A queer “Degrassi” primer

At the same time, Part 1 of “My Body Is a Cage” featured Adam coming out to two of his friends, Eli and Clare, after one of them saw him spill tampons from his locker. Meanwhile, his mother kept suggesting how nice it would be if “Gracie,” instead of Adam, joined the family for dinner when his grandmother came to visit in Part 2 of the episode.

I was really, really nervous that Adam was going to go back to being Gracie. The previews suggested as much, the summaries suggested as much, and although I wanted to believe in Degrassi and in Adam, I was afraid of being let down.

But, of course, I had some hope. The show had signed Todosey to play this character for several years. They had introduced Adam as male and trans, and they had worked with GLAAD to make the portrayal realistic. So I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best in the second half of the episode.

Part 2 premiered the next day with Adam pretending to “be Gracie” again in order to ease the continued pressure from his family. When the pain of being Gracie became too much, though, Adam started to burn himself, a form of self-mutilation familiar to him. Clare found and stopped him, offering to find him clothes that suited him better. With her help and the renewed support of his family, the episode ended with Adam — dressed as himself again — burning Gracie’s clothes.

Yes, characters mixed up pronouns and slipped up by calling Adam “Gracie.” Yes, they focused too much on images of Adam as a young girl. And, in my opinion, the visiting grandmother was a plot device that largely served to make Adam show up as Gracie and satisfy audience curiosity as to what “she” looked like.

At the same time, the school’s principal was supportive and Adam’s friends were as well. Even when they didn’t understand him, his family supported him. I bet his grandmother would have, too, if Adam’s mother had given her half a chance.

But what I appreciated most was that the scriptwriters of Degrassi did not shy away from letting Adam tell his story. They showed an Adam uncomfortable in his body, coping with anger and frustration. They showed the strength he had to have to bear it all. They let him express himself in his own — eloquent, for an after-school-special type of show — words.

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