On soap operas everybody has secrets, but The Bold and the Beautiful’s popular Maya Avant has a new one.
Turns out, she was born a man.
Not shocked? Well, join the crowd.
Transgender characters (and sometimes actors who play them) are suddenly everywhere in pop culture — they’re so mainstream they can even turn up on CBS’ long-running daytime drama with a blast of proud network publicity.
- The 28-year-old soap revealed in Wednesday’s episode that Maya, a model now dating Rick Forrester, transitioned from male to female at a young age, after her sister confronted her with her birth certificate.
The network says B&B is the only current show on broadcast or cable TV to include a transgender character as part of the regular cast.
It’s not likely to be the last.
Amazon’s Transparent and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black are the best known (and most acclaimed) series featuring trans actors and/or characters.
The news that Maya was born Myron inserts a plot twist (de rigueur on soaps), and could explain why the character has been fearful of intimacy.
Non-trans actress and soap veteran Karla Mosley, 33, who’s played Maya for more than two years, is thrilled with the development. When she was told after Christmas that Maya had a secret, this wasn’t the first thing that popped into her head.
“My first reaction was surprise, because 10 or 20 years ago, this is not a story we would be telling, and not in a way that’s truthful and not sensational,” Mosley says.
“My second reaction was, ‘Thank you.’ It’s a gift it’s a privilege,” she says. “It’s a real opportunity to educate our viewers here and all over the world.”
Bradley Bell, executive producer and head writer, says the story the soap is telling is about love and tolerance.
“It is about people respecting other people’s differences and their uniqueness,” he says in a statement. “In the end, we all want to be loved, and in order to love someone else you first have to love yourself. If you are transgender, gay, straight, it doesn’t matter. It’s about finding love in life. This is a love story.”
Maya — and a host of other trans-themed TV shows or films, either ongoing, announced or in development — could have the same effect on public attitudes towards transgender people that Will & Grace had for gay people a decade ago.
Which is why GLAAD, the leading advocate for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people in the media, is happy about Maya.
“Scripted gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters have become more common on television, but transgender characters continue to lag behind,” says spokesman Nick Adams.
GLAAD says as many as 90% of Americans know someone who is gay, but only 8% know someone who’s transgender. Now more trans people are revealing themselves in real life, not just in pretend life on TV.
“It’s hard, when you’ve been pushed down for so long and made to feel shame and feel you have to hide out. It’s a challenge to be vulnerable and say, ‘Yes, this is who I am,'” Mosley says. “Hollywood has the opportunity to be the trailblazers in the world” in opening hearts to trans people.
Maya is not the first trans character on a soap, says Adams. In 1995, ABC’s The City included transgender character Azure (Carlotta Chang), who was a fashion model. In 2005, ABC’s All My Children introduced glam-rocker Zarf (Jeffrey Carlson), who later came out as a trans woman, took the name Zoe, and fell in love with Bianca Montgomery.