All About Adam: Degrassi’s The Boiling Point Tackles Transgender Identity

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the popular Canadian teen show, Degrassi: The Next Generation.  Specifically, I previewed its Summer 2010 soap opera-styled block of episodes, collectively entitled Degrassi: The Boiling Point. 

In the post, I poked some fun at the show’s recent run of lackluster plotlines, and expressed concern over whether the series I had once loved had forever lost its Mojo . . .

Well, this is the blog post where I eat my words . . .

Why the change of heart, you ask?  Well, it has a lot to do with THIS GUY . . .

Meet Adam Torres, a sophomore, and recent transfer to Degrassi Community School.  As far as personalities go, Adam’s got a pretty good one.  He’s smart, funny, a little bit snarky, and a loyal friend.  He’s also biologically female.

Up until this year, Adam was known to the world as Gracie Torres.  And he looked like this . . .

By the way, special kudos to the Degrassi writers for not making the character’s birth name, Eve . . .

That would have been SO uncool!

From the time Adam was a little kid, he always knew he was different.  Adam never felt truly female, thus making the person who stared back at him in the mirror each day a complete and utter stranger.  In short, Adam felt as though he was trapped in a body that was not his own. 

After much discussion and hand-wringing, Adam’s parents reluctantly agreed to let him start over at a new school, as a male.  But in order to truly live the life he wanted, without judgment or prejudice, Adam had to keep his FTM (female-to-male) transgender identity a secret, while at Degrassi.  And, for a little while, he did.  But secrets have a way of coming out at the most inopportune moments.  And Adam’s secret was no exception . . .

This week, Degrassi aired an hour-long episode, over a span of two days, entitled “My Body is a Cage.” During this hour, we watch Adam cope with the realities of living life as a transgender.  In the first part of the episode, Adam’s secret is exposed to his classmates.  The first to find out about Adam’s “origins” are his two friends, Clare and Eli.

Clare becomes suspicious that Adam is hiding “something,” when she bumps into him near the lockers, causing an entire box of tampons to explode on the floor.  

(OK.   Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED this episode.  But come on!  What high schooler carries around an entire box of tampons?  Isn’t “discretion” one of the main benefits that tampons have over pads? Can’t you just stick one or two in the front pocket of your bookbag, and have them go virtually unnoticed?  Wouldn’t you think, of all people, that someone who was trying to HIDE their female parts would be sensitive to this?)

Beware of the Telltale Tampon!

Contrivance aside, Clare handles the situation with class.  When a group of guys pass by, and ogle the tampons on the floor, taking note of Adam’s proximity to them, Clare quickly improvises.  “Silly me, always dropping my feminine hygiene products!”  She sing-songs.  (I love that she calls them “feminine hygiene products” – good ole’ Nerdy Clare!)

Later, Adam sits Clare and Eli down at lunch and reveals his secret to them, permitting them to ask him any questions they might have.  “How do you know you aren’t just a tomboy or a lesbian?”  Clare inquires.  (A good question.)

“I just know,” replies Adam.  (A highly unsatisfactory answer.  But this is an hour-long teen show, where each story only gets 1/3 of the episode’s screentime.  So, I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting here. . . )

Things don’t go nearly as well, later on in the day, when Adam unwisely makes a play for the school’s “Bad Girl,” Bianca, during a Ballroom Dancing class.

Bianca shows interest initially, placing her hand flirtatiously on Adam’s chest, as the two banter back and forth.  But that’s when the problems arise.  “What’s going on there?”  Bianca inquires.  “You’re too skinny to have man boobs.” 

 (Sorry, I’m not buying this scene either.   The actress’ boobs weren’t all that big BEFORE they were taped to her body, and covered with three layers of clothing.  I sincerely doubt this chicky would be able to detect them that easily under these circumstances . . .)

In one swift move, Bianca dramatically rips open Adam’s shirt. (Clearly, she’s got . . .  um . . . experience taking off others’ clothes.)

