Representation is the buzzword of the day. But mere presence means nothing if it isn’t accurate and genuine. Authentic representation in storytelling benefits not only members of historically excluded groups like Asian-Americans and trans people but members of every group, including the dominant culture. As of 2019, 69.1 percent of all film roles were white. How do we achieve a greater variety of stories, roles, and jobs in theatre, movies, and television? How do we ensure these stories and parts are written “authentically”? How do we get producers to greenlight projects?
Interstate, a new musical by Kit Yan and Melissa Li, follows two Asian-American artists (one a lesbian and one a trans man) as they embark on a U.S. tour with their band Queer Malady. Meanwhile, trans teen Henry discovers QM’s music and finds his story in theirs. Kit & Melissa join host Ruthie Fierberg and experts Sheena Brevig of the Center for Scholars and Storytellers and AC Dumlao of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund for this discussion about the importance and impact of authentic representation and how we can push for parity.
Create the change
- If you are a studio head, producer, director, greenlight stories about historically excluded characters AND make sure members of that community are part of the creative team.
- Use the Kilroys List—the annual industry survey of excellent new works by women, trans, and non-binary playwrights—to find quality stories by underrepresented artists to produce.
- Read These Numbers Show How More Diversity on TV Leads to Increased Viewership
- If you are an audience member, buy a ticket to a show/movie or watch a series about a community you are not a part of.
- Download the Center for Scholars and Storytellers’ “AIR Tip Sheet for Race” to ensure authentic, inclusive representation across races.
- Read these storytelling tips to evolve the representation of boys and men.
- Enlist CSS to consult on a project or sign your team up for a CSS workshop.
- Get in touch with AC Dumlao and enroll in a workshop (i.e. Trans 101).
- Watch “Trans Literacy Project” videos from Honest Accomplice Theatre for their Trans 101 series.
- If you or someone you know needs help changing their name, visit TLDEF’s Name Change Project.
- If you or someone you know needs info about trans health services and access, visit TLDEF’s Trans Health Project.
- How to support TLDEF
- Follow TLDEF on social: @translegaldefense on IG, @TLDEF on FB and T.
- Read this article about the need for and benefits of authentic Asian-American representation.
- Read this discussion about trans roles for theater in American Theatre Magazine.
- See this graphic on Gender Parity in Children’s Television.
Referred to in this episode
- Ruthie’s Playbill interview with Kit and Melissa
- “On T” refers to taking testosterone hormone therapy, which some trans men choose this as part of their gender affirmation process
- “Het” abbreviation for heterosexual
- Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF)
- Center for Scholars and Storytellers (CSS)
- CSS’ AIR Report
- The Vito Russo Test
- The Writers Guild of America 2020 Inclusion Report (statistical source)
- UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report 2020 (statistical source)
- Understand racial bias communicated via television nonverbal behavior
- Quote from CSS - “Many believed having a Black president…”
- LGBTQ+ lead characters in TV and film stats
- API 1 protagonist in top-grossing film
- Dr. Sheila Murphy’s study out of USC about the impact of narrative vs non-narrative film on public health outcomes for women. (Correction from the podcast: This study was published in 2015, not 2012.)
- DEI workshops through CSS
About Our Guests:
Ruthie Fierberg, Host
@sheenamidori / CSS IG @scholarsandstorytellers
IG: @mx.acdumlao/ T: @mxacdumlao