay. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of watching the Netflix documentary, Disclosure, please do give it a go. It’s troubling, entertaining, and informative.

Given the Buffalo Bill character in the film, remaking the show today has a whole new feel to that story line. Elements from the book and deleted scenes bring forth dialogue staying that Bill is not trans. Yet, how does the viewer process that? Can we discern? He says he is, but experts say he is not. How do we unpack that?

As a youngish trans person…. seeing such a performance on the big screen came at a bad time for me. I was very much struggling with who I was and seeing the familiar trope of cross dressing murderer, well, when you see a certain story time and time again, it can be hard to not be affected by that. Dressed to Kill, Psycho, etc to name but a few.

I don’t know if it was the actor’s performance or that it was a far more graphic film compared to other ‘killer CDs’, but it certainly played a part in the less than helpful inner dialogue rattling around in my head. Looking back, I think you could call it internalised transphobia. Not that a young trans kid from the sticks in the 90s would’ve known such a phrase. 🙂

close up of hand over white background

So, is there a point to this? Glad you hung around to find out. 😉

I think for anyone producing entertainment where a Trans person – or a part timer like me even – may feature, do ask the community. You may be surprised to hear the variety of people who are like this. It might also help you dodge the hackneyed and maybe even stumble on ideas that inspire you to something new.

Yes, you need some conflict to push drama, however, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to trans people than being the victim, a murderer, waiting for surgery, hating our bodies, or suchlike. The latter stores are so well known, they are cliché. You can throw in their dressing for a robbery – I know I stand out, doesn’t s thief need to blend in?

What about not mentioning the trans stuff and see where that takes you as a writer? What if a Trans person – full time or part time – is living their life and this is a non-issue for them? Maybe their finances are shot, childcare is all over the place, their boss is a bully, their partner is ill… all the usual stuff a lot of folk go through. If they’re part time, throw in a line of “Oh, you’re in Jill mode today” and then move on. Oh, and bonus points if you get a Trans actor to play that part 😉

Understand that we are not stories and the language you use, the plots that you write, will affect us. If good comedy is not about punching down, how might that raise the quality of a story?

L x


  1. Or, you could go the JK Rowling route and (badly) write a bad guy as a crossdresser for publicity purposes, then when the public complain, say ‘well that’s what they do in real life’ and promote a trans-hating merch site while denying you’re a hateful transphobic bigot. Oh, and don’t forget to look all sad and persecuted during the publicity you get for this, too, because *you’re* the real victim here…

    1. Oddly enough, when the Bathroom Bill trend was running in America. When the numbers of attacks in bathrooms were totted up, there were more *ahem* incidents featuring white male politicians invading womens’ loos than trans people. I thick researchers found one occasion of a guy dressing up in a two decades period, whereas a certain non centrist party in the States had at least four.

      I think with She Who Must Not Be Named is given other characters in the HP setting, it’s all very inclusive. I expected better. Again, if you find yourself punching down at group that has less power or voice, perhaps it’s time to step back and reflect on the situation.

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