This is what Adam SHOULD have been wearing under his flannel.

Upon doing this, Bianca spies the “hide the boobies” gauze wrap Adam’s got around his midsection.  (Here’s where the “old sports injury” argument, might have come in handy.  Just sayin . . .). 

Bianca flips out.  “I’ve seen freaks like you on Oprah!”  She yelps, before stomping off . . .

Oh no, you didn’t, Bianca!  You  did NOT just evoke the Wrath of Oprah.  Be afraid, be very afraid . . .

Bianca’s reaction to Adam, though definitely mean-spirited and b*tchy, was, to some extent, understandable.  Unlike Clare and Eli, who were let in on Adam’s secret gently, and heard it “straight from the horse’s mouth,” Bianca was completely blindsided.  She felt attraction for Adam, and then learned he wasn’t AT ALL who she thought he was.  

Bianca must have felt betrayed, tricked, and manipulated.  Her sexuality was challenged, and she felt threatened by it.  So, she lashed out.  And if things ended right there, I would actually have some sympathy for Bianca . . .

I know, crazy right?  But, it DIDN’T end there.  Instead, Bianca told the ENTIRE school, which led to THIS highly uncomfortable to watch scene . . .

Now, while I could slightly commiserate with Bianca’s initial reaction to Adam, the above-illustrated reaction by bullies, Owen and Fitz, absolutely floored me.  After all, however you slice it, these guys joyfully beat up someone they believed to be a GIRL!  (Isn’t that against Bro Code or something?)    And yet, as awful as it was, I can certainly see something like this happening at a real high school.

Fortunately, for Adam, he isn’t without support.  And I love how his relationship with his stepbrother, Drew, is portrayed in this episode. 

Drew is the quintessential school Golden Boy, a popular “dumb jock,” in every sense of the word.  He is even friends with the bullies who beat up Adam.  And yet, Drew stands by his brother, without question.  He is even willing to fight physically with his (former?) friends to defend Adam’s honor.  (He gets his ass kicked doing it, but STILL . . .)

The second part of the episode, deals with Adam grappling with his parents’ inability to come to terms with his decision to live life as a male.  They call him by female pronouns, and force him to dress up as “Gracie,” when Grandma comes to town.  But things really come to a head, when Adam tries to deny his identity, by coming to school dressed as Gracie.  Adam soon becomes so depressed and overwhelmed as a result,  that he turns to self-mutilation, as an outlet for his emotions. 

Despite the aforementioned doom and gloom, the episode actually ends on a relatively positive note, with Adam’s parents coming to terms with the “loss of their daughter.”   They even going as far as to hold a bonfire, where all the material things that represent “Gracie” are burned.

A few unbelievable scenes, and a smidge of cheese aside, I thought this episode was pretty brilliant.  It handled the issue of transgender identity believeably, without being heavy-handed or overly  maudlin.  The actress who plays Adam, was also relatable, and sufficiently understated.  Watching the episode, I could definitely see how a lesser actress could have really “butched it up,” just to prove a point.  Fortunately, that did not happen here.

You may recognize Jordan Todosey, the actress who plays Adam Torres, as little Lizzie, from Life with Derek, a Canadian sitcom about a Brady Bunch-esque blended family with a modern twist.  (It still airs on the Disney Channel, every once in a while, in case you’re curious . . .)

She’s obviously very talented.  I suspect this is not the last we will hear about her . . .

So, there, I’ve said it.  With nearly ten years of episodes behind its belt, Degrassi still manages to surprise me, every once in a while.  O’ Canada, I will never doubt you again.

That’s the crow I just had to eat . . .

Degrassi: The Boiling Point airs weeknights at 9 p.m. on Teen Nick.  Have you been watching? 

[www.juliekushner.com]

22 Comments

Filed under Degrassi: The Next Generation

22 responses to “All About Adam: Degrassi’s The Boiling Point Tackles Transgender Identity

  1. Pingback: Crossdresser News » All About Adam: Degrassi's The Boiling Point Tackles Transgender … | Real Crossdressers Network

  2. Lily

    I must say Adam is cute. I like her better as a guy though…..

