Rachel Paige
August 13, 2015 11:23 am

Even if you don’t watch Pretty Little Liars, by now you’ve probably heard about the Big A big twist in its Season 6A finale the other night. If you’ve somehow missed all the OMGs, here is your official SPOILER WARNING. Stop reading now if you don’t know the identity of A and don’t want to. Got it? Good.

The Liars spent half a season trying to figure out Charles DiLaurentis’ true identity (in the season 5 finale, they learned that A’s name was Charles, but little else about their cyber stalker’s identity). When they finally solved the mystery, it turned that Charles was actually Charlotte DiLaurentis — aka CeCe Drake.

For die-hard fans of the series, this was a complete and total shock for a few reasons. Not only were viewers left scratching their heads, wondering how CeCe could be behind everything (because, seriously, WHAT?), but the fact that Charles had transitioned somewhere over the course of the show was never directly addressed. It was made clear to us that CeCe was a transgender female, however, PLL never said the word, nor gave us any context as to how CeCe wants to gender identify now. In a world where this is an important topic, particularly at this moment in history, and transgender issues are making huge strides in the right direction, it’s something that should have been addressed.

Then, there’s the fact that PLL made a transgender female their cray-cray Big A endgame, which is also raising a lot of eyebrows right now.

PLL showrunner, I. Marlene King, has been on the defense since “Game Over, Charles” aired on Tuesday night. She talked to Entertainment Tonight and explained her reasoning behind the CeCe/transgender twist, and that she did not jump on any current “transgender bandwagon” (a phrase that is in and of itself problematic) and never meant to do any harm to the transgender community.

“We definitely came up with this idea three and a half years ago. I mean, it’s been a long time in the works,” King explained, “I cannot remember the specifics, but if you go back and look at the scenes, there are so many clues that point to her, and this is definitely a well-thought out plan. I’m glad that there is a transgender trend [now], but we certainly did not jump on the bandwagon. I like that we started it three and a half years ago without knowing it.”

As for the criticism that PLL has now painted a transgender female as a crazy psychopath bent on revenge, King wants to stress that the show tried its best to explain that CeCe comes from a crazy family and that her actions are not based on her gender identity.

“Crazy runs in the [DiLaurentis] family… and it just so happens that [CeCe] suffered some tragic consequences of a crazy family, but having nothing to do with [her being] transgender.” Those tragic consequences are, of course, the fact that CeCe was locked up in Radley for the better part of her life, and her dad has never accepted her — circumstances that stem (as far as the audience knows, at least) largely from the fact that she identified as female from a young age. Whatever King and the rest of the PLL team’s intentions might have been, it’s hard to fault fans and critics who object to the show’s portrayal of CeCe and the circumstances surrounding her transition and struggle for acceptance.

As for why King never thought to cast a transgender female in the role — like, Laverne Cox being a transgender woman and playing a transgender woman on Orange is the New Black — she says it never occurred to her three years ago because, this was “before people were even talking about it as openly as they are now.”

Vanessa Ray, who’s portrayed CeCe for entire run of the series, echoed King’s statements. Talking to BuzzFeed, she explained that, “Being transgender had nothing to do with her being a villain. I think the lesson we can learn is that… if you treat somebody like they’re nothing, chances are they will treat others like they’re nothing as well.”

This is not a conversation that is going to end any time soon — both PLL‘s big twist, and the fact that CeCe is transgender. Ray has stated that she’ll be back for the second half of Season 6 when it resumes (no date has been set yet). Hopefully, when the show returns it’ll be light on cryptic text messages, and heavy on treating CeCe less as a crazy sideshow and more as a well-rounded (and deeply complicated) person who happens to be a transgender woman.

(Image via ABC Family.)

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