Pretty Little Transgender

The ABC Family television show, “Pretty Little Liars” has recently been one of the most popular shows on air. Over the past five years, millions of fans have been watching the lives of (from left to right) Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Emily Fields, and Aria Montgomery unfold after the queen bee of their group (center), Alison DiLaurentis, disappeared one night.

Soon after Ali went missing, the other four girls began recieving threatning text messages from an unknown source known as “A.” I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not Alison. It would be far too easy if it was Alison. Besides, Alison ends up coming home later in the series and getting tortured by “A,” as well. The entire plot/mystery of this show would take me far too long to try to explain. However, there is one aspect of this show that connects directly to the LGBT community: “A.”

“A” is one of the most cruel, heartless, and insane characters I have ever come across. “A’s” goal in life was to ruin the main character’s lives, and “A” did pretty well at it. While “A” managed to reveal every secret each girl ever had, these girls also have been put in the hospital, been in trouble with the police, been drugged, gagged, gassed, burnt, and even attempted to be drowned.  Here’s some examples of how terrible “A” is:

1. “A” hit Hanna with a car!

2. “A”  crashed a car into Emily’s home!

3. “A” tried to burn the girls alive!

4. “A” kidnapped all of the girls and put them in a real life dollhouse where they were tortured!

5. Finally, “A” set them up as murderers!

In summary, “A” has done a lot of terrible and psychopathic things.

In the most recent season finale, the identity of the horrendous “A” was revealed after five years of waiting.

“A’s” real name is Cece (full name Charlotte) Drake, who was born as Charles DiLaurentis. Charles just so happens to be the lost brother of main character Alison DiLaurentis.

“A” is a transgender woman.

Charles DiLaurentis

Cece Drake

As a child, Charles acted out. For instance, he accidentally dropped baby Alison into the tub while trying to give her a bath. His father found them and thought that Charles was trying to drown Alison. After multiple incidents, they sent him to live at Radley, a mental hospital.

A very crucial video (pay attention until 2:12):

Charles spent his whole childhood and teenage years in the seclusion of a mental hospital where only his mother visited him. His father never accepted him. His mother, however, accepted Charles for who he really was and let him become Cece. Although she was accepting towards Cece, she told everyone on the outside that Charles had died in Radley.

Alison never even knew of Charles’ existence, and Mr. DiLaurentis was under the impression that Charles was dead and gone.  Mrs. Dilaurentis continued to see Cece in secret after her transition.

This transgender woman lived a life of seclusion and loneliness, only wanting to be with her family and accepted for who she really was. Instead, she was surrounded by a world of hatred and lies.

Looking back on the horrible, crazy things that Cece did as “A”, it sheds a terrible light in the transgender community.

Since Cece was so full of rage towards the girls and her family, she tormented them. Susan Stryker talks about the term “Transgender Rage”  in her article, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above The Village of Chamounix,” that easily applies to Cece: “Transgender rage is a queer fury, an emotional response to conditions in which it becomes imperative to take up, for the sake of one’s own continued survival as a subject, a set of practices that precipitates one’s exclusion from a naturalized order of existence that seeks to maintain itself as the only possible basis for being a subject” (249).

Cece was secluded and rejected from her family her entire life. When applying the term “Transgender Rage” to Cece, one can assume that it was her motivation to become “A.” However, I don’t think a normal transgender person would ever go as far as to do what Cece did to innocent people, and it is an awfully negative representation of the transgender community.

ABC Family associated transgender with evil, sociopathic behavior; an association that no group of people would ever want. Transgender people all deal with major hardships when transitioning as it is, and this negative representation in such popular media is a slap in the face.

“Pretty Little Liars” is also a series of 19 books by Sara Shepard. The major plot of the books is represented in the show, but the show has many different aspects. In the books, “A” is not a transgender woman, and I think the mystery is still just as captivating, if not more captivating.

ABC Family did not have to choose the transgender route, and many fans think they did it just to jump on the transgender bandwagon following Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. However, the creators of the show claim they made the decision to make “A” transgender four years ago.

Executive producer Marlene King told Buzzfeed.com, “I knew we had so many years to build this story and make it layered and not what it could have been. We were pretty confident we would get a few negative responses — and there are negative responses from people who just don’t want to see transgender on TV at all,” she said. “To be honest, I see a lot more of those than people who were upset about a transgender villain. I think, again, we’re bringing more awareness to the subject and, really, humanizing Charlotte.”

I disagree with the fact that they are “humanizing” Cece. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, the definition of “humanize” is to “to make (someone or something) seem gentler, kinder, or more appealing to people.”

The character of “A” completely contradicts that definition. “A” was not gentle or kind; she tortured people and even killed some.

That is definitely not “humanizing” to me. If anything, it reflects to the public that they should fear transgender people because they are insane.

I will admit that the creators of the show did give Cece a back story that probably many transgender people can relate to, and it does spread awareness for the terrible treatment that transgender people go through. However, I think “A” was the wrong character to spread awareness with. Most of “A’s” wrath was directed towards Spencer, Hanna, Emily, and Aria, who did nothing to Cece directly. In turn, she hurt innocent people that had nothing to do with the foul treatment against her.

Overall, the representation of the transgender community in the television show, “Pretty Little Liars,” comes off as extremely negative and may even increase transphobia in our society. Cece Drake, previously known as Charles DiLaurentis, may have a past that other transgender people can relate to, but how she turns out is insulting to anyone like her.

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