Successful portrayals of transgender characters include storylines beyond the fact that they are transgender. Transparent focuses not just on Maura (Tambor’s character) but on her family, which includes three selfish children who have their own internal struggles with gender and sexual identity. Laverne Cox’s role in Orange is similar in its depth: She is an adult with a wife and child from when she was biologically male, and her personal storyline centers around those relationships, rather than the fact or science of being transgender.
Orange is at its very base a show about women in a prison, and one of them happens to be transgender. Transparent is a show about a family reacting to change.
It’s important to note that there have been occasionally awareness-raising or complex portrayals of teen transgender and gender identity stories—Glee and House of Lies come to mind. What sets Orange and Transparent apart from those is that they address a population of transgender people that’s sizable and absent from the media—those who transition later in life.