My heart leapt when I heard a transgender actor would be portraying a transgender character this month in ABC Family's The Fosters. I tuned in with even more glee than usual to a show that had already won me over with its portrayal of a mixed-race, same-gender couple filling a home with love and chosen family.
Of course, I wish I already lived in a world where a 17-year-old trans actor landing a role on a hit show was not cause for celebration and the entertainment industry already aimed to fill trans roles with trans actors.
But my dream isn't yet reality, so it felt like a victory to watch Tom Phelan bring Cole to life.
Though a young actor, they (Phelan prefers gender-neutral pronouns) doesn't disappoint as a fierce and guarded Cole. They skillfully brood, bristle, explode and eventually reveal a tender heart, embodying a character who stands up for himself; a young man entitled to inhabit his rightful gender, body and space. Cole affirmed me as a transmasculine viewer, even as his narrative diverged from my own — which felt right since trans lives are each unique and complex.
Being Transgender or Gay is not a choice, being Transphobic or Homophobic is, so don't be a Twonk