Trans Love

This British soap opera just fought anti-trans hate in the best way

British soap opera Emmerdale honored Trans Day of Visibility with a conversation on the irrationality of bigotry. Though there was nothing especially groundbreaking in the scene, it was a heartwarming educational moment delivered through a popular soap with a massive reach across everyday primetime viewers.

Emmerdale introduced its first trans character, Matty (played by trans actor Ash Palmisciano), in 2018. In a recent episode, Matty was all set to head to the altar with the woman of his dreams when — in classic soap opera fashion — the ceremony was dramatically interrupted. The culprit was Claudette (Flo Wilson), an elderly villager who claimed the marriage “goes against God.”

But while Claudette is an older woman, she doesn’t normally fit the stereotype of an out-of-touch grandma. Her gay grandson Ethan (Emile John) spotted the uncharacteristic behavior and decided to set her straight.

In the April 1 episode, Ethan begins by pressing Claudette on why she objects to the marriage. He explains that Matty is well within his legal rights to marry anyone. “There’s more to marriage than having the right pieces of paper,” said Claudette. “It’s a sacred union.”

“Between one man and one woman?” Ethan says.

“This is not about you,” says Claudette, already struggling to explain how it isn’t. Ethan pulls at that thread, discussing his own hypothetical marriage, which Claudette says she would be eager to attend. But she continues to insist that Matty’s marriage is somehow different and somehow her (and God’s) business. “When it comes to who we are, it’s not for us to choose,” she tries to reason. “That’s His job.”

“It’s not about choice though, Grandma,” says Ethan. “That’s like saying I choose to be gay or we choose to be Black. We’ve had to face prejudice our entire lives for the way we were born. And this is exactly the same.”

“It’s not a recent thing, and it’s definitely not a fad,” he adds.

As the scene transitions, Claudette is starting to have a change of heart but is still struggling with the whole concept of being trans. “Not knowing how it feels doesn’t mean it’s not real,” says Ethan. By the end, Claudette decides to talk to Matty, starting with an apology. While Claudette may not be entirely won over, she’s on the path to changing her mind.

The show’s representation has garnered praise from viewers — especially in light of recent transphobic tirades from a certain British author. Britain’s first trans national television newsreader, India Willoughby, wrote on X/Twitter, “Yes Emmerdale! Perfect night to highlight the appalling prejudice and bigotry trans people face in Britain.”

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