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Trans Story Tackled on Hit Teen Show Degrassi

Trans Story Tackled on Hit Teen Show Degrassi

Hit Canadian show Degrassi continues its reputation for challenging and inclusive storylines in its 10th season by tackling the introduction of a transfer student called Adam, a trans teen hoping for a new start.

Played by 15-year-old Jordan Todosey, the actress summarizes her character’s trans identity concisely, “[Adam] was born physically as a girl but between the ears, he feels like he’s a guy.”

Introduced at the beginning of the season, Adam’s storyline came to a head this week. The storyline has been widely praised, with many of the show’s fans taking to Facebook to show support for Adam as a character.

Adam’s Struggle for Acceptance

Below I have a very brief overview of Adam’s storyline. I caution that if you would prefer to avoid spoilers, please use your discretion and skip to the next section of this post (though be aware that the featured interview below also contains a scene from the show).

After transferring, Adam’s trans status is eventually discovered by his peers, and Adam is forced to deal with anti-trans abuse and transphobic bullying.

Under pressure from his mother, Adam once again dresses as a female and adopts the birth assigned gender identity of Gracie. Feeling trapped and desperate, Adam resorts to self-harming. 

However, Adam is eventually able to pull himself out of this spiral of depression, and despite the hostility he faces, he finds the strength to go forward living as Adam, a fact his mother even manages to start to come to terms with by the end of the story arc.

It may sound like quite a neat resolution, but the journey in between, well, it is ground breaking stuff as it is thought that Degrassi is the first show to depict a trans teen character in this manner.

(British soap Hollyoaks will also air a trans teen storyline in the coming months, the groundwork for which was actually laid this week. You can read more about that story here.)

“What it Means to be a Boy in a Girl’s Body”
XTRA!, a Canadian LGBT news site, recently conducted an interview with the makers of Degrassi in which they explored Adam’s story, and particularly his struggle to live as his true gender and the transphobic bullying he faces as his trans status is revealed.

In the interview, actress Todosey discusses the evolution of the FTM (female to male) trans character and how she prepared for the role, including how she cut her long blond locks and tried to walk a mile in Adam’s shoes before going into the studio. 

There’s also a discussion with Degrassi writer Michael Grassi on how the writers were keen to avoid making the story into an after-school special, saying that they wanted, as much as possible on a teen drama, to show some of the realities a trans teen would face in high school.

Here is the video courtesy of XTRA! who were kind enough to put the segment on YouTube (double click the video if you would like to see it in its original, larger size):

While the above interview mentions some criticism over why an actual FTM actor wasn’t used for the role (a valid question), I think the makers of Degrassi got one thing very right in that they framed the storyline in a way that clearly separates it from current and former gay and lesbian plots.

While there may be similarities in the struggles that gay and trans people face, being trans comes with its own unique set of obstacles, social stigmas and emotional issues, something which Degrassi’s writers have, to their credit, clearly attempted to capture and show to their audience.

GLAAD’s Input on Degrassi Trans Teen Storyline
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), alongside other LGBT groups, consulted with the makers of Degrassi to ensure that the portrayal of Adam was sensitive and accurate.

From GLAAD:

As we mentioned earlier, GLAAD had the opportunity to provide notes on the scripts for these two episodes, and helped TeenNick create a PSA to raise awareness of transgender issues as well as direct viewers to additional resources at PFLAG.org.  This PSA will run during the two coming out episodes every time they air on TeenNick and TeenNick.com.  Additional information and resources will also be available on TeenNick.com.

Finaly, here is the aforementioned PSA featuring actress Jordan Todosey:

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Photo used under Fair Use Terms, no infringement intended.

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58 comments

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3:48PM PDT on May 5, 2013

I watch Degrassi and think that it's great that they finally have a transgendered character. I just wish they would give Adam other storylines that do not have to do with his gender.

