In a seventh season plot line of the Showtime series Shameless, out teen Ian (Cameron Monaghan) starts dating a new guy named Trevor (Faking It’s Elliot Fletcher), but isn’t aware that Trevor is transgender at first. Since this is TV, Ian finds out dramatically and has something of a personal crisis. He hurls all sorts of drunken questions Trevor’s way, then later has a more levelheaded chat with a LGBTQ group over lunch.
This isn’t just good TV.
In taking up the arc, the show works to portray different sides of the relationship. What is it like for Trevor to come out as transgender to a boy he’s interested in? How does Ian, who struggled with his own coming out as gay, process the initial confusion when he, too, feels romantically drawn to Trevor? And how do outsiders like Ian’s family, who have even less exposure to trans issues, become informed?
For the viewer — who may likely not be gay or trans or know someone who is — empathizing with each character’s conflict can give new dimension to a topic that might otherwise be limited to conversations about bathrooms or Caitlyn Jenner.
“A few years ago, Ian was being confronted with people who were homophobic or weren’t accepting of his choices, and now it has become normalized. Suddenly he’s on the other side of it now, confronted with this new [trans] situation that he has to learn to accept,” executive producer Nancy Pimental tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Like people had to digest and process his sexuality in the beginning of the series, now Ian has to educate himself. As progressive as he can be in many ways, he can be limited in his exposure to people outside of his world.”
Pimental and the show’s team were also excited to be able to offer the role of Trevor to a trans actor, and were instantly charmed by rising star Elliot Fletcher.
In keeping with the Shameless tone, the relationship is rife with comedy and isn’t afraid to “go there.” In the most recent episode, for instance, Trevor and Ian must navigate their sexual chemistry after it’s revealed they’re both tops.
“We were referred to some people who could help us get it right, and also were supportive of us doing it in a non-earnest, very Shameless kind of way,” Pimental explains. “There are other shows who tackle trans storylines in a more straight-line kind of way, but we needed to have somebody who was really supportive of us to make it messy.”
Check out a scene below, in which Lip (Jeremy Allen White) meets Trevor for the first time – and makes an embarrassing gaffe: