Y: The Last Man is one of the most universally lauded comic book series of the past few decades, and it will soon set to receive a star-studded TV series adaptation at FX, simply titled Y. Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra‘s Eisner Award-winning series is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi parable that centered on Yorick Brown, the last surviving male of the human race after a cataclysmic event wiped out all other living mammals with a Y chromosome. The comic book series was celebrated for its vision of matriarchal society, but in the years since its publication between 2002 and 2008, our understanding of biological sex and gender has evolved. And it seems that FX’s Y is taking that into account.
A casting call is circulating for a transgender character original to the series. As a transgender man, the new character would survive this apocalypse because he was biologically born a woman. While this casting addresses some of the failings that the original series had in regards to diversity and representation, a transgender character joining the Y cast potentially opens the floodgates for a whole new set of issues.
Y Casts Transgender Character
A casting call for Y is reportedly looking for a transgender actor to play Sam, a new character original to the series who did not appear in Vaughan and Guerra’s comic book. In the casting call, Sam is described as a kind but sarcastic transgender male in his 20s-30s.
The character grew up in poverty with absent parents, which helped prepare him for an apocalyptic world where most men have perished. Hardened, resourceful, but with a wry and lighthearted approach to life, Sam would be a multiseries regular, starring alongside Barry Keoghan as Yorick Brown, as well as Diane Lane, Imogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield, Marin Ireland, Amber Tamblyn, and Timothy Hutton.
/Film has reached out to FX for comment on this new character, but has not received a response.
Potential Positives and Pitfalls
Y: The Last Man has been on criticized before for its binary depiction of sex. S.E. Fleenor from SyFy.com pointed out that the graphic novel’s treatment of gender is “fundamentally essentialist.” Rather than treating gender as a spectrum, gender is “stripped down to chromosomes,” Fleenor writes, the graphic novel ignoring issues of gender identity and communities that identify with a different gender than they were assigned with at birth. Transgender people are referred to in the comic, but often in derogatory terms, and never has a transgender character appeared in a meaningful way.
But FX’s Y putting a transgender character at the forefront would be a major step forward for representation that the original graphic novel never achieved. Not only would it give the spotlight to a transgender character in a major sci-fi series, it would provide for great television: allowing Y to explore identity in a fascinating, challenging way that only sci-fi can do. How does a transgender man act in this all-female society? Sam would undergo an entirely different experience than the protagonist Yorick, whose survival becomes the central driving force of the story as various parties chase him down for their own gain, and humanity must grapple with its future.
But there are potential dangers in this casting choice if the character is not handled delicately and with nuance. The premise of the character’s survival itself comes rife with potential pitfalls: by suggesting that Sam is still biologically a woman, it could negate Sam’s identity as a transgender man. It’s an insidious underlying message that has been proselytized by anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ protesters for years and could do harm to perceptions of transgender men not “really” being men, or vice versa. If not handled well, this character could boil the series back down to being about biological sex — which is exactly what Y is trying to avoid by casting a transgender man. That comes with a whole host of questions as well, as even science doesn’t define biological sex as binary but on a spectrum. Just look at all the various intersex conditions and the complex science behind mismatched internal and external sex organs.
If FX is bringing a transgender character on board, I hope this doesn’t open the floodgates for dangerous misrepresentation, but instead opens the doors for a richer understanding of how biological sex and gender work.
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