The House of Mouse is clearly playing catch-up - and we're not mad about it!
In the latest episode of its fifth season, Raven's Home made history by introducing the first live-action transgender character in the history of the Disney Channel. The episode, titled "The Fierce Awakens," featured actress Juliana Joel playing a new character called Nikki.
Joel celebrated this historic moment not only for the Disney Channel but also in her career with a beautiful and thoughtful post on Instagram about the importance of LGBTQ+ representation for kids who are growing up already knowing that they are queer.
The actress wrote:
"Growing up as a kid in Florida (like many other kids) I dreamt of being on the Disney Channel, specifically on That's So Raven. It was my favorite show & Raven Baxter was my best friend in my mind. It was my escape from what I was going through internally. Coming from a typical Puerto Rican family, I didn't think being an actor was possible [especially] for someone like me, I thought you had to be born into that world. Fast forward to becoming an actor I then told myself I wasn't young enough to be on Disney anymore & even if that wasn't the case, I'm TRANS!"
"I'd never seen an out trans actor or character on the Disney Channel. EVER. Needless to say, I cried in my dressing room after walking onto that set the first time. It was a moment where it hit me that I not only get to live out my childhood dream on a version of my favorite show... I get to do it as my authentic self and with a character that is openly trans. But it was really more than just being on the show. With all of the anti-trans hate and narratives in media and society, it was a win. I claimed a dream and space for myself while so much of the world is trying to erase me & my community. And now I get to be that person I wish I had to watch on TV growing up. So never tell yourself it can't happen because it can, in ways you never dreamt possible."
As a kid-oriented cable network, the Disney Channel is behind Nickelodeon, who introduced a live-action trans character on Danger Force back in June 2021.
Overall, the House of Mouse conglomerate is still struggling to introduce LGBTQ+ characters in its blockbuster movies due to homophobic and transphobic censorship in certain countries, as well as pushback from conservative audiences in the U.S. On the other hand, Disney has been successfully incorporating more queer characters and storylines into its Disney+ original shows and films.
You can check out a preview of the Raven's Home episode titled "The Fierce Awakens" below.
Raven's Home season five airs Fridays on the Disney Channel.
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