“Transgender” — the word and the shifts in sexual identity it encompasses — have become more mainstream. Transgender women have been on the cover of major fashion magazines, and one transgender woman, Jenna Tackalova, recently competed in the Miss Universe Canada pageant.
Legal boundaries are being pushed. Nikki Araguz, a transgender widow of a firefighter, is suing the City of Wharton, Texas for workers’ compensation benefits that she was denied because she was born a man.
Perhaps most famously, Chaz Bono, a transgender man, competed on “Dancing With the Stars.”
But Bono received hate mail, an example of the discomfort many feel about this trend.
“What Would You Do?” tested people’s acceptance of transgender with a scenario set at Colonial Diner in Lyndhurst, N.J. Carmen Carrera, a 26-year-old transgender woman who has appeared on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” played herself as if she were a waitress at the diner. Kevin, an actor, played a longtime customer back from a yearlong trip who deplores that the waiter he knew and liked as “Christopher” is now a woman.
“What the hell is the matter with you? Look at yourself! You’re a freak!” Kevin said.
“I’m not a freak, I’m transgender,” said Carrera. This appearance marks the first time Carrera has revealed that she is transgender.
How would diners react to Kevin’s scorn? Would anyone step in and defend Carrera?
One patron, Mary, tried to calm Kevin.
“Look at Chaz Bono,” she said. “Cher’s son. She used to have a daughter and now she’s a guy.”
Kevin only got angrier. “I don’t think I can even eat here!” he said. “This is disgusting.”
A group of women looked ready to rally behind Carrera, but right then Michael Rizzo, a diner regular, walked across the room to confront Kevin.
“It’s okay to be whoever you want to be. This is America,” Rizzo said.
Believe it or not, things were just getting started.
Watch the whole scenario on “What Would You Do?” Friday at 10 p.m. ET.