    • Hey Lily! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Adam (Jordan Todosey) does make a pretty attractive boy. It feels strange saying that. It helps that the character is very likeable and relatable on the show. Jordan was cute in Life with Derek, where she played a female. So, it’s possible the female picture I chose of her just wasn’t the most flattering. Oh well! 🙂

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  4. Pingback: “What happens at Vegas night . . .” – A Recap of The Season Finale of Degrassi’s The Boiling Point | TV Recappers Anonymous

  5. Ania

    omg i ❤ degrassi i was so pissed because they wont start til 2011 so i cnt wait btw i ❤ this carp so can u wright about what u think wil happen to ali plsssssssssssss any way i loved how you wrote this and can you tell me where u got the pics Pls ill b so happy degrassi is my fav P.S. Whos ur fav degrassi boy and girl characters and which ones would u b

    • Hi Ania! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I love Degrassi too!I have been watching the show for quite some time now . . . I too am kind of bummed that new episodes for the show will not be airing until February of 2011. But, based on the promos, the new season looks excellent! Check it out . . . if you haven’t seen it already . . .

      In terms of Degrassi pictures, there are some excellent ones over at degrassiblog.com, as well as teennick.com.

      On “old school” Degrassi, my favorite character was redeemed bad boy, Jason Hogart. Now, I’m just loving Eli Goldsworthy! In terms of the females, my favorite character on old school Degrassi was probably Paige. Now, I’m really enjoying Fiona Coyne, and her storylines. Fiona is so fun and interesting. The actress who plays her is just fantastic, in my opinion.

      I’m not really sure what’s going on with Alli that would make Sav think she is ruining his life, and make her want to run away from home. Perhaps, she did something at her new school that was so horrible that it made headlines, and shamed her family, making them want to move out of the town. That would really piss off Sav, because he wants to graduate with all of his friends (and, of course, Holly J).

      How about you, Ania? What are your thoughts on the upcoming Degrassi Season? 🙂

  6. Lili

    I like you review of this episode and I loved Degrassi’s previous seasons. And you;re right, this one issue that Degrassi did not cover before was done quite brilliantly. Just curious, how do you think Fiona will react to Adam’s body in 2011?

    • Hi Lili, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I’m so glad you enjoyed my review! I love meeting fellow Degrassi fans, and chatting about the finer points of the episodes with them. In my opinion, this Season of Degrassi was one of its strongest in a long time.

      So, how will Fiona respond to Adam’s “female parts,” when they become intimate? That’s a really good question. We already saw how Bianca responded in a similar situation, during this episode. However, I would like to think that Fiona would be a bit more tactful, and sensitive to Adam. After all, unlike Adam and Bianca, Adam and Fiona will have hopefully already developed a close friendship, before their relationship becomes physical.

      Fiona also seems like a much kinder person than Bianca. So, even if she is “freaked out” by Adam’s physical uniqueness, she would likely not react as harshly toward him, at least to his face. In the promo, we see a scene with Adam and Fiona, where they appear to be getting intimate. This would seem to suggest, that Fiona is OK with who Adam is, both inside and out.

      And yet, I wonder if the promo was intentionally misleading. After all, both parties were fully clothed at the time ( at least, I think). And they were definitely caught by Holly J., before things got too intense.

      I’m going to guess that if Adam tells Fiona about his transgender status fairly soon in their relationship, she will handle it pretty well. However, if he waits until say the end of the season to make the confession, and Fiona and he have already started dating, she will feel deeply hurt, confused and betrayed by the late admission. And while that alone wouldn’t completey ruin their relationship, it would certainly be a major setback for them. One that would take a lot of time to heal on both ends . . .

      Whatever happens, I have no doubt that the writers of Degrassi will handle it with the same tact and grace they used to tackle transgender identity in this episode. And it will definitely be riveting television . . .

