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How Gen V gave us a faithful representation of transgender identity

Gen V, which was one of our favourite shows of last year, is not a subtle series. Like its parent show The Boys, people are doused in blood and other bodily fluids, bodies are torn apart and superheroes engage in abhorrent activities. The series takes celebrity culture and applies it to the superhero genre, delivering some of the most over-the-top scenes. And yet, Gen V also portrayed on television one of the most accurate representations of what it means to be transgender.

Enter Jordan Li. Jordan seems to have everything; smart, handsome and a star pupil at Godolkin University. However, Jordan can switch genders, appearing as either male or female. In their male form, Jordan is nearly indestructible. As a female, Jordan can fire energy blasts and has superhuman agility.

It is worth pointing out that the character of Jordan is not transgender in the typical sense. Jordan is described in Gen V as being bi-gender, in that they can instantaneously switch the gender of their body. Jordan is portrayed by Derek Luh (male form) and London Thor (female form). However, the writers of Gen V use Jordan’s bi-gendered nature as an analogy for transgender issues.


“I’m no bigot and I get a lot of kids don’t have a choice, but you do. You can be a boy forever if you want. Sometimes I think you change into a girl just to spite me.”

Paul Li (played Peter Kim) in Gen V episode #ThinkBrink

It is mentioned several times throughout Gen V that Jordan should be ranked higher. At the start of the series Jordan was ranked #2, but when Luke (who was ranked #1) is killed, Jordan is demoted to #5, despite being able to withstand Luke’s rampage for a short while.

It is later implied in the series that someone who can change their gender is insufficiently marketable by Vought, the corporation that creates superheroes and runs the university. Therefore, Jordan’s abilities are never fully acknowledged, just because of the potential for reputational harm from certain demographics in response to Jordan’s ability to change gender.

Jordan’s discussion with their parents in the episode #ThinkBrink is particularly moving. The writers deliberately and delicately portrayed the nuanced complexities of coming out to family members who may not accept that someone is transgender.

“I’m just the kid, addicted to their PlayStation, goes to Olive Garden just for the breadsticks, who binges Property Brothers, I’ve never changed Dad. I’ve always just been me.”

Jordan Li (played London Thor) in Gen V episode #ThinkBrink

The scene is short, but packs a lot in. We have the declaration of how proud the parent is, just because their child is the gender they were assigned at birth. We have claims that the parent is willing to compromise, but without doing so, and we have the ultimatum that they should remain their original gender.

It is a powerful scene, which London Thor portrays brilliantly, and Jordan’s final statement of defiance is a moment of beauty. The ache that the exchange caused Jordan is apparent, but their determination to be true to who they are is just as powerful. They are who they are, and their refusal to accept their parents’ denial is wonderful.

Amidst all of the violence and bloodshed in Gen V, Jordan Li’s exchange with their parents is a touching example of the struggles that transgender people experience every day. It is credit to the writers and actors for sensitively presenting the complex realities of coming out in one of the most powerful scenes of Gen V.

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Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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