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Friends co-creator says the show’s transphobic jokes were “a mistake”

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Marta Kauffman, Friends co-creator, has apologised for misgendering transgender character Helena Handbasket, who was portrayed by Oscar-nominated actress Kathleen Turner.

Kauffman said many of the writing choices around the character were “a mistake”. In the popular sitcom, which ran between 1994 and 2004, Helena, who was the parent of Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), one of the show’s protagonists, was continually misgendered throughout the series and was the butt of many other jokes about her sexuality and gender identity.

As reported by The Radio Times in an interview with The Conversation set to air on BBC World Service on 11 July, Kauffmann said: “We kept referring to [Helena] as ‘Chandler’s father’, even though Chandler’s father was trans.” She added: “Pronouns were not yet something that I understood so we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she’.

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