LGBTQ+ representation has made positive leaps and bounds in recent years, and Tyler DiChiara is a big part of the next step for trans representation in media. From theater to indie films, to playing a major role in CW’s Gotham Knights, Tyler DiChiara has come a long way as an actor in a few short years. He’s also a trans man, and while that’s important to representation, DiChiara recognizes that he and his characters don’t have to be defined by his gender journey.
While his career is still young, Tyler DiChiara has been acting for a long time. His first real taste came in high school theater in a production of Cinderella where he got to play a cis male role for the first time. Far from being the only LGBTQ+ member of the cast, Tyler DiChiara’s Prince was opposite a trans Cinderella.
Moving from stage to screen can be difficult, but DiChiara was approached by an agent through Instagram and was cast in the award-winning independent movie Relish. While Relish is very much a trans narrative, it was a massively formative moment for DiChiara’s career. Speaking with Pop Culturalist, DiChiara noted that the team not only helped him to hone his craft but also pointed to how important the tone of the portrayal of trans characters in the movie was. “Not only did those scenes portray things from my own life that were very real, but I was also able to show the public that this is what a majority of us trans folks go through. It’s not like we’re trying to hurt anyone. We’re just trying to stay safe and be ourselves,” DiChiara told Pop Culturalist. “To have someone portray us not as victims, I was so proud to be part of something like that. A lot of the time, trans folks are portrayed as victims who are weak and not able to stand up for themselves. But that’s all we did in history was stand up for ourselves and fight like hell to be who we are.”
While DiChiara had to fight for his acting career after Relish, he received the eventual call to play Cullen Row in Gotham Knights. Being cast in a major CW show and playing a DC character is obviously a huge deal. But it also placed him to be following in the footsteps of others in a way that enables him to bring to the screen his dream of a character that was incidentally trans.
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While the MCU and the DC movies have received a lot of criticism over the years for their lack of LGBTQ+ representation, DC’s CW shows have been at the forefront of the movement. The Arrowverse introduced the first trans DC superhero to TV with Nicole Maines’ Nia Nal (Dreamer) in Supergirl, and there have been a huge number of characters who fall into a wide range of identities. For many of those characters, their LGBTQ+ identity was a major focus for the show, but with Cullen Row, it’s clear that DiChiara is taking trans representation to its next logical step.
The comic book version of Cullen Row is a gay cisgender man. As Tyler DiChiara is taking on the role and Row (along with other characters) is having aspects of their identity changed, there is room for DiChiara to truly make the character his own. Cullen Row is trans in Gotham Knights, and that provides important representation by allowing trans people to see characters like them on screen. But DiChiara talked to PinkNews about how that’s only the first part of it.
30 years ago, trans characters were punchlines in Jim Carrey movies. Since then there has been a shift to trying to tell authentic trans stories but falling short with portrayals by cis actors, to trans actors being able to appear on screen and tell true stories about trans identities. We are now finally seeing the true rise of the incidentally trans character with the work of Tyler DiChiara being a great example of that progress.