Marvel introduces its first trans character in Jessica Jones season 3
The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced its first ever transgender character in season 3 of Jessica Jones, released on Netflix on June 14.
In a major step towards trans inclusion, show runners added the character of a transgender assistant at Jessica’s detective agency, played by the openly trans actress Aneesh Sheth.
Sheth, who is originally from Pune in India but moved to America as a child, said it had been an “exciting” opportunity to play the character of Gillian in the final season of the show.
“I am transgender and the character of Gillian is also trans. But there’s no mention of her being trans within the show, nor a narrative around her identity,” Sheth said in an interview with iNews. “Which I think is wonderful because trans people exist in the world and it’s not always about their [trans] narrative.
“I had a big discussion with Melissa Rosenberg [the creator of Jessica Jones] about where we thought Gillian came from, and her background. That’s very exciting as an actor, to be able to have a say in where I want this story to go. Marginalised actors are getting the power to create narratives within shows like this. I think that’s really important.”
Sheth said she was keen to “avoid sensationalism” in her portrayal of the character adding: “How wonderful it is for that person to exist in a show without having to hit it over the head.”
The inclusion of a trans character on the show was a pleasant surprise for fans, who took to Twitter to share their enthusiasm. Many praised the fact that Gillian’s trans identity was not a “defining trait.”
Just finished @JessicaJones. The new character of Gillian acted brilliantly by @aneeshshethacts is such a wonderful addition! Bravo 4 adding a Trans character w/o having that be a defining trait (never mentioned.) She’s a character, not a Trans character.
— Laura Bate (@LKayBate1) June 16, 2019
I love this moment on #JessicaJones. It would be easy to make this character a sort of Magical Trans, but when she gives advice, she’s elliptically referring to her own experience in a way that gestures far outward. Every time she’s on screen it’s clear: she has a LIFE. pic.twitter.com/4ljfKQueWk
— Dan Fishback (@dangerfishback) June 18, 2019
One of the things I love about the final season of Jessica Jones is that Gillian’s gender has zero bearing on the plot. She’s a character that just happens to be trans, trying to do her job. #RepresentationMatters
— Amber Clark (@MissAmberClark) June 20, 2019
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Marvel often falls short on LGBT+ representation
The female-fronted Jessica Jones has been praised for featuring a diverse range of characters. When it made its debut on Netflix in 2015 it was the first TV show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to introduce an openly gay character in the form of fierce female attorney, Jeni Hogarth.
On the big screen, though, Marvel has long been criticised for its lack of LGBT+ characters, and recently came under fire for not giving greater prominence to the first openly gay character in Avengers: End Game. The much-anticipated character is known simply as ‘Grieving Man’ and was only a brief cameo in the film.
On April 22, actress Tessa Thompson also revealed that she filmed scenes for 2017 Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok confirming her character’s bisexuality, but the scene was left on the cutting room floor.