MARVEL FINALLY GIVES US OUR FIRST TRANS CHARACTER
By Erin White
June 26, 2019
One of the reasons why I love the shit out of comic books is because they’re such perfect vehicles for exploring identity, creating positive representation and humanizing people and ideas that are different or unfamiliar. X-Men, for example, is accepted as a metaphor for marginalized social groups who have experienced otherization and oppression for who they are. As readers, this gives us the chance to empathize with and understand the immorality of marginalizing others by recognizing the humanity in these characters.
Netflix’s acclaimed Marvel series Jessica Jones has been praised for its representation of complex female trauma survivors and gay and lesbian characters, like last season’s Detective Costa. Season 3 aims to introduce more queer characters with the addition of transgender character, Gillian, played by trans actor and activist Aneesh Sheth. Although not specifically called out on screen, her presence on the show is actually groundbreaking for trans actors and representation on tv. She is the first trans character actor in the MCU, soon to be joined by trans actor Zach Barack who is set to appear in Spider-Man: Far From Home next month.
“I’m transgender and the character of Gillian is also trans, but there is no mention of her being trans within the show nor kind of a narrative around her identity, which I think is wonderful because trans people exist in the world,” says Sheth. “It’s not always about their narrative. So I think it’s just really great to have her exist and see where that story can take us.”
Even though Gillian’s identity will probably not be a central plot point, if it’s called attention to at all, it is a sign of shifting tides in the way of trans representation. And, hopefully, Sheth’s casting is just the first in many future steps the MCU will take in celebrating diversity and the nuanced storytelling that accompanies it.