Top Gender Benders on TV : I Want to Work for Diddy and Changing Society

On last night's episode of "I Want to Work for Diddy" (VH1), the reality competition to work for Sean "Diddy" Combs, Laverne-the resident transgendered contestant was eliminated. In a battle for what seemed to be the integrity of her identity versus exploitation versus the public's comfort--Laverne did not fare well in the heat of the battle. Kimberly, also known as Po-Prah managed to stay in the battle despite her annoying ways because she knows how to play a game. I can't wait to see her in future reality shows where they use old contestants.

Laverne isn't the only gender bender to pop up on television recently. In keeping with the classification of two sexes and their socially constructed genders, television has been showing more and more people not conforming to the roles. America's Next Top Model now features a transgendered contestant, Isis, and on Project Runway an episode was dedicated to drag queens with RuPaul as a guest host. I guess times are changing, because when I was growing up RuPaul was quite the scandal even though there was a talk show. Today Andre J has become a celebrated [hot mess] personality and Ms. J teaches all the girls how to stomp on the runway on ANTM.

"To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar" gives a laundry list of definitions in the beginning--running through all the trans terms and ending with drag queens. Film has long portrayed transgendered folk, but television has done it quite differently making lots of noise within the last few years.

With much less ado, I present top Gender Bender moments on television, in no specific order. These aren't all transgendered, transexual or tranvestite moments...just gender bending.

Following Christian Siriano's celebrated turn on Project Runway where he popularized the phrase "Hot Tranny Mess" he appeared on season 2 of Ugly Betty using his phrase on Alex/is, the transgendered sister who revealed herself on the season finale of the first season.

RuPaul had a talk show on VH1 back in the late 90s and a bevy of guests appeared including the Backstreet Boys. One of the many performances on the show.

ABC's show about the rich that did not live up to the hype, but is more than watchable is all about the twist. So it's nothing unusual that the politician son played by Billy Baldwin has an extra-marital affair, the twist is that the affair is with a transexual, played by Candis Cayne and offering just that much more drama.

Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari helped define an era with this show about two men who dressed as women in order to live in the Susan B. Anthony apartments. They didn't care what you said then and Tom Hanks surely doesn't care now.

Call me close minded, but the premise of this UK show is just wrong. Men vied for the attention of a women all to find out in the final episode that Miriam was born male. I admit I'm a little surprised the U.S. has not copied this idea yet.

This favorite ABC soap opera has been on for years and although a family favorite, I can't say I really follow it. I knew about Bianca, but I also found out there's a transgendered character named Zoe.

There are other noticeable moments, seen on shows like the L-Word and Ally McBeal. For the full list of transgendered moments offered by Wikipedia click here. See below for a bonus!

Black Men like to Dress like Women

So okay, not just black men do this obviously. We already have a clip from Bosom Buddies and we all remember that episode of Saved by the Bell when the guys dressed up as girls--or at least I do. But let's admit--black men like to dress like women.

I'm sure theres at least one interview out there questioning the morality of Flip Wilson's Geraldine , where the answer is "The Devil Made Me Do It!" In fact that should become the slogan for cross dressers everywhere. As one of the mainstays of his show, Geraldine did skits and interviews and won the hearts of many fans.

Comics are known for playing roles of the opposite gender, and Martin Lawrence is no exception. After Flip Wilson did Geraldine and before the Wayan's brothers became white chicks, there was Shenehneh.

I reference this show way too much. As it Steve Urkel wasn't enought, they made him also share the role of his female cousin , Myrtle Urkel.

What gender bender moments on television stick out for you? Let me know!


  1. Kimberly, man I cant stand her! I believe tyhe only reason she is still there is to stir up drama for the show, she should have been gone.

    As for black men like to wear dresses, that Im not sure about. The examples you used were all from comedy, were they will do anything for a laugh.

    I do remember an interview Dave Chappelle gave were he said he would never wear a dress or go drag because most major actors and comedians have had to put one on at the request of the producers/writers/directors. he felt it wwas an attempt to take away there manhood.

  2. I'll agree that its probably less that black men *like* to dress like women and more that it's a commonly used trope in comedy. Forgive me for lazy writing without analysis.

    Then again feminizing or hyper-sexualizing(sp?) black males is common through a great deal of American cultural productions. The sambo or the buck. Dave Chapelle is often quite on the money with his commentary.


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