In four episodes including The One with Chandler's Dad, cisgender actress Kathleen Turner played a transgender woman named Helena, who had fathered Matthew Perry's character before her transition.
The character is frequently deadnamed and made the butt of jokes, and her name – Helena Handbasket – is one that suggests a drag queen rather than a trans woman.
The last ever episode of Friends premiered 15 years ago today, on 6th May 2004, and in an anniversary interview co-creator Marta Kauffman admitted that she wishes the show had done things differently.
“I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms," Kauffman told USA Today. “I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then. I think that’s the biggest one. Every time I watch an episode, there’s something I wish I could have changed.”
Kaufmann also expressed regret over an episode in which a rumour spread suggesting that Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel might be intersex.
“I might have not done the hermaphrodite stuff today if I had that to do over in the one with Brad Pitt," added Kauffman, who went on to create Netflix sitcom Grace and Frankie.
"It really is a period piece," she said of Friends in 2019.
Friends' portrayal of LGBTQ characters has often come in for criticism in recent years. A 50-minute supercut of homophobic moments from the show even went viral on YouTube.
Perhaps it's time for Friends to get its own version of the brilliant Woke Charlotte meme that called out problematic elements of Sex and the City. Woke Monica, where are you?