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New ABC Show ‘Work It,’ Premiering Tonight, is Offensive to Transgender Community

Premiering on ABC tonight is “Work It,” a new sitcom with a pretty terrible and offensive premise.

The network describes the new show as a “high-concept comedy about two unrepentant guy’s guys who, unable to find work, dress as women to get jobs.” If you don’t find that premise hilarious, you’re in good company. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign have taken out a full-page ad in Daily Variety condemning the show and trying to educate readers about the possible effects the sitcom could have on the transgender community.

The text of the ad, taken from an open letter posted on GLAAD’s blog, aims to “elevate the conversation” about what life is like for transgender people, said Herndon Graddick, GLAAD’s senior director of programs.

“The truth is, transgender people often have a very hard time finding a job,” Graddick told the Los Angeles Times. “We wanted to lay out some statistics about how difficult it is for transgender people in our society to make a living.”

For instance, it’s legal for employers to fire transgender workers in 34 states, according to GLAAD and 26 percent of transgender Americans reported being fired for being transgender. A disturbing 97 percent of transgender people have also reported being harassed or abused at work, reports GLAAD’s ad.

The ad is titled “Work It Will Harm Transgender People” and argues that “by encouraging the audience to laugh at the characters’ attempts at womanhood, the show gives license to similar treatment of transgender women.” Though GLAAD and the HRC commended ABC for its “record of positive portrayals of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” they said they believe the newest show “has the potential to jeopardize the safety of many transgender Americans in the process.”

And Work It isn’t just offensive to transgender people—ABC throws in racism and sexism, too. In the first episode of the show, one character says to another: "I'm Puerto Rican. I would be great at selling drugs." And viewers learn that the men decided to dress as women because they’re told by a pharmaceutical rep that “doctors prefer to ‘nail’ the drug reps more when they are girls."

After initial outrage over the show, ABC re-shot the pilot to address concerns about the appropriateness of the material. But representatives from GLAAD and the HRC said that the revised pilot has not adequately addressed those concerns.

Tell ABC that Work It doesn’t work and sign the GLADD/HRC petition here.

Watch the trailer for the show below:

Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.

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