Friends creator regrets sitcom not using the correct pronoun for Chandler’s trans parent

Stars of Friends pose at the 54th Annual Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles 22 September 2002.  (AFP via Getty Images)
Stars of Friends pose at the 54th Annual Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles 22 September 2002. (AFP via Getty Images)

Co-creator of Friends Marta Kauffman has spoken of her regret of the show not using the right pronoun for Chandler Bing’s parent who was transgender.

The character, played by Kathleen Turner, was often referred to as “Chandler’s father” and made an appearance in the sitcom in 2001, becoming the punchline to endless offensive jokes made by Chandler relating to gender.

Two decades later, Kauffman has addressed the insensitivity of Friends when it came to the role.

"We kept referring to her as Chandler’s father, even though Chandler’s father was trans," she told the BBC.

"Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn’t refer to that character as she. That was a mistake."

In 2018, Turner said in an interview that she would not take on a role like that again as a trans woman deserved it instead.

Kauffman continued to tell the BBC that she recently “fired a guy on the spot” after he made a joke about a transgender cameraperson, showing her compassion for transpeople has fiercely changed.

The co-creator’also addressed criticism of a lack of diversity in Friends .

During its 10-year run, the sitcom had few people of colour star in major parts on the show.

The majority of other diverse faces were resorted to background characters.

Kauffman admitted to being “embarrassed” about the diversity issue on Friends as she spoke to the Los Angeles Times last month.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” she said.

“Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago.”

It comes after Kauffman donated $4 million to Brandeis University in Boston in an effort to build and support the African and African American studies department.

The showrunner said she was inspired to pledge after George Floyd was killed in 2020.

“After what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of,” Martha continued.

“That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”

Moving forward, Martha said she is committed to bringing diversity into every production she works on and making that progressive step Friends strayed from taking back in the day.

The co-creator added: “I have to say, after agreeing to this [pledge] and when I stopped sweating, it didn’t unburden me, but it lifted me up. But until in my next production I can do it right, it isn’t over.

“I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of colour and actively pursue young writers of colour. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened.”