Peacock’s new iteration of Queer As Folk sees a group of queer, trans and nonbinary friends dealing with the fallout of a Pulse-like tragedy in New Orleans. This particular chapter—which premiered on Peacock this past Thursday—tells a more diverse story than that of the 1999 UK original and the 2000 American version, featuring trans characters, nonbinary characters, characters with disabilities, and characters of color.
In the series’s second episode, “Blocked,” we see nonbinary character Shar (CG) address their partner, Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel), a trans woman, about the fact that she hasn’t cried in the six weeks since the Babylon shooting, where Ruthie was as Shar was preparing to give birth to the couples’ twin babies.
Ruthie explains to Shar that she has been feeling sexually frustrated, to which Shar responds asking, “Can we stop with the sex stuff?” Shar then tells Ruthie that she needs to talk to a professional or to allow herself to grieve by going to vigils. Ruthie then explains to Shar why “the sex stuff” is important to her.
View this post on Instagram
“The sex stuff, isn’t just sex stuff,” Ruthie explains. “When I transitioned, I didn’t sleep with anybody for a long time. And not for a lack of trying…I went from being this super cute gay boy that people very much wanted to fuck, to a trans woman that—well, people just didn’t see me that way anymore.” Ruthie continues, saying she tried to feel solace by way of masturbation, however, taking hormones made having an orgasm on her own “feel impossbile.” She felt she lost a part of herself that made her feel “alive, even when [she] didn’t want to be.”
“The sex stuff, isn’t just sex stuff,” Ruthie explains.
Once she figured out how to do her own makeup and began to present more feminine, she recalled people wanting her again. And as the hormones “evened out,” allowing her to orgasm, she began to feel alive again. But since the night of the shooting and the birth of her and Char’s kids, she feels like that part of her is lost again.
View this post on Instagram
Queer As Folk executive producer Jaclyn Moore, who co-wrote the episode, says Ruthie’s monologue was one of several “painfully autobiographical” moments throughout the series.
“When you transition, your body changes and your relationship to your body changes, and the way you’re perceived by society as a sexual being changes,” Moore says. “I was presenting as a queer man for a very long time. And I was a sex worker on top of that, so I was very used to people being interested in me and what she talks about in that monologue of the weird journey that you go through, only to kind of come back to yourself eventually, is super autobiographical.”
“I feel like Shar kind of forgets, in a way, because they are also putting their bodies through something that they’re not so comfortable with,” CG adds. “They have this tunnel vision of what they’re going through and forget that their partner is also going through the same thing. Their bodies were never the same, but they’re also not the same from where they started either, especially with these two experiences that they went through separately, as far as giving birth and being in such a trauma-filled moment.”
Throughout the episode, we see Ruthie masturbate using dildos, while perusing online porn, and manually. Toward the end of the episode, Ruthie and Char have sex. It is a joyous and fulfilling moment, not only because Ruthie is finally able to cum and to cry, but because we see a trans and nonbinary person depicted on screen as sexual beings in a happy, healthy, and non-traumatic manner.
Keitel appears fully nude on screen, a moment which Moore says she and her were ready to fight for.
As an actress, Keitel has always said she would be willing to film a full-frontal for the “right role, the right project, and the right scene.” She says she got “all of the above” in Ruthie.
“I think I felt a little bit of a weight on my shoulders,” Keitel said, “because trans women are routinely fetishized, they’re routinely villainized, they are routinely torn down in the media, and in legislation, and putting myself in a vulnerable position not just to be nude, but to be a nude trans woman, that was daunting. I felt great about the scene. I felt great about the episode and the team behind it— our intimacy coordinator, Hanna [Hall], and my scene partner, CG—were the best partners I ever could have asked for.”
The sex scene is a joyous and fulfilling moment, not only because Ruthie is finally able to cum and to cry, but because we see a trans and nonbinary person depicted on screen as sexual beings in a happy, healthy, and non-traumatic manner.
This particular sex scene took about four hours to film, according to Keitel. To prepare for the scene, Keitel, CG, Moore, and Hall worked in several closed rehearsals with director Satya Bhabha to get the blocking and the motions up to par. Moore was willing to make rewrites to the scene to adjust to CG and Keitel’s comfort level: however, Keitel wanted to execute Moore’s vision of depicting trans people as sexual beings.
Moore has written and produced on several series, including Difficult People, Love Life, and Dear White People, however, this is her first time writing and executive producing on a show since announcing her transition in 2020. Moore feels this is the first time she’s been able to bring her full self to a project, and says she is grateful to Peacock for understanding her vision and allowing her a platform to share honest queer and trans stories.
“To me, it’s about like putting trans people front and center in their own stories,” Moore says, “and giving them the dignity of being complicated, messy characters, who can make mistakes and who have the freedom that we give to cis and straight people all of the time on TV. [The freedom] of being troubled heroes, of being heroes that fuck up in big ways and are still worthy of following on a journey. [I want to] allow trans and nonbinary folks that journey.”♦