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The L Word: Generation Q

September 28 2023.

This review contains spoilers.

This show has two trans male characters, pictured below.

Leo Sheng as Micah in The L Word Generation Q

Micah Lee, a major character played by Leo Sheng, a Chinese American trans man who also identifies as queer. Micah is initially characterised as a gay man, but comes out as bisexual in season 2.

Brian Michael Smith as Pierce Williams in The L Word Generation Q

Pierce Williams, a supporting character played by Brian Michael Smith, a Black trans man. He is a key supporting character for four episodes in season 1. He comes out as trans right before departing the show, meaning he is primarily defined by his professionalism and fashionable style rather than his gender history.

Micah and Jose in The L Word Generation Q

Micah and José.

Micah's season 1 romance is with a man named José Garcia. It is a beautiful relationship in many respects and, throughout their scenes, trans male viewers are treated to the following:

  • Micah being sexually dominant with José and asserting boundaries related to his dysphoria.

  • José comforting Micah after Micah's mother misgenders him and shares feminine childhood photos against Micah's wishes.

  • Micah exploring sex with José, including positions which previously caused him dysphoria, because José reassures him and makes him feel safe.

  • The pair being very romantic and cute together, in many situations, and saying "I love you".

  • José painting a large portrait of Micah.

Unfortunately, the loveliness of their relationship is poisoned by the finale of season 1, where it's revealed that José has been married the entire time and did not tell Micah. This was really disappointing, but hey, it is a soap opera. And their earlier scenes are still groundbreaking for trans men, especially Asian trans men who don't see themselves represented enough.

Micah and Hassan in The L Word Generation Q

Micah and Hassan.

Micah also has a hook-up with a man named Hassan, who he meets via Grindr. While the encounter is initially awkward due to Hassan's nervousness about having sex with a trans man for the first time, their chemistry is undeniable and he quickly gets over the perceived awkwardness. Theirs is a happy little side storyline which shows trans male viewers that there are well-meaning, open-minded cis men in the world who might be simultaneously nervous and excited about sex with trans men, and that's okay! Awkwardness can be overcome with communication and confidence. (Side note: Readers who are interested in that topic might enjoy this article.)

Micah and Maribel in The L Word Generation Q

Micah and Maribel.

In season 2, Micah realises he's bisexual after developing feelings for Maribel, a friend of his. In many ways, their relationship is groundbreaking in terms of representation, and not just in a trans sense. Maribel is played by Jillian Mercado, a wheelchair user with muscular dystrophy who is also a woman of colour. Speaking about the importance of their sex scenes in this article, Mercado said, "It was very important for our characters, and also us as human beings, to portray the story as humanised as possible, and also kind of fill in the gap of that part of representation... I mean, I never saw it growing up. [I never saw] someone like myself who's physically disabled have a sex scene, period... And that would've helped a lot, as far as trying to figure out my sexuality growing up, or even just the basics of how to date someone having a physical disability like myself."

Micah and Maribel in The L Word Generation Q

Micah and Maribel.

Unfortunately, their relationship also suffers from soap opera rules, meaning viewers should expect unnecessary conflict, poor communication, and drama that prompted many eye-rolls from me.

What properly pissed me off, though, was that Maribel perpetuates biphobic mindsets, and Micah's response could charitably be described as being a total doormat. After they have sex for the first time, Maribel ignores him and rejects his invitation to go out, because she's inexplicably convinced that Micah isn't really bisexual, and must instead have used her as an experiment. When she sees him talking to a guy at a party (standing an arm's length away, I might add), she rushes up to him and starts a fight, gaslighting him by saying he found a guy to "grind" on and has therefore betrayed her. (Despite her rejection of him in the first place, after which he can grind on whoever he likes...) She never apologises for this accusation, and Micah never expects her to. In fact, he acts as though he's done something wrong. Both bisexual and trans male viewers deserved better. From the very beginning, the pair are in an emotionally unhealthy relationship.

Maribel is also incredibly condescending and self-centred overall. In this scene, when Micah expresses frustration about being reduced to his trans identity by a "demoralising" cis boss, something that happens to many of us, she belittles him and mocks his discomfort, comparing their negative experiences and turning the conversation into a competition. (God forbid she just support someone, right?) The season 3 finale sees him finally stand up to her, thank fuck, but it's too little too late.

Daniel Sea as Max Sweeney in The L Word Generation Q

Max Sweeney.

In The L Word, the original show which preceded The L Word: Generation Q, non-binary actor Daniel Sea was given no agency when they played a trans male character (Max) who embodied harmful, misandristic, transphobic stereotypes about FTM guys and men overall. Max returns in Generation Q as a trans elder who has settled into their identity as a trans non-binary parent, with a trans partner who loves them and their four children.

They are hugged by Shane (also a returning character from the original series), who apologises for how Max was treated in the past. Many in the trans community have found this to be a healing experience, since so many people related to Max and were very distressed by what the character originally went through. Max's appearance alone, while brief, shows how far many LGBT+ movements have come since The L Word.

Generation Q was cancelled after three seasons but, during the season 3 finale, Micah calls Max in a moment of distress and asks if he can visit them. It was clear that, before the writers knew the show was cancelled, they were setting up a plot line which would involve Max being Micah's friend and supporter. It's a shame we won't get to see that!

Below are the other characters played by trans actors.

Armand Fields in The L Word Generation Q

Armand Fields, a non-binary actor, plays Reese, Max's trans partner who meets main characters at a family Halloween party.

