‘Friends’ co-creator apologises for misgendering Kathleen Turner’s character

"Pronouns were not yet something that I understood"

Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has apologised for misgendering Kathleen Turner’s character in the series.

Speaking on the BBC radio show The Conversation, Kauffman, who created the hit sitcom with David Crane, admitted that it was a “mistake” to refer to Chandler Bing’s transgender parent as a man.

“Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she’. That was a mistake,” said Kauffman.


Throughout the series, Chandler (Matthew Perry) frequently referred to Turner’s character, Charles Bing, as his father. The character was also known as Helena Handbasket, which was the name they used for their drag show act. The series never specified if Charles was trans, but Kauffman confirmed that she was.

Kauffman added that she set out to create a safe environment on the set of the sitcom and did not tolerate transphobia offscreen.

“I like very much to create an environment where we have a happy set and a happy crew,” she said. “It’s very important to me that where we are is a safe place, a tolerant place, where there’s no yelling. I fired a guy on the spot for making a joke about a trans cameraperson. That just can’t happen.”

Marta Kauffman CREDIT: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Speaking about the show’s LGBTQ+ representation, Turner previously admitted that the series hadn’t aged well.

“How they approached me with it was, ‘Would you like to be the first woman playing a man playing a woman?’ I said yes, because there weren’t many drag/trans people on television at the time,” Turner told Gay Times. “It became a phenomenon, but no one ever took it seriously as a social comment.”


During her interview on The Conversation, Kauffman also addressed the criticism Friends has received for its lack of racial representation, having recently pledged $4million (£3.2million) to African American studies as an apology.

“Over the course of the last few years I’ve gotten to the point where I can say unfortunately yes, I am guilty of that,” she said. “And I’ll never make that mistake again. I was clearly part of systemic racism in our business. I was unaware of that, which makes me feel stupid.

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