      Thanks again for your kind words, and for sharing your thoughts on this episode with me. I really do appreciate it. 🙂

  7. Ania

    omg thx for leaving the promo thingy btw what is ur fav degrassi character?

    • Oh, my pleasure, Ania! The new episodes look pretty awesome, right? I’m particularly intrigued by the Adam and Fiona storyline. I wonder where that’s going to lead. Fitz’s return also looks really intense. That look he gave Clare in the promo was SUPER creepy!

      If I had to choose a favorite character from the current Degrassi cast, I think I’d go with Eli Goldsworthy. He’s just so different from any character they’ve ever had on the show. And there’s something very mysterious and intriguing, yet likeable and relatable, about him, at the same time. Munro Chambers does a great job playing him on the show. He’s pretty easy on the eyes too! 🙂

  8. Ania

    o josh thank u for all that sorry i asked u who ur faav character twice anyway i reaallly luv ur story ur really good(at writing)! pls write more and do u have more stories about different characters ,if u do ill be sooooooooooooooooo happpyyy!!!!!!!!!:)<3 BTW: who would u actully be , even if u where to be ur fav character ,eli, u still got to worry about fitz?(i think thts how its spelled ) thx for writng and pls write more plllllllllllllsssssssssssssssssssssssssss !!!!!!:)<3:)<3:)<3:)<3:)<3

    • Hi there, Ania! You are so sweet. Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement. After writing the “All About Adam” article your read, I wrote another Degrassi-themed one, which recapped the season finale of the Boiling Point entitled “All Falls Down” (the Casino Night episode). If you are curious about it, you can read it here:

      https://tvrecappersanonymous.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/what-happens-at-vegas-night-a-recap-of-the-season-finale-of-degrassis-the-boiling-point/

      I’ve written about Degrassi every once in a while on this site, but didn’t recap it too regularly, because the articles I wrote on the show didn’t get all that many readers. 😦 But it’s nice to know that someone out there enjoyed them. I really do appreciate it. And I definitely plan on doing a few more articles on the new Degrassi season, once it begins in February, if not earlier.

      Gosh, in terms of personality, I guess I would call myself a cross between Holly J. and Clare. Clare is a writer like me. And we are both studious, sensitive, and slightly reserved. Though I’d like to think I am a bit more relaxed, and have more of a sense of humor than she does.

      Like Holly J., I consider myself to be pretty ambitious, and goal oriented. We both tend to put success before our own happiness sometimes. But I’d like to think I’m not as harsh as she used to be, during her early episodes. (She’s softened up a lot since then.) 🙂

  9. Ania

    Oh thank you for writing back all the time, and I have a question for you: What do you think will happen with Riley and Zane? Oh, I love your articall about Adam ! You really inspire me and I will try to do a lot more writing from now on. Thank you for writing back all the time, I love writing back ! I deffinitly will read your next story about degrassi. You are very gifted with writing ! Oh , and one more thing please write back. Please I read this every day and check if you wrote back! ❤ 🙂

    • Hi Ania! Thanks so much for all your praise and kindness! I have so much fun talking Degrassi with you! 🙂

      Based on the promo for next season, Riley’s and Zane’s storyline looks really interesting! I’m actually very excited to learn more about Zane’s character, because he always seemed so cool and likeable on the show. And yet, up to this point, he hasn’t had much of his own storyline yet. It looks like that will change this year!

      It appears from the promo that Riley will be “outed” by his mother, when she walks in on Riley and Zane making out in his bedroom. This will actually be the second time on Degrassi that a main character “came out” as a homosexual to their parents.

      I’m not sure if you remember, Marco, but he was the first main Degrassi character to come out of the closet. (They are actually airing some of the older Degrassi episodes on Teen Nick and Much Music, if you are interested in seeing them.) The difference here is that Marco came out voluntarily to his parents, and Riley will be outed by accident. Notes on Riley from Wikipedia say that Riley’s mother is Greek and very religious. Somehow, I don’t think she will take the news well. Fortunately, Riley has Zane to support him through what might end up being a very emotional and difficult time for him.

