Although it is in its final season, Fox’s “Glee” is not shying away from the controversial storylines that have made the show such a potent success. Friday’s episode saw co-creator Ryan Murphy introduce a plotline that deals with gender dysphoria.
Dot Jones has broken gender norms since her character, Coach Shannon Beiste, made its debut in Season 2. Now, the rather masculine coach of the football team has revealed that she’s been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is going to make the transition from woman to man.
According to Psychology Today, “gender dysphoria” is categorized by “strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned sex.” During the latest episode, Coach Beiste told Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Sue (Jane Lynch) that, after a lifetime of confusion, she’s going to take the first of many steps toward transitioning from Shannon to Sheldon.
It’s worth noting that gender dysphoria is different from homosexuality. A confused Sam asked Beiste if this meant that she wanted to be a lesbian, with the character beautifully responding: “Kiddo, this isn’t about who I want to go to bed with, it’s about who I want to go to bed as. I’ve always been attracted to men, and they say that’s not going to change.”
The two characters supported Coach Beiste’s new life goal and, although she was curt when it came to hearing details, Sue even told her that her job would be waiting for her whenever she was ready to return. Meanwhile, Sam agreed to take over the role of coaching while she’s away.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Jones explained what this massive and powerful reveal would mean, practically, for her role in the final season. “I’m out for the next three or four episodes and come back, I think, in episode six,” she said. “In this episode, I talk about what my next steps are and what I’m having done, so when I come back it’s after all of that and I’m coming back as Sheldon.”
Now is a particularly important time for transgender storylines in television. This month, Amazon.com’s massively popular show, “Transparent,” which deals with transgender people in America, took home Golden Globe awards for Best Comedy Series and Best Lead Actor.
“I didn’t want to let anybody down,” Jones told the Hollywood Reporter about her coming return. “I’d done the domestic-violence storyline before and having young girls look up to Beiste, and looking at it now, it’s just another vehicle to reach another group of people who are learning to be OK in your body.”
“Glee” is shown on Fox Fridays at 9 p.m. EST.