CBS Daytime Soap Reveals Transgender Storyline Twist

This week, The Bold and The Beautiful revealed a significant plot twist with the disclosure that Maya Avant is a transwoman. The show had played up a “big secret” moment involving Maya’s college-aged sister, referencing family rejection and denial.

Maya first appeared on screen in December 2013 as an old-friend of Dayzee with a troubled past. In typical soap fashion, she quickly became a model and actress and found a tortured love story with legacy character Rick Forrester. She had a daughter that she gave up for adoption when she entered prison, but no other on-screen family. She’s definitely a misunderstood bad-girl character.

I’m a big believer in the power of daytime television to change hearts and raise awareness. I think the character of Bianca Montgomery on ABC’s All My Children and other “legacy” kids & grandkids like Luke Snyder and Will Horton were as important as Will & Jack. And certainly Robin Scorpio had an impact on how soap fans understand HIV (she’s not queer, fwiw, but her fans worry about her having access to her meds while she’s kidnapped right now – that’s how soap education works.)

But I don’t trust CBS to do justice to this storyline. The plotholes are nothing to worry about because soaps regularly resurrect the dead, cure the incurable and produce unknown offspring at a moment’s notice. They’ve changed character’s ethnicity (Blair on OLTL), given life to an aborted fetus (Josh on AMC) and even created a vampire slayer (Lucy on GH) in between visits from aliens and so forth. Explaining how Maya gave birth to her now-deceased daughter could be handled in a sensitive manner or can be written into the plot twist. It could be done well – Maya could be intersex, Maya could have not given birth to the baby she claimed as her own, Maya could have been the bio parent in a nontraditional sense, Maya could have kidnapped the baby or made up the baby or dreamed she had a baby.

But Maya is not a legacy character, an element that I think is essential to the success of the stories on other shows. B&B blew a powerful lesbian storyline that did involve a legacy character – Karen Spencer who also happens to be the mother of Maya’s romantic rival, Caroline. Karen’s relationship with her wife was pumped for maximum shock value and cast away, possibly because they were simply too boring and committed and supportive of one another. Ironically, Caroline might end up being the one person who could relate to Maya. That’s probably several years down the road.

Maya is an interloper, interfering in the Forrester-Spencer love affairs. She’s also black, has a prison record and has been lying a lot. She has no on-screen support beyond her on-again/off-again lover Rick Forrester. She has no best friend, no devoted extended family members, nothing to bond her scrappy survival-minded self to the fans. None of these things bode well for characters on B&B – ask Amber, Deacon and even Dayzee.

So I’m skeptical about the writer’s ability to do justice to a story this significant and groundbreaking. CBS’ franchise of CSI shows has a sordid history of trans characters (dead bodies, sex workers, drug addicts, etc) and their sitcoms don’t do much beyond “man in dress” for laughs.

The reaction of fans has ranged from disbelief to blaming Obamacare for paying for her transition health care with lots and lots of speculation in between. I’m unsure how Maya’s story is going to properly educate viewers without delving into tropes like her lover being “deceived or tricked” into having sex with her, her sister continuing to refer to her as “really Myron” and using sex work as the means to pay for her transition.

Maybe CBS will surprise me. I hope that’s the case.

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