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CSI Sensationalizes Transgender Lives
take action > glaad alert > archive > 2002 > CSI Sensationalizes Transgender Lives

January 25, 2002

The Jan. 17 episode of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," entitled "Identity Crisis," featured the return of Paul Millander, a vicious serial killer who has outsmarted the CSI team since the series' first episode. A child when he witnessed his father's brutal murder, Millander now ritualistically murders his own victims in the same way his father was killed thirty years before. In this episode, the investigators discover that "Paul" was "Pauline" when he saw his father killed, and this deranged serial killer is in fact a female-to-male transsexual.

In a belated attempt to explain why the boy "Paul" testified at his father's murder trial, the script includes a line about Paul/Pauline being born with an "endocrinic [sic] ambiguity," causing his parents to raise him as a girl inside the house but as a boy outside the house. This vague and confused reference to an intersex condition is quickly glossed over as Paul goes on to relate his experience of going "to the clinic" for his sex change. In his confession Paul says, "A boy could have saved his father... I cut off my hair, started wearing big shirts, big boots. If I got tough enough, no one would ever hurt me." The episode ends with Paul returning to his childhood home, murdering his mother, and then killing himself.

With this episode, "CSI" continues a long-standing Hollywood tradition of portraying sexual minorities as dangerous criminals and homicidal maniacs. While images of gays and lesbians are becoming more fair, accurate, and reflective of real gay and lesbian lives, transgender characters have now become the easy choice when Hollywood needs a lurid storyline or an easily demonized villain. Transgender lives are routinely exploited for sensationalistic shock value (or crude humor) in popular entertainment.

Female-to-male people are almost entirely invisible in mainstream culture (in fact, this is only the second female-to-male transgender character ever to appear on television -- the first having been featured on a 1999 episode of "L.A. Doctors"). To have the second female-to-male character presented as a vicious, matricidal serial killer is profoundly disturbing and deeply offensive.

For the LGBT community, every transgender and intersex character that appears on television represents an important opportunity to combat long-held stereotypes and prejudices. It is extremely disappointing that "CSI" would choose instead to exploit and reinforce stereotypical attitudes and fears about this largely invisible community.

Please contact "CSI's" producer and writer to express your concern at their use of a transgender (and intersex) character as the "killer of the week." Also, please ask CBS Entertainment to avoid this type of exploitation in the future.


"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"
Carol Mendelsohn, executive producer Ann Donahue, executive producer/co-writer of "Identity Crisis"
25135 Anza Dr., Stage 6
Santa Clarita, CA 91355
Fax: 661-294-4925

CBS Entertainment
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