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.
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:
Photo used under Fair Use Terms, no infringement intended.