Disney Channel recently debuted the network’s first ever live-action transgender character.
The 15th episode of the fifth season of Raven’s Home premiered on Friday. The episode, titled, “The Force Awakens,” featured trans actress Juliana Joel as an influencer named Nikki.
“I think I may have created the first ever trans character for the Disney Channel!” Nori Reed, a writer for the show posted to Instagram.
“Growing up as a young queer person, I never got to see [my] own experiences and identity reflected back to me on the TV screen. This unfortunately provided a very clear message: This world isn’t for you,” Reed continued.
“I cannot fully articulate what it means to me personally that now a young queer person in rural America can pop on the Disney Channel and witness a funny, nuanced trans character that they can relate to. And I pray in my heart that they hear the very clear message: You belong in this world and are included.”
Joel, who played the trailblazing role of Nikki, also took to social media to celebrate her groundbreaking role.
“Coming from a typical Puerto Rican family, I didn’t think being an actor was possible esp for someone like me,” she wrote. “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.”
Joel continued, “With all of the anti-trans hate and narratives in media and society, it was a win,” Joel continued. “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.”
The news comes after Disney found itself in hot water during protests against Florida’s infamous Parental Rights in Education bill, or the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The media giant remained virtually silent which resulted in hundreds of employees staging a walkout across various Walt Disney Company subdivisions. Among those walking out were cast members of “Ravens Home.”
Disney later said that it would stop making campaign contributions in Florida, resulting in removal of Disney’s special zoning agreement.