[Warning: Spoilers for the Degrassi: Next Class episode "#FactsOnly" below. Read at your own risk!]
Since it first launched in the late '70s, Degrassi has always prided itself on being inclusive and reflective of the real world. But it wasn't until this season that the franchise finally introduced its first gender non-binary character.
In the sixth episode of Degrassi: Next Class' fourth season, which launched on Netflix Friday, Yael (Jamie Bloch) comes out as gender non-binary after an argument about... farts. (Seriously. This is only one of the many reasons Degrassi is the best.)
Throughout the season, viewers saw Yael struggle with their gender identity, including their decision to start binding their breasts. In "#FactsOnly" these issues come to a head after Yael clashes with their boyfriend Hunter (Spencer MacPherson) and their male friends over their insistence that farts aren't funny. The boys insist this is simply because Yael is a girl, to which Yael (unsuccessfully) tries to convince them that you can't assume things about people based on their genitalia or gender. In order to prove their point, Yael attempts to use the boys' restroom, only to accidentally walk in on a very confused Hunter using the urinal.
Yael's struggles with their gender identity don't go unnoticed by those around them. One teacher approaches Yael assuming that they're transgender and Hunter begins to distance himself because he doesn't understand what Yael is going through or if they might be gay.
In an attempt to figure out what they're feeling, Yael kisses Lola (Amanda Arcuri) to see if they have feelings for women. But the only thing the kiss clarifies for Yael is that they aren't gay. As Yael explains to Lola, they feel "in between" a boy and girl. Lola says that what Yael is feeling is similar to what one of her favorite vloggers went through when they came out as genderqueer. "If being a boy or girl is made up, then you can be whatever you want," Lola explains.
Lola then convinces Yael to let her give them a makeover that reflects who they actually are — not what gender they feel like they have to present as because of some antiquated, reductive notions about the gender binary. And so after a lunchtime shopping spree and removing their signature wig, Yael looks in the mirror and finally sees their true self reflected back to them for the first time.
Sadly, Yael is unable to share in this happiness with Hunter, who still doesn't understand what it means to be gender non-binary and, frankly, seems far too concerned about how Yael's gender identity affects him rather than what coming out as genderqueer means to this person he supposedly loves.
But after coming this far, Yael refuses to hide who they are any longer, even if that means losing Hunter. "This is me. If he loves me, he'll come around. But I'm not going back — not for him, not for anyone," Yael declares.
So cheers to Degrassi for finally giving us the show's first gender non-binary character. Now, let's see some more genderqueer people roaming the halls! There's no rule that says there has to be just one. And while we're at it, let's see some non-binary actors join the cast too!
Yael coming out as genderqueer is something to celebrate, but we've still got a long way to go. After all, TV's first ever non-binary character was only introduced on Billions earlier this year.Here's to hoping Degrassi chooses to capitalize on this momentum and keep pushing its inclusivity forward.