The thing about writing about the first gay man to play in the NFL, or the first Black man to play professional baseball, or the first person of any group to do anything, is that there's rarely just one "first." Before Jackie Robinson, there was Satchel Paige. Paige was no less great than Robinson (he may in fact have been the greatest pitcher of all time), but he was kept from prominence by exclusionary and prejudiced bylaws and de facto segregation. So we celebrate the first, but there's a silent acknowledgment that a whole rich history came before.
The second revolution happens, of course, when it stops mattering that a ball player is Black or an actor is trans — then, they're finally just a person with a skill.
Laverne Cox is the first trans actor to appear as a regular on network TV. Now she's taking a small step towards making that second revolution, as she's been cast as a character who is not specifically trans in ABC's upcoming The Trustee, Deadline reports. She will be co-lead with Meaghan Rath in a show described thusly:
"Written by [Jay] Scherick and [David] Ronn and directed by Michael Engler, The Trustee is described as a fun, female buddy cop comedy about Eliza Radley (Rath), a driven but stubborn detective who finds unlikely help from her precinct’s trustee, Amanda Jones (Cox) a larger-than-life ex-con finishing out her prison sentence doing menial tasks for the police department. Though these two have completely opposing views on crime and punishment, a highly entertaining and successful partnership is born."
So, a couple things. First of all, Cox is a co-lead. That's remarkable in and of itself. Second of all, nowhere in the character's description does it specify that Jones is trans. Cox has thus far made a really solid career out of playing inspiring trans characters, but the true breakthrough was always going to come when she would finally be cast as just another woman who doesn't have to be trans. That's a testament to her acting, and it's a testament to the (finally) somewhat more culturally progressive moment we find ourselves in.
Her presence in this role will be a powerful statement that not only are trans women an integral part of our culture, but also that trans actresses are fully capable of playing a wide variety of roles — including those not specifically written for a trans actress. Hell, if Eddie Redmayne can play a trans woman, Laverne Cox can absolutely play a cis woman. In fact, she can play whoever she damn well wants to.
Now, please, let this show be better than Doubt.
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