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On The Conners, Alexandra Billings' trans character is simply allowed to be

  • "The writers are not compelled to glam her up or goof her up with demands to deliver broad comedy. Robin – who like Billings is a transgender woman – is simply allowed to be," Melanie McFarland says of Billings, who plays Darlene's boss. "This shouldn't be unusual enough to call out in this day and age, but it is. Only recently have shows begun consciously writing trans characters in a way that make their individuality the focus instead of aspects of gender identity and disclosure. The other ABC show Billings appeared on before her recurring guest stint on The Conners, How to Get Away with Murder, demonstrates what I'm referring to. In one HTGAWM episode, Billings plays a professional who kills her abusive husband in self-defense, and as part of the drama Viola Davis' character Annalise presses her client on whether her husband 'knew.' A cop accusingly flashes her character's driver's license in her face, doubting her story because the photo on it features the character before her gender transition. Nobody directly and specifically accuses Billings' professor of deceiving the world, but it's implied in all of the oblique lines of questioning. To be fair, this episode first aired in 2015. Conversations regarding gender issues have evolved since then in all spheres, especially given the dangerous rollback in LGBTYQIA+ rights over the past five years. The Conners debuted in 2018 almost as an act of defiance, with critics wondering whether the show could or should go on without Roseanne Barr, the eponymous star of the Roseanne revival that gave ABC its first top-rated show in nearly two decades. Barr was fired at the end of the first season for posting a racist tweet, but Gilbert and the rest of the show's executive producers found a way to continue without her, likely buoyed by the fact that the core of the show soon demonstrated itself to be Becky and Darlene's relationship. Besides, The Conners is much more like the original Roseanne than the revival in spirit, in that the series interacts with hot button issues like race, class, gender identity and sexual orientation with empathy and realism instead of speaking clumsily to misperceptions and prejudices. And in these recent episodes that applies to both Robin and the community around her."

    TOPICS: Alexandra Billings, ABC, The Conners, LGBTQ