Carmen LoBue as Dre in The L Word Generation Q

Carmen LoBue, a non-binary actor, plays Dre, a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. They are the love interest of Dani in season 3, and have a brief offscreen relationship with Sophie.

Jamie Clayton as Tess Van De Berg in The L Word Generation Q

Jamie Clayton, a trans actress, plays Tess Van De Berg. Tess is never explicitly stated to be a trans woman, she's instead just characterised as a woman. She is the love interest of Shane in seasons 2 and 3, and briefly has relationships with several other women.

Sophie Giannamore as Jordi Sanbolino in The L Word Generation Q

Sophie Giannamore, a trans girl, plays Jordi Sanbolino. Similarly to Tess, Jordi is never explicitly stated to be a trans girl. She is the love interest of Angie until season 3.

Chris Renfro as Teddy in The L Word Generation Q

Chris Renfro, a non-binary actor, plays Teddy, a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. They have a brief relationship with Alice.

One of my favourite platonic relationships in the show is the mother/daughter dynamic which develops between Finley, a young butch, and Carrie, an older butch who also identifies as demisexual. Initially, Carrie is treated as a bit of a punchline and a plot device for more feminine lesbians, but season 3 sees her becoming a more fleshed-out, gorgeously authentic woman who has a relationship with another older butch lesbian. Carrie feels a lot like the butches I've met in real life and, to be honest, by the end of the show I was more invested in her than anyone else.

Overall, the show deals with the following themes:

  • Alcohol Use Disorder, relapsing, and alcohol as a coping mechanism.

  • Drunk driving and drugged driving.

  • Opiate addiction and drug abuse.

  • Underage drug use.

  • Infidelity and lying within relationships. (So, so much lying.)

  • Controlling parenting and dysfunctional parent/child dynamics.

  • Racism.

Some of the above themes are handled well and depicted gracefully/realistically, with vulnerable viewers in mind. Some are absolutely mishandled.

There are many double standards within the show when it comes to right versus wrong. One of the most uncomfortable double standards, for me personally, involved two sexual assaults. One occurred offscreen, and was committed by an unnamed, anonymous man who is exclusively framed as a villain (rightly so). One occurred blatantly, in full view of other people, and was committed by a woman who groped her ex-girlfriend's inner thigh without the woman's consent, and also harassed her by playing footsie under the table as she tried to play cards.

I have known several men who have been groped and sexually harassed by women in public, in full view of other people who did nothing to intervene or hold the predators accountable, and this scene mirrored those experiences. When a feminine woman is groped by a masculine man in Generation Q, she is considered a victim and worthy of protection. Viewers are supposed to be concerned for her. When a masculine woman is groped by a feminine woman in Generation Q, she is considered automatically strong enough to stand up for herself, rather than being characterised as upset or uncomfortable with someone stroking her inner thigh. Viewers are supposed to dismiss the harassment as a non-issue. Nobody protects the masculine woman and, in fact, after she is groped by the feminine woman, she faces accusations of being promiscuous and soliciting the predator's attention. She is asked if she slept with the predator. If you flip around the gender dynamics, this double standard starts to feel very, very gross. Being masculine doesn't mean you're any less vulnerable in the face of unwanted sexual attention, including having your inner thigh rubbed under a table. A woman harassing and groping someone is no less disgusting than a man doing so.

Any trans men who want to watch Generation Q should be aware that men are often the default stand-in for any ultimate evil within the plot, specifically in the earlier episodes. A man who is cheated on by his wife several times is framed as an aggressive and unhinged villain, because he is immensely upset and dares to show this. The woman who is cheated on once by her girlfriend is framed as delicate, justified in her anger, and righteous, even when she punches another woman in the face in season 2 (something that would have been considered criminally unacceptable if the afore-mentioned man had done it). Their situations are similar in many respects, but the man is utterly removed of personality, sympathy, or relatability. He's just a man and therefore bad to the core, even if his wife freely had an affair during their years-long marriage, and the person she had an affair with is a self-described paragon of ethics and moral upstandingness. Such blatant hypocrisy would drive anyone to action, surely.

In the finale of season 1, a joke is made that there's nothing wrong with being a "man-hating" feminist, which... as a trans man who has been targeted with vile rhetoric and rape threats under the guise of feminism, and even been told to kill myself because I'm a man... I find very hard to swallow. Since transitioning, "friends" who made jokes about hating men have suddenly seen fit to alienate me, even abandoning me when I tried to seek help for being sexually harassed, because (shocker) their jokes about hating men weren't just jokes. They were always a reflection of the genuine belief that men are lesser, bad, and disgusting. It took a female-to-male sex change for me to realise that, when they said they hated men, they meant it. So no, I didn't find the show's man-hating quip funny, and I don't find it hilarious when groups laugh among themselves about the concept of hating people based on gender. The scene where those things occurred was uncomfortable for me as a result.

Ultimately, this is a good show, with LGBT+ inclusion off the charts. It's quite obviously written for women, though. That's not entirely a bad thing and, most of the time, it is a good thing. But if you're a trans man who has been hurt by misandristic jokes, harassment, or double standards since transitioning, you may be uncomfortable with aspects of this show. Does that mean it's a bad series? Nah. It is what it is, the good and the bad. You can decide what you're willing to watch. If you haven't had experiences similar to mine, you'll probably be completely happy with the show. These reviews, as always, are just one person's opinion.


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