Dot-Marie Jones on making the trans community proud with “Glee”

Out actress Dot-Marie Jones had a big reveal on this week’s Glee, as her character, Coach Shannon Beiste, came out as transgender to Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Sue (Jane Lynch).

While Glee has a transgender female character (Unique), Beiste will be the first trans male character on the show. Trans visibility on television has gotten better in the last few years with regular trans characters on Degrassi, Orange is the New Black and Transparent, but transmen are still not series regulars or even recurring guest stars (Degrassi, The L Word and The Fosters are the only exceptions).

We spoke with Dot-Marie Jones about how she found out Coach Beiste would be coming out, and what we can expect from the final season of Glee. The big episode finally aired! Can you tell me a little about how you got the news that your character was going through this transition?

Dot Marie Jones: I first got the news as I was reading the script, I’m reading it and I thought, “Oh, so she has cancer”— because Ryan told me he had “big plans” for my character. Then I’m reading the script and I went, “Oh!” Because nobody told me. So I got the script and I was like, “Oh My God!” I was blown away. 


AE: Did you do any kind of research?

DMJ: No. Just with people that I know—like i’m very involved in AIDS Walk and LGBT community and I do what I can. Anti-bullyiing, And just having met so many different people over the years that were trans—I didn’t want it to come across that I was portraying somebody; I wanted it to be Beiste. I first talked seven years ago to a friend of mine that was a transman when I read for a pilot of Ryan’s playing a transman—Pretty Handsome. So just having that, I did it.


AE: There aren’t a lot of transmen on TV. How has it been received since the episode aired?

DMJ: It was amazing the response I was getting on Twitter, I was getting so many tweets. I was bawling my eyes out because there were so many guys saying, “I never thought I’d see myself on TV. ” 


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AE: Are you in every episode? 

DMJ: I come back in episode six, after I take some time off to transition.


AE: What do you look like when you return?

DMJ: I look like one of my brothers as a guy—my brother Bobby. 


AE: Did it make sense to you, for Beiste to go this direction?

DMJ: At first, no. But again, I’m just doing my work. I took it on and was like OK, I’m going to kick-ass on it and do everything I can to do it justice.


AE: How is it saying goodbye to Glee?

DMJ: We haven’t said goodbye yet. We’re on episode 10, out of 13. I don’t want to think about that because I’ll be a hot mess. I just want to focus on my character and make sure I do it justice. My big thing is to make the trans community proud and not offend anybody and have the most respect for it.

Glee airs Friday nights on Fox.