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How Heartbreak High Helps Heal My Relationship with My Gender Identity

How Heartbreak High Helps Heal My Relationship with My Gender Identity

The reboot of the 1994 Australian teen drama under the same name, “Heartbreak High” seems to be the hot new Netflix series zillenials have been gushing about. Featuring bold outfits and an even more eclectic range of characters, the show features a multifaceted, almost-satirical narrative navigating through the winding road of love, drugs, sex education, and friendship. Despite having initial doubts about the show, I was surprised to find it seamlessly gripping my attention and even adjusting the way I thought about representation in mainstream media, particularly in modern Australia.

My initial hesitation about the show (I mean…it was called Heartbreak High…) quickly dissipated after watching the first episode - the immediately upheld tension between the main character and her best friend. The gender, racial, and neurotypical diversity among the cast was endearing in a way I never thought about before. Although the show felt ‘Americanised’ due to the high school characters wearing free dress (Where are the uniform protocols? Being told off for wearing the wrong socks to school? Teachers making sure your summer uniform was past your knees?), the show immediately snapped me out of the usual hypnosis of American teen dramas at the sight of the red P-plate, a Clothing the Gaps sticker on Missy’s Ford Falcon S, and the deliciously familiar accents of the community I grew up in.

Image Credit: Netflix

Although they might not seem significant, Missy’s car embellishments signalled to me a disillusionment of my American-centric predispositions to any type of media I choose to consume–the red P-plate, a symbol of growing up into adulthood for a lot of 18-year-old Aussies, marked my immediate fascination with the show and how seeing diverse Australian youth broadcasted to mainstream media made me feel. The way I thought I understood the importance of diversity as a queer, non-binary Asian Australian gained a new layer of deeper understanding that could only be achieved through empathy and experience.

The first character I recognised as immediately relatable was Darren, the non-binary child of divorced parents, the best friend of Quinni, and the kindhearted adoptive parent of the unpopular protagonist. Darren’s family narrative surrounding their gender is something so painfully relatable for me. Gender, for me, is something that has been incredibly difficult to discuss with those I love. The human experience of gender is so unique and undefinable that, at times, I have often found myself stretching my boundaries around other people's ignorance and saying “It’s okay, I know it’s confusing” to those who continue to misgender and stubbornly mislabel me.

When discussing sexuality, it is often something (most) people can understand - love is a universal experience, and when applying this experience to people of different gender identities, different sexual orientations are simpler to understand for the heteronormative society. However, gender is less of a universal experience and many of us grew up in a society that perpetuates gender binaries on a deep, subconscious level from the moment we are born.