Mj Rodriguez: Hollywood's Transgender Glass Ceiling Is Cracked, But Not Shattered

The "Pose" star spoke to NBC's Joe Fryer for "TransAmerica," which examines the trans community's triumphs and challenges in the first half of 2021.

Pose” gave Mj Rodriguez a breakout role, but she came away from the experience even more aware of the work needed to achieve parity for transgender artists on television.

The actor and singer spoke to NBC journalist Joe Fryer for “TransAmerica,” an hourlong special dedicated to the issues facing the transgender community across the United States. In the video, Rodriguez speaks about the impact of “Pose,” which wrapped its three-season run this month, and what she wants to happen in Hollywood in order to accurately and fairly depict trans lives.

“We haven’t shattered that glass ceiling yet. It’s just a bit cracked,” she said. “There’s great things in knowing that, and there’s also sad things in knowing that it hasn’t fallen to the ground just yet.”

“We should be worrying about other things,” she continued. “It’s unfortunate that we have to because, like I said, that glass hasn’t shattered yet ― but it’s cracked! It’s cracked, so that means there is some work being done.”

Watch Mj Rodriguez on “TransAmerica” below.

Rodriguez is one of several notables who were interviewed for “TransAmerica,” which debuts Thursday on the NBC News Now streaming network and features Sen. Sarah McBride of Delaware and author Raquel Willis.

Fryer has covered a variety of LGBTQ topics, including the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, to commemorate Pride Month over the course of his nearly eight-year NBC tenure. This year, he opted to focus on transgender rights after observing the recent surges in transphobic violence and anti-trans legislation.

“You’ll hear from trans teens and their families,” Fryer told HuffPost. “You’ll hear from mental health experts. You’ll hear from politicians and activists. And we’re also shining a light on areas of progress.”

State lawmakers across the country have introduced at least 170 pieces of legislation that target the rights of transgender people so far this year, according to the Progressive Caucus Action Fund. At least 19 of those bills have already become law.

"TransAmerica" is hosted by NBC's Joe Fryer.
"TransAmerica" is hosted by NBC's Joe Fryer.
NBC News Now

In “TransAmerica,” Fryer and his team examine the personal impact those legislative efforts have had on transgender Americans. The journalist said he thinks viewers will be particularly impressed with Stella Keating, a 16-year-old student in Washington state who in March became the first transgender teen to testify before the Senate on behalf of the Equality Act.

As far as his own takeaway from the special, Fryer believes the biggest challenge facing the transgender community in 2021 is simply maintaining their physical and emotional well-being. He pointed to a new study conducted by the Trevor Project that found 94% of LGBTQ youth felt their mental health had been negatively affected by recent politics.

“The teens we spoke with and the experts we talked to all made it clear that when trans kids get quality gender-affirming care, their mental health improves,” Fryer said. “On the flip side, there are fears that all of the anti-trans legislation, and the rhetoric surrounding it, is all having a negative impact on mental health. ... We can’t ignore that.”

“TransAmerica” debuts Thursday, June 17, at 8 p.m. EST on NBC News Now.


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