      I’m sure we will chat more later. Thanks again for being so sweet to me. I really do appreciate it! 🙂

      • Ania

        Oh ,your welcome ! I love chatting with you tooo! And thank you for your oppinions ! Actullaly, i don’t really think the first seasons were not as epic as these ones that there airing right now, and i really think that your other artical you wrote(about vegas night) was really awesome .Anyway , I probaly will be asking you quesions about the characters, sooo, what way do you think claire and eli’s relationship will go pls write back -Ania<3

      • Degrassi writer/producer, Stephen Stohn, teased that there will be MAJOR drama between Clare and Eli, this season, particularly during the Very Emotional Season Finale. It is important to note that the finale is set to air on the anniversary of Eli’s old girlfriend, Julia’s, death, April 22nd. I predict a SERIOUS emotional breakdown on that date from Eli. I just hope that Clare will be strong enough to see him through it, just as she supported him with his hoarding.

        I also predict some drama between Clare, Eli, and Fitz. This was hinted somewhat in the promo. Fitz looked pretty banged up when he arrived at Clare’s home, in the promo. Was he perhaps a victim of the car accident teased in the promo? Or, has he been physically abused in someway? Either way, I suspect that Fitz’ newfound vulnerability will bring him closer to Clare. And I don’t think that Eli will be very happy about his girlfriend befriending his mortal enemy.

        Additionally, some have suggested that a major death will occur during the upcoming Degrassi season. And many see Fitz, or his buddy, Owen, as a likely target. Either character’s death would be extremely shocking, and have a HUGE impact on the Degrassi students, particularly Eli, Clare, and Bianca.

        I guess we will just have to wait until February, to see what happens. I can’t wait! 🙂

  10. Ania

    Well how you even say it ,it makes me wanna see it even more . I just love reading your oppinions , so what do you think will happen to well Jenna and KC’s relationship and what will Jenna do when the little baby arives? Oh,please write back

    • KC’s and Jenna’s story is going to be a tough one for the writers to keep original, since they’ve had at least three other pregnancy storylines on the show before. Degrassi has already shown an abortion: (Manny and Craig); an adoption (Liberty and J.T.); and a teen mother raising a child (Mia and Lucas). Initially, based on the promos, I thought they would have KC develop a drug problem, due to the stress of future parenting, but that too has already been covered, with the J.T. and sort of the Lucas character. (If anyone develops a drug problem on the show, my money is on Drew.)

      So, a few new possibilities for Jenna’s baby storyline would be: (1) a miscarriage – where Jenna goes through a painful, possibly almost lethal, pregnancy, but the baby dies in childbirth. (This would be interesting since, if you recall, Anya lied about having a miscarriage to help Sav become student council president. And she hasn’t really seen any consequences yet for forming that lie. Plus, she’s going to have her OWN hands full, dating that hot doctor who’s caring for her mom, and thinks she’s in college! ;));

      (2) Jenna and K.C. having to raise the child with NO parental support. (The “No parental support” aspect would distinguish this couple from Mia and Lucas, because Mia’s mom was pretty supportive of her, and played a major role in the rearing of her child, particularly when Mia started modeling).

      If Jenna and K.C. have NO parental support (Her older brother might be helpful, in this regard, but not in the way a parent would be.), they might be faced with having to live on their own, get jobs, and possibly attend night school. Given the recent popularity of reality shows like 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Mom, this might be an interesting and timely route for Degrassi to take.

      I hope that helped a bit ;).

  11. Ania

    oh thx for writing back oh and pls dnt get mad at iff i keep on asking about storries buttttttttttttt what do u thinkwill happento sav,holly j , and declan (3 of my fav outa 5 chracters from degrassi the other to would be fiona and adam) anyway pls write back. your fav reader Ania (its wierd cause my name almost the same as Anya’s)

  12. bad rymer

    adam i hero to all hes one brave warrior

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