6:04AM PST on Feb 6, 2011

Aaron Baker and Cindy C. Just a little question to you both: Did you grow up blindfolded or does ignorance run rampant in your families?

2:42AM PST on Nov 7, 2010

you know what being FTM trans my self and proud of every thing that i am. I think having a story line such as the ftm in the show is good, u can never not stop learning about the world around you,take things for what they are and not the bullshit that everyone puts on top of them. what are people so afraid of . i will never understand hate , its a pointless to put so much energy into something so blind

10:55AM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

being transgendered is not something that IS NOT a choice. it is a choice. so to say, "if you think you might be transgendered." like saying, "if you think you might be HIV positive. and calling girl's boy's is straight up delusional. it's deceptive and wrong. im sure girls back in the day might not have liked being girls but they couldn't change it. i might not like my big nose, but im not gunna change it. you might not like that your grandma died, but you cant change it. it's a lot of people in th is world who have problems that they wish they didnt, but we DEAL WITH IT. transgendered people want to change and have everyone else in the world accept what they are doing, all the while they go a long inconsiderate to those very people. they lie and say that they a guys or girls when THEY ARE NOT. just because you FEEL like your a girl doesnt make it so. kids felt like that could web sling when spider man came out, didnt stop them from plunging to their deaths. this is like saying, "oh, im just a killer and everyone should just accept it, i was born this way. people of today make me sick. they whine about EVERY little thing. so what you were born a male and dont like it, how bout if you weren't born at all?!

10:04PM PDT on Aug 22, 2010

Just another way to push the "HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA". You people dont realize it but you are fulfilling BIBLICAL PROPHECIES with this. You have also turned this country into the modern day SODOM and GOMORRAH, and GOD destoyed those cities for that ABOMONATION. YES, HOMOSEXUALITY is an ABOMONATION to GOD. And just in case you dont believe in GOD, NATURE itself shows you that HOMOSEXUALITY is UNNATURAL.

5:26PM PDT on Aug 19, 2010

Degrassi has always been a show that brings all the stories facing school age children and teens out to the forfront.
I grew up in a very international life, and I am now 54. Yes, I would agree that while living with my Grandparents in a more rural setting there may not have been many, if any gay people or that were ever spoken about. Probably those desires would be hidden in that type of culture. Yet living between Toronto, Chicago and Mexico City my parents were the ones that mentioned to me that this friend of their or that person desired the 'affections' of their own sex. That was that. Oh yes, another term was that a dear friend of my Dad's was 'artistic and flamboyant". I knew what they meant and today I do not find any big deal in the whole thing. These people were wonderful human beings that loved music, were devoted friends, intellectual, artists and loved animals and also were devote to me. I cannot imagine a world without them. Although looking back I see the different settings of lifestyle and geography, religious and community prohibiting the open display of a LGBT way. Look at all the things we have learned now regarding sexuality since Kinsey, Freud, Jung, (agreed or not) and all the 'hidden' stories from the past that are just comming to light because of people becoming more tolerant.
I know it can be very confusing for people as I know a young adult who was female, and has chosen to be transgendered male and is now heterosexual, but gay before.(?)

10:13AM PDT on Aug 18, 2010

This the perfect thing for real life people to watch who are struggling with gender identity issues. I empithize with their struggle and commend all of those who have made their journey through safely and unharmed.

8:01AM PDT on Aug 18, 2010

Cindy, haven't you heard the long story about transgenders and homosexuals yet?

They've been around since the beginning of humanity and earlier. Are you older than that?

1:27PM PDT on Aug 17, 2010

Sniff...sniff.

10:47AM PDT on Aug 17, 2010

I don't know. When I was a kid there were boys and there were girls. I never heard of transgender or lesbians or homosexuals....my sister was a tomboy and is a beautiful woman with no desire to be man. I don't know when all this started. I don't know. I know there are people who are going to attack me and tell me how wrong I am. I don't care. I grew up a girl. I'm a woman. I never saw or heard of pairs or couples of same-sex.

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