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    The Trans-Themed Episode Of "How To Get Away With Murder" Was Actually Really Great

    A trans woman is actually played by a trans woman. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)

    ABC / David Mullen

    If you haven't seen last Thursday's epsiode of HTGAWM, you should get on it! The murder case Annalise worked on during the show involved one of her professor colleagues, Jill Hartford, killing her husband after years of domestic abuse. But here's the thing: unbeknownst to Annalise or her other colleagues, the professor turns out to be trans.

    This isn't the first time trans issues have been brought up in a Shonda Rhimes show; last season's Grey's Anatomy featured a trans subplot involving a doctor's sibling coming out as a trans woman. But this is Shondaland's most substantial exploration of trans for the folliwng reasons:

    A trans woman was cast to play a trans woman.


    When we see so many trans roles go to cisgender actors, it’s wonderful that HTGAWM cast a trans woman in this substantial guest role.

    The trans woman guest star is the luminous Alexandra Billings!

    David Mullen

    Her most recent role is as Maura’s good friend Davina in the Amazon hit series Transparent, but Billings was also the first openly trans woman to play a trans woman on TV in Romy and Michele: In the Beginning. Maybe someday, she can also be the first trans woman to have a lead role in a network TV show. What do you think, Shonda?

    Annalise doesn't bat an eye when she finds out her colleague is trans.


    A police detective pulls up Jill Hartford’s file and finds out that she was assigned male at birth. The detective *assumes* that the reason Jill killed her husband was because they got into a fight after he found out that she’s trans. “You lied to your husband about what you are!” the detective shouts at her.

    But Annalise is unflappable when she finds out about Jill’s trans status, and has no hesitation continuing to defend her friend. Way to be a good trans ally Annalise!

    CeCe McDonald gets a shout-out!


    When Annalise asks Jill why she planted false evidence to try to strengthen her self-defense case, Jill gets real about how the justice system is stacked against trans women. Jill cites the real-life case of CeCe McDonald, a black trans woman who ended up in jail for three years after defending herself against a transphobic attacker. Her story will be the subject of the upcoming documentary, FREE CeCe, co-produced by another groundbreaking trans actress, Laverne Cox.

    In the world of HTGAWM, being transphobic might cost people their jobs.


    Annalise confronts the district attorney about Jill’s case, and tries to convince him to drop the charges in part because his reputation might get damaged by his support of the transphobic detective. In Shondaland, transphobia can cause a public outcry and get you fired, and the whole world should be the same.

    The moment a trans woman realizes she is worthy of love is incredibly moving.


    After charges against Jill are dropped, she only feels relief for escaping her abusive husband, who kept reminding her that no one would ever love her except for him because she’s trans. Now that her husband's dead, Jill can move on with her life and find happiness.

    A black cis woman and a white trans woman work together – talk about intersectional bonding!


    So okay, the circumstances are kinda grim, but Annalise as a black woman and Jill as a trans woman are both presented as undesirable by society. But after their awful white husbands died, they both realized that they have no reason to feel inferior to them just because they’re white men.


    Watch the HTGAWM episode, "Two Birds, One Millstone" over at Hulu.