Back in 2018 I hadn’t come out as trans yet. My friends and family knew I was LGBTQ+ as I had told them about my partner, but I hadn’t even given the time to process how I was even going to approach coming out as transgender. I was only out as non-binary to my friends and my partner.
I remember when the Love, Simon trailer was released and just how excited I was to be able to go see an actual film about being LGBTQ+ in the cinema – something I had never experienced before. The conversation at the time centred on how the film was going to be the first film by a major Hollywood studio to focus on a gay teenage romance and it just felt so special.
At the cinema there were teenagers who had brought flags with them, wrapped around their shoulders, as they spoke excitedly amongst their friends while they purchased popcorn. There were queer couples who held each other’s hand tightly in theirs as they grinned at one another while waiting to go into the screen room.
There were parents with their children who looked overjoyed at how happy and excited their child was and there were some who came on their own but still looked like they belonged in that room full of different variations of LGBTQ+ people who had come to see the film.
My partner squeezed my hand and we looked at each other with smiles on our faces – this was a perfect representation of why more films like this need to be released.
“You get to exhale now, Simon”. I remember that line that still stays with me at this very moment even three years later. No matter how many times I hear that sentence I will always feel the need to want to cry, I can’t even tell you how hard I sobbed upon seeing it the very first time. As a closeted trans person at the time, listening to those words was and still is powerful.
Whenever the camera focused on Simon’s mum, Emily (Jennifer Garner), she delivered lines like “You get to be more you then you have been in a long time” and “as soon as you came out you said ‘Mom, I’m still me.’ I need you to hear this. You are still you, Simon.” It was as if she was delivering those lines to every person in the audience.
It wasn’t just Simon that could exhale, everyone in the room felt that in the moment too. During that scene I remember looking around at other people sitting around us and I don’t think I saw a dry eye in the room. That scene gave me courage as I finally felt seen on the big screen.
I came out as trans a year later and I can remember when I finally felt that feeling Emily was talking about – getting to exhale. At the very start of the scene, she makes a comment on how the last few years it felt like Simon was holding his breath. And I think that summed up well how I had been feeling for so long.
The amount of queer rom-coms is still lacking, especially with characters who identify as transgender and non-binary, and while Love, Simon is a huge step forward, there should be so many more LGBTQ+ films and TV shows getting the same mainstream love and attention.
Since then, one character that has hugely helped me feel seen is Sex Education’s Cal, played by Dua Saleh. There is one scene that stands out for me, especially as a viewer who identifies as trans and non-binary. Cal helps out fellow non-binary student Layla (Robyn Holdaway) and it felt revolutionary because it’s so important for educational scenes like this.
LGBTQ+ young people need to see that there are other people out there who are like them so that we feel less alone. I became an ambassador with Just Like Us so that I could help others, especially during a time that it is so vital for LGBTQ+ students to feel accepted at their school which was something I never had.
It’s integral for young people to know that being LGBTQ+ is something to be celebrated and I’m so incredibly happy that I get to do that through speaking in schools as a volunteer with Just Like Us.
On National Coming Out Day, we get a chance to celebrate who we are and the things that helped us along the way, which was what Love, Simon did for me all those years ago and what Sex Education is doing right now.
Not everyone can be out on National Coming Out Day for various reasons but just know this: Simon sees you, Cal sees you, and I see you. You are valid.
For more information about Just Like Us and their incredible work supporting LGBTQ+ youth, visit their website.