It's always a mixed bag when cop dramas include a transgender victim.
On the one hand, there is a higher murder rate for transgender people, especially trans women of color. On the other, audiences can get the idea that trans people are nothing but victims, perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
Blue Bloods Season 11 Episode 11 did a good job of presenting these issues to a more conservative audience, though it also fell into the trap of suggesting trans people are all isolated and alone.
One of the things I liked best about this storyline was that Baez was honest about her discomfort yet didn't want it to interfere with her doing her job.
Baez: I'm not judging or anything, but I've never been around it and I just don't get this transgender thing.
Danny: You don't have to get it yet. All we have to get is our murderer.
Her conversation with Danny about that was important. Sometimes people tend to split the world up into people who are 100% accepting and comfortable and bad people, but it's more nuanced than that.
Baez's confession that she didn't judge anyone, yet felt uncomfortable because she didn't quite get it, sent viewers the message that it's okay not to fully understand as long as you still treat everyone with dignity and respect.
I often have conversations with people who feel the way Baez does, and I don't think labeling such people as transphobes and writing them off helps anything. Opening a dialogue with such people sometimes helps them to get it, or at least to feel more comfortable.
And in any case, again, we're not asking for everyone to understand, but only to be treated as human whether you get it or not. So I applaud Blue Bloods for sharing that message.
Danny was a little further along in his understanding than Baez, but he has work to do too.
Ashley: Most cops don't care about the murder of transgender women.
Danny: Well, I can reassure you that this cop does. We are treating this case just like any other case.
Ashley: That's the problem. This isn't like any other case. This is a hate crime.
I was glad that Ashley called him out on the way cops have historically treated cases involving transgender people, especially on pointing out that the hate cops get isn't directly comparable to knowing there are people out there who hate you for an aspect of yourself that is not within your control.
I don't think Danny meant any harm with his comment -- in fact, I think he was trying to empathize the only way he could think of -- but he still needed some education on that point, and I was glad Ashley gave it.
There were two areas where I think Blue Bloods could have done a better job, though.
Nobody corrected Peter when he said that transgender people have no friends or family, so it's always a dead end when they're killed.
Peter was supposed to be a bigot, but that statement might sound reasonable to people who don't know better, which can be harmful.
Some transgender people are indeed isolated and alone. Some parents kick their trans kids out of the house for being trans, and some trans people live on the streets.
But that isn't everybody, not by a long shot.
Many of us live with and have authentic relationships with our families. I work with parents every day who want to learn how to support their transgender kids better, and there are a lot more of them than there are the ones who disown their kids for being transgender.
But if you look at TV crime dramas -- not just Blue Bloods, but many other shows as well -- you might think that all transgender people are cut off from their families and alone.
This harmful myth contributes to people believing that transgender people are "freaks" that no normal person wants around and can make transgender people feel more alone even if their families would support them if they gave them a chance.
And with 41% of transgender kids attempting suicide before their eighteenth birthday, the last thing we need is to reinforce stereotypes that transgender equals unloved or even unloveable.
Blue Bloods could have addressed this stereotype, too, by having someone push back against Peter's claim. If nothing else, Sean probably knows some kids who are transgender at school and could have made a comment at the dinner table about that to counteract this stereotype.
The other thing was that Baez didn't get much of an opportunity to grow throughout the hour.
By the end, she was comforting Ashley after the bad guy almost killed her. But she didn't really learn much about transgender people or about how to help them more effectively.
Danny did most of that while Baez and Ashley had several mutually uncomfortable encounters, and then Baez was there at the end.
The implication was that seeing that guy call Ashley a freak and try to kill her made Baez realize what Ashley was up against and have more empathy for her. But I didn't think that was enough.
I'd much rather the statistics about trans murder rates be balanced out with Ahsley and Baez having some interactions other than Ashley accusing Baez of wanting her to disappear.
Something as simple as Ashley talking about how she wanted to honor Kayla's memory by finding the killer and talking about how she had hoped to be the big sister to Kayla that she never had herself would have helped humanize her and give Baez more of an opportunity to gain understanding.
Ashley's desire to go undercover made me wonder if there are any openly transgender people serving on the NYPD or other police forces.
Ashley was right that a cisgender cop might give themselves away, especially considering how little Danny and Baez knew about transgender people. Still, a transgender cop would be a better choice than a civilian with no training.
Of course, there was a lot else going on besides this case.
Frank: We had you under some pretty hot lights before I brought you up here. So I can't imagine we missed anything.
Garrett: But the lights are different now.
Frank: One thing's the same: I got your back.
The Gormley storyline was the most interesting.
I love it when Frank has his cops' backs no matter the consequences, and this was no exception.
The idea of firing Gormley for things that happened 25 years ago and were already thoroughly investigated seemed silly, especially since Gormley is now in an administrative position.
I'm glad that Frank stood up to the mayor -- and to Gormley himself, who was insisting on giving in.
Efforts at police reform, or any other reform, go too far when they try to judge things that happened years ago out of context, and this was a great example of that.
When Gormley talked about how hard this was for his wife, it made me wonder what happened with his psychological problems.
He took a few weeks off, supposedly, but reappeared in the next episode, and his depression was never mentioned again.
This would have been a great time to harken back to that and would have been more realistic because mental health issues don't go away in a day and tend to flare up when someone is under the kind of stress Gormley was under in this story.
As for Erin's dilemma, could Crawford be any more annoying?
She seems to be a completely political animal. Supposedly she has morals and high standards, but her rule seems to be that the DA's office will espouse whatever values the governor wants.
And it seems like Erin always has to get the DA's office off some self-destructive path, only for Crawford to whine about being undermined.
Maybe if she made decisions on a rational basis, it would help Erin not need to go elsewhere to get actual justice for anyone.
Finally, Jamie's story was all sorts of weird.
I didn't understand why the cops constantly needed to interact with Tommy, nor why he got his jollies from punching cops while they weren't looking.
Jamie's revenge was funny, though. I knew he wasn't really going to beat up Tommy himself when he seemed to be having trouble walking up that snowy hill.
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Blue Bloods airs on CBS on Fridays at 10 PM EST/PST.