Let’s back up a moment, though. AfterEllen.com member Lindsay wrote in a comment a few weeks ago how she thinks it’s interesting that Degrassi is “really exploring what it means to be with someone who is FTM and also what it means to be a lesbian,” and I think this episode really captures that spirit.
As she put it, “It’s within Adam’s right to be with someone who thinks of him as completely male and is attracted to him as male. And likewise it’s Fiona’s right to be with someone who is completely female.” Most importantly, though, is the fact that Degrassi is doing so in a way that focuses on “what it means to the characters” themselves.
I remember when I started dating transmen. The first time was an accident. Well, an accident in that he didn’t identify as trans at the time so I didn’t realize I was dating a transman, but looking back, it made total sense that he had eventually come to identify that way.
When a bisexual woman starts dating a man, she’s not suddenly straight, and when she dates a woman, she doesn’t become a lesbian. Similarly, the people she dates can remain straight (or bisexual) or lesbian respectively. For me, I believed I could date transmen and lesbians while maintaining a queer identity, as long as I allowed them to maintain their respectively male and female identities.
So the second time I dated a transman, it wasn’t an accident. In fact, as someone who had been very overtly queer for a long time but not necessarily tied to the label “lesbian,” the only change was that I actively stopped identifying with that particular label.
However, you still need the person you’re dating to be on the same page as you are. In this second relationship, the guy I was with really wanted a straight girl on his arm. I liked him for him, but that didn’t change the fact that I still found my home to be within the queer community. I couldn’t be just a straight girl for him.
If Fiona doesn’t like Adam for being him, then that’s a problem, but, in the end, I don’t think it’s any more problematic than the situations I’ve been in. Adam wants a straight girl; Fiona wants a girl. I wanted the person I was dating; he wanted a straight girl. In the former situation, two things don’t line up. In the latter, one thing didn’t line up. In both, it just ain’t gonna work out.
Sexuality is just as complicated for trans people as it is for everyone else, and in tonight’s episode of Degrassi, what I thought they did best was allow each character their individual autonomy to label their own gender and their own sexuality and to only date people who they believed best aligned with that.
As such, after the end of her relationship with Adam, Fiona is left struggling to define her own sexuality. The next day at school, Fiona joins Holly J for lunch and tries to hint that maybe the sleepover isn’t such a good idea after all. “Oh, if you want some Adam time,” Holly J begins, but Fiona explains that she and Adam are over — it just didn’t work when Fiona was sober. “Poor Adam,” Holly J empathizes. Poor Adam, indeed.
“I thought I liked him,” Fiona says almost wearily. “I wish I did.” Holly J encourages her to like who she likes, and re-poses the invitation for a sleepover.
The two of them enjoy their girls’ night by watching The Notebook, and Fiona wonders if that’s what love is like. Holly J teases back that Fiona’s in love, but Fiona just shakes her comment off.
An exhausted Holly J goes to bed early, but Fiona stays up. When her mom arrives home, she finds Fiona staring at an unopened bottle of champagne. “I don’t want to drink it, Mom, I really don’t,” she promises, and, after shutting the door to her bedroom where Holly J is sleeping, she makes another confession to her mother.
“I’m in love with her, and she’s a girl,” Fiona declares, and her mom replies, “Oh.” Then, “Oh, OK.”
“Are you shocked? Are you disappointed?” Fiona worries, but her mom rushes over to promise that all she wants is for Fiona to be happy, no matter who she loves. “But do I have to love her?” Fiona complains. Holly J is straight. Even Fiona knows “it can’t go anywhere.”
“I just don’t want to go back to how I was — angry, lonely, drink-y,” Fiona admits. Her mom reassures her that she’s so much stronger than even she gives her credit for. She can handle this.
If Burt on Glee gets the award for Best TV Dad Ever, I’m giving the award for Best TV Mom Ever to Ms. Coyne here. It’s the perfect response and the perfect reassurance.
Fiona walks to her bedroom and climbs in bed next to Holly J, next to her best friend who she loves “more than anyone in the world,” who is sleeping in her room, in her bed, so close but so far, and turns away to cry silent tears. Well, damn. That has to hurt.
Shortly after, Fiona shows up to Holly J’s dialysis appointment (kidney damage from strep throat, Degrassi? You couldn’t just give her mono? That comes with exploding spleens!) with something to tell her.
“I don’t want to date any more boys,” Fiona declares. “I like girls. I guess I’m gay, or lesbian. I haven’t chosen nomenclature yet.” Score one for over-the-top awesome political correctness! “I always thought I’d meet a guy and understand how other girls felt, but it’s just not going to happen,” she continues. It was “a relief” to tell her mom, Fiona explains, and she doubts her twin brother will be surprised by the news.
Holly J tells Fiona she’s glad she came to her with this, and asks if this was why Fiona was with Adam, “since he’s kind of a girl — I mean, physically.” Fiona immediately tells Holly J never to say anything like that. “I should have realized what I was doing, using him,” she explains.
But she did eventually realize the difference between Adam being a guy and her wanting him as a not-quite-girl, not-quite-guy. She gets it now, and that’s the important thing.
This episode raises the question of where one draws the line in between lesbians and transmen, and it did so by focusing on individuals.
One way of asking that question is: where do individual people draw that line? Adam knew where he drew the line, and Fiona eventually came to that same conclusion. I drew the line one way, while my ex-boyfriend saw it differently.
In any case, after coming out to Holly J, Fiona asks for reassurance that her coming out won’t change anything between them, and Holly J promises that she loves Fiona, no matter what. As they hug, however, Holly J seems to remember their earlier conversation where Fiona deferred the question about being in love, and her face suddenly transforms into one of glee. “Hold up,” she says. “Is there an actual love interest here?!”
And Fiona — brave, strong Fiona — lets her straight best friend just be her straight best friend, at least for this episode. “Right now,” she says to Holly J, “I’m just happy to have my friend.”
Right now, I’m just happy this show exists.
Degrassi being Degrassi, I’d guess this is where Adam, Fiona, and Holly J’s storylines will be left for the season. The season finale airs in two parts over the next two weeks, and we’ll have interviews with Jordan Todosey (Adam) and Annie Clark (Fiona) coming soon, so stay tuned!
What did everyone else think of Friday’s episode? You can watch it online at TeenNick.com.