POLITICS

Transgender People On TV Shows Should Be Portrayed As 'Mainstream' And Not 'Exotic' By Playing Doctors And Lawyers, Says Minister Ed Vaizey

03/11/2015 17:15 GMT | Updated 03/11/2015 18:59 GMT
Victor Chavez via Getty Images
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JULY 17: Actress Laverne Cox attends the Orange Is The New Black second season - red carpet at Fotomuseo Cuatro Caminos on July 17, 2014 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Victor Chavez/WireImage)

Transgender actors should be handed leading roles on television shows without having to make reference to their identity, a Government minister has said.

Ed Vaizey said producers should portray trans people not as "exotic but completely mainstream".

He said the success of US shows Orange Is The New Black, which stars trans actor Laverne Cox, and Transparent, about a transgender father, underlines how the "sky is not going to fall on your head" if the issue is championed on TV.

The culture minister called for doctors, lawyers, nurses, police and MPs to be played by trans people so shows would reflect "society as it looks like today".

ed vaizey

Ed Vaizey: "Not seeing this as somehow exotic but completely mainstream is really important."

Mr Vaizey was speaking to the women and equalities select committee of MPs which is holding the first ever inquiry into transgender issues.

He was responding to Tory MP Maria Caulfield, who suggested the media was guilty of "sensationalising trans issues" by creating roles that tended to focus on "coming out".

"You never really see the day-to-day issues that ordinary people face and they face as well," she said.

"That's a valid criticism," Mr Vaizey said, adding broadcasters should be encouraged to "portray on screen our society as it looks like today".

He added: "I think there's an ongoing issue that people can be put into the category that they're identified as and not seen doing mainstream occupations.

"If you cast someone who is transgender you might be doing it because you want to make a big deal out of the fact that they are transgender, and I would much rather see somebody cast as a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, a policeman, an MP who also happens to be transgender."

riley carter millington

Riley Carter Millington appeared in Eastenders for the first time last month and is set for a recurring role

Last month, 21-year-old Riley Carter Millington became the first transgender actor to play a transgender character in a UK soap wen he appeared in EastEnders.

Mr Vaizey said the industry-led Creative Diversity Network's Project Diamond is monitoring diversity on the small screen "so there won't be any hiding place".

"Not seeing this as somehow exotic but completely mainstream is really important," he added.

"You have only got to see the success of people like Laverne Cox on Netflix or the success of Transparent on Amazon Prime to see that the sky is not going to fall on your head if you keep pushing ahead with this agenda and they have really got to move faster.

"We continue to engage with them and we continue to call them out on it."