Trans power couple, Abbi and Roman, provide truly life-changing representation
BY NIC CROSARA, STILLS BY NETFLIX
Boys Don’t Cry. Dallas Buyers Club. The Danish Girl. These are some of the most well-known films portraying transgender characters, and what do they have in common? All of the trans characters are portrayed by cis actors, and their character arcs are mostly about isolation, suffering and death.
But when Laverne Cox was cast as Sophia in Orange Is The New Black, things started to change. Her authentic performance changed the game and we entered what was called “the transgender tipping point”. Since then, we’ve had hugely popular shows such as Pose, The L Word: Generation Q, and Heartstopper casting trans actors to play trans roles. Not only that, but their storylines don’t revolve solely around their transness.
All of these shows have served up excellent, authentic trans representation. But the fourth and final season of Netflix’s Sex Education provided something I didn’t even know I so desperately needed to see: a trans-for-trans (T4T) relationship. As soon as we were introduced to Abbi (Anthony Lexa) and Roman (Felix Mufti) I felt something within me click.
In the show’s third season, we were introduced to a non-binary student, Cal (Dua Saleh). This allowed viewers to be shown the realities of navigating a binary world when you exist outside of the binary. And in season four, the show continues to follow Cal’s gender journey as they begin medically transitioning. I don’t have the words to fully articulate the emotional impact that Cal’s important journey in this chapter had on me – so for now, I will just be focusing on Abbi and Roman’s beautiful trans love story. But I will say this: you can see how much it means to Cal when they see Abbi and Roman together, just by the expression on their face alone.
We live in a world that tells us that being trans will outcast us and make it hard, or impossible, to find love. So it’s truly healing to see Abbi and Roman (I’m not sure if they have a ship name yet, so let’s go with #RoBi for now) not only be super in love as their authentic selves, but to also be super popular cool kids on the Cavendish campus.
They are undoubtedly a power couple. In fact, they are such #CoupleGoals that when they have a falling out, it’s breaking news across the college and their classmates are eager to get their relationship back on track. It was great to see their relationship celebrated and shown as a healthy one, but also, they are human, and they fight, just like everyone else.
Trans people are not a monolith. I really appreciated how the show portrayed these two characters’ very different lived experiences. While Roman appears to have a supportive family, Abbi – who is a trans Christian – isn’t so fortunate, and she actually has to move in with Roman after not being accepted by her family. They both communicate differently. They each have a different relationship with their transness. But they also clearly understand and hold space for each other in a way that a cisgender partner could not.
I recently entered my first-ever T4T relationship. It’s already been a truly transformative and healing dating experience. We watched this season together and it was deeply moving to see a love like ours celebrated on such a hugely popular show. Suffice it to say, it hit us both in the feels. We cried both happy and sad tears throughout this viewing experience. I think it healed something within us both.
I had never before seen a T4T couple represented onscreen before. The show could’ve just shown us these characters, and this could’ve been considered game changing as it was. But Sex Education continued to push the needle further by also giving us a beautifully intimate T4T sex scene in the finale. Sex Education has always served up iconic sex scenes, and it was great to see RoBi get treated with the same care and attention.
After the end credits rolled on the final episode, I couldn’t stop thinking about RoBi. How grateful I was that these characters now exist, but also how much more T4T representation I now have a hunger for.
While there’s been a huge increase in positive trans representation in TV shows, the progress has been slower when it comes to film. I’d love to watch a feature-length romcom that followed RoBi. I want to see T4T love stories centred in Christmas films, epic fantasies, lighthearted romcoms, dramedies and every genre under the sun. We have a lot of lost time to make up for. And Sex Education has shown just how engaging, impactful and healing these stories can be.
Season four of Sex Education is available to stream now on Netflix.
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