The Trauma of Being Trans in HBO’s Euphoria

This will be my last post exploring young adult issues in HBO’s Euphoria, and I want to thank all of you for going on this journey with me! I have found that I’ve learned more about myself through this process, and I hope you have as well.  

Given everything that’s happening today regarding LGBTQ+ rights and school policy, it’s more critical than ever for educators to learn how to best support students who may be going through very similar situations in real life. 

For this final piece, I’ve decided to focus on how Euphoria has really shined a light on the difficulties of transitioning through the character of Jules, a trans teen played by Hunter Schafer. 

Jules’ Transitioning Story

Jules’ transitioning backstory gradually comes to light throughout Euphoria’s first season. One flashback shows Jules’ mother taking her on a “road trip,” when in actuality, she’s having Jules committed to a psychiatric ward. The experience traumatizes Jules and self-harms during her stay. After that, Jules and her mother’s relationship is forever damaged. 

It quickly becomes apparent that Jules’ depression throughout her childhood stems from gender dysphoria. As a result, she begins to transition at age 13. According to Hunter Schafer, who is trans herself, “It’s hard to acquire the resources at that age to move forward with that process and be able to recognize all of your needs, mentally and physically. “ 

When Jules meets Rue, the show’s main character, she is 17 years old. At that point, Jules has sought out several violent sexual encounters with straight white men, putting herself in danger and further deepening her dysfunctional understanding of what it means for a man to love a woman. 

While Jules’ character resonates well with many trans teens, her experience isn’t a normal one. According to one teenage viewer, “I don’t think the show acknowledges Jules is very privileged for a trans woman. She’s white, skinny, conventionally attractive, and passes well. She also was able to transition at 13 and have a safe place to live, and this is not the reality for many trans teens, including myself.” 

The Challenges Facing Trans Students

So, what is the reality for many trans adolescents? Here are a few statistics: 

  • According to a recent study, hormone therapy for transgender patients is reserved for children ages 16 and older 
  • 70% of transgender people say they experience discrimination at medical appointments
  • The Bathroom Bill – Although not a uniform policy across all states, the Bathroom Bill essentially states that all students must use restrooms and locker rooms associated with their birth sex, not the gender they identify with

In light of these challenges, many young adults transitioning are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and bullying. In turn, these struggles with mental health adversely affect academic performance and feelings of support and belonging. 

What Does Support Look Like 

As in past posts, I like to stress that regardless of our personal or political beliefs, our role as educators is to support our students unconditionally. Aside from their parents, we should be their loudest, most enthusiastic cheerleaders. 

Here are a few suggestions for how to support your trans students: 

  • Ensure that your gender diverse resources are accessible to all families in terms of native language
  • Create a mental health crisis plan and make sure it’s available to all students all the time
  • Use gender-inclusive language
  • Provide opportunities for students to inform you of their preferred pronouns at the beginning of the term

While HBO’s Euphoria is certainly not for everyone, I’ve found it to be a gritty and brutally honest depiction of real-life issues facing young adults today. And they should make us uncomfortable because they’re actually happening out there in the world. 

KNOW THYSELF BUNDLE #3 is a great way to have students open up about their struggles with identity, family life, drugs, and more. The results are always surprising!

Do you have feedback on this topic or other posts in this series? Share them in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by! 

Linda Jennifer

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