I was excited when I heard that Proven Innocent was going to have a story involving a transgender client.
I'm transgender, and it thrills me whenever there's any representation of my community at all. And Proven Innocent Season 1 Episode 8 definitely did not disappoint!
In some ways, this story was like any other case on this show, but in others it was different, and I loved that.
There's always a danger with these sorts of stories that they'll become overly preachy.
For the most part, Proven Innocent avoided that.
Cindy made a speech about the 40% suicide rate in the transgender community and Maddie made several speeches about the absolute cruelty of taking transgender people's hormones away from them in prison.
These conversations felt like a natural part of the story as well as being important social messages that viewers might not have been aware of.
The most powerful comment on the discrimination transgender people often face wasn't in those speeches, though. It was in Cindy's desire to stay in jail.
Cindy wanted hormones, not freedom.
Can you imagine the torment she must have experienced in the free world to feel that prison was her best option?
I appreciated that Maddie stayed away from invalidating Cindy's experience in her quest to get her to agree to representation.
It would have been so easy to tell her that this is a different world now, that not all straight people nor all gay people hate transgender people, that Maddie herself was proof that Cindy was wrong.
So many would-be allies in the real world make arguments like this, and it never helps. If someone feels so oppressed that jail looks good to her, she is not going to be argued out of those feelings. In fact, insisting she's wrong might make things worse.
And Maddie knew that instinctively and tried a different tactic, talking to Cindy about their shared experience instead of trying to force her to change how she felt.
This isn't freedom. Your life isn't your own. I know being free is scary, but it is your right because you are innocent. And one day, maybe two or three years from now, you'll wake up with tears in your eyes because your life is your own.Maddie
THAT is how to support someone who is struggling!
Proven Innocent again ventured into territory that few shows dare address by addressing the conflicting feelings in the African American community about the LGBT community.
Easy, to his credit, didn't have any discomfort himself with trans people, but I thought his explanation of the disdain some people of color feel made sense. It was simply stated and didn't judge anyone's attitude as right or wrong. It just was.
Bar Owner: The cops saw them walking down the street, would put them in handcuffs for prostitution.
Maddie: Their crime was walking while trans.
Easy: In my community, we call it walking while black.
Bar Owner: Now imagine being both trans and black.
Easy could see some of the similarities between the way people in his community are sometimes treated and the way the trans community was treated, and Thomas even pointed out that race can affect a trans person's experiences too.
Transgender women of color are more likely to meet a violent end than any other segment of the trans community, and Vanessa's death reinforced that statistic, even though this was never directly stated in the episode.
You have to understand, things were different back then. A lot of gay people saw trans people as holding us back from equal rights. Straight people saw them as freaks and so did some of us.Thomas
Thomas' true attitude towards trans people back when Vanessa was alive was sadly all too realistic.
The events in question happened 37 years ago. Not only did they echo some of the things that happened at Stonewall, but there's still somewhat of a rift between the trans and gay communities today.
Some trans people feel that gay rights were won by sacrificing trans rights or even trans lives, and some gay people think that trans people are freaks who make the community look bad. And people who are both trans and gay find themselves caught in the middle of this divide.
Thomas at least tried to make amends for his behavior by the episode's end, though it's hard to see how anyone could make up for the fact that Vanessa lost her life and Cindy lost her freedom.
Bodie's experience with both the cops and the anti-gay attackers made me mad.
I've never experienced this firsthand, but when I used to work for a crisis line sometimes I had to make rescue calls for suicidal people. It was often imperative not to tell the cops in question that the person we were trying to save was transgender, because if they knew they wouldn't try very hard to find them.
This incident reminded me of that, And on top of that, I was sure that cop was going to find a reason to arrest Easy because he didn't like a black man standing up to him.
Maddie was right to get the guys to walk away before that could happen, but at the same time, I wished there was some way they could have stood up to those cops and made them do something.
They couldn't, of course -- that was the point. And that left me furious.
But more powerful than that random act of violence that the cops didn't care about was the depiction of a million and one ways that trans people's lives were made harder every day.
The judge objecting that the case file had Cindy's male name on it was a great example of that.
Things like names and gender markers follow us around everywhere, and if you've never had to change those things you may not even think about it.
Something like a court case can be made a lot more complicated if you have documents with different names and genders on them or you don't match what's expected for someone who bears your legal name and gender.
In short, this episode shed light on a ton of issues that members of the transgender community face. I only wish they'd gone more into what Cindy's prison experience was like. I wondered if she was housed with men or with women and if she was at risk for violence from other prisoners because of her appearance or her gender identity.
These are issues that happen a lot with trans prisoners, and I'm hopeful a future episode will address them more fully.
I also liked the way the case dovetailed with Maddie's personal life. Everything about this case pushed her to be more out in the open about her relationship, especially when her girlfriend doubted that they would be able to be together in the outside world.
Maddie's coming out call to her mom was funny precisely because it made the point that her parents could accept her being bi but had a hard time with the idea of her dating a prisoner even though Maddie herself had once been a prisoner.
Busch: Madeline Scott is not on your level. She's a murderer.
Bellows: You really believe that?
Busch: I do.
Bellows: So I should ignore her?
Busch: Unless you have new evidence of her guilt. Then you would win in a landslide.
Bellows: Re-charge her with murder?
Busch: Only if you have new evidence.
I'm so disappointed in Levi for falling so easily for Isabel's manipulations!
I'd hope Isabel would fall for him for real except that we already sat through that with Maddie and Dylan. So let's hope Levi sees through her soon and manages to foil Bellows' plans.
I'm glad, though, that Violet stayed put. I figured she would since her podcast voiceovers bookend every episode, but it was enjoyable to watch her struggle with what she really wanted and to conclude that her mission was more important than fame.
What did you think, Proven Innocent fanatics?
Did "The Struggle for Stonewall" live up to your expectations? Was there anything you wish they'd done differently? And do you think Bellows is going to get anywhere with this plan?
Watch Proven Innocent online and then share your thoughts in the comment box!
Proven Innocent continues to air on FOX on Fridays at 9 EST/PST.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.