From ‘Euphoria’ To ‘Sabrina’, Trans Teens Are Finally Having Their Moment On TV
2019 has some of the most compelling trans and gender diverse characters on TV.
With all the trash in the media and transphobia flowing out of Canberra, It can be a pretty confusing time to be non-binary or transgender — particularly if you’re a young person trying to discover who you are for the first time.
The disinformation is harmful, and seeing it everywhere can be exhausting.
When there’s a new article published telling trans teens and their parents that they aren’t valid and don’t deserve health care (heavy, existential sigh), it’s another burden for young people who just want to be themselves and be happy. It’s another obstacle to becoming accepted by their families or their community.
But here’s the good news. Not everything is a complete dumpster fire! Not everything is trash!
For once, we actually have some positive media representation out there that is sweet, hopeful, endearing and well-made. So this is a list of trans and non-binary characters that you can stream to see people who might be a little bit like you, or that you can recommend to a teen who might need some visibility and positivity.
Non-Binary Representation: Syd On One Day At A Time
If you haven’t seen this reboot of the original sitcom classic, it’s absolutely worth a watch.
It centres on a Latino family in the US dealing with modern issues through classic tropes and storylines that are just done really well. It’s funny, it’s thoughtful, and it’s intersectional.
The best part though, is the way it explores identity through an epic non-binary character, Syd, played by Sheridan Pierce. They come into the show in Season 2, and begin a truly adorable relationship with one of the main characters. They’re a fully fleshed, sensitively written and smartly portrayed protagonist.
Syd isn’t shown as someone confusing or difficult or alienated. They’re happy. They’re fulfilled. They’re a gamer, they’re creative, they’re loved by the people around them, and their pronouns are clear, respected and used accurately.
Syd’s storyline doesn’t dramatise who they are as a non-binary person, it explores who they are as a teenager falling in love, finding their interests and just living their life. You love to see it.
Where You Can Watch It: One Day At A TimeSeasons 1-3 are on Netflix, with Syd appearing from Season 2.
Trans Masculine Representation: Theo On Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
It’s always fantastic when you see a queer character played by a queer actor, but it’s so rarely seen with trans and gender fluid characters. Not the case here though!
In Sabrina, one of the best, and most sensitively handled threads is the story of Theo, a trans-masculine teen played by Lachlan Watson, a non-binary actor.
The wider story of Sabrina is about witchcraft and mystery, which is amazing. Theo’s personal arc however is a slow burn though, throughout Season 1 and Season 2. It’s not jarring, it’s organic in a way that reflects how lot of trans people and develop and explore their understanding of who they are.
As Theo takes on masculine pronouns, and a masculine name, and begins living as his authentic self, it’s done in a way that treats the character’s evolution with respect and a heightened degree of understanding.
I don’t think you could quite get that with a cis actor portraying the role. Theo is a character with texture and depth, and it’s amazing to see a trans man written and played with so much empathy. Vital representation for young trans boys to see and feel.
Where You Can Watch It: Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Seasons 1-2 are on Netflix.
Trans Feminine Representation: Jules on Euphoria
Euphoria is unique in that one of the main characters is trans girl, played by a trans actress (Hunter Schafer), going through the drama and ups and downs of teen life.
It’s written in a way that doesn’t always centre her gender, but uses it sensitively to explore her personality and her life, a lens that gives a deeper context to the way she gets to know, love and interact with the people around her.
Jules as a teenager is touching, raw and unrelentingly real. There aren’t many trans cliches at play here, and the stories get to the core of many universal teen experiences around bullying, starting to experiment with sex and trying to grow your first real self-chosen friendships and relationships.
This one does come with some content warnings though, around self-harm and drug use. It’s also got some pretty graphic sex stuff, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s sex positive!
Where You Can Watch It: Euphoria Season 1 is on Foxtel Now. Which sucks. But it’s still watchable!
Not so long ago, the only trans representation you could find was pretty much negative or treated like a joke. It’s nice to have these emerging trans and non-binary characters that are so real, so relatable and so present.
It actually makes a difference when you can see yourself, portrayed well, in stories that you can love and embrace. These shows are a great starting point, and there are more characters like these coming out every year.
Watch these with your friends, watch them with your family, and it might make a difference.
Joan Westenberg is a Sydney based writer and a proud transgender woman. She has never seen Avatar. Nor is she likely to.