Theo Germaine, a breakout star of new Netflix TV series The Politician, urged parents to love their LGBT+ children unconditionally as he recalled struggling to come out to his own family ahead of National Coming Out Day on October 11.
“I want to beg parents to love their kids no matter what,” Germaine, who plays James, a loyal, witty adviser to an ambitious student running to be high school student body president, said by telephone on Thursday.
“There’s nothing wrong with being gay or trans. It’s normal, it’s natural… It’s just who somebody is, it’s not a choice, and you can’t hate somebody for just trying to be who they are.”
Germaine, who identifies as transmasculine and non-binary – transgender, but not fully male – uses both the pronouns they and he.
“My parents at the time were not supportive. So when I really tried to come out when I was 17 it didn’t go well,” said Germaine, who grew up in a small, rural community in Illinois.
“Mentally I was a struggling a lot,” he said, adding that a relative had him committed to a psychiatric ward.
“But part of the reason why was because they were like, ‘You must have been sexually abused, you must have some kind of trauma, that’s why you’re saying these things … It’s not real.’ And it was really rocky for me for a long time.”
Germaine, 21, has been living in Chicago working and auditioning for about three years.
In The Politician, released on September 27, James is written as transgender. But his gender identity is never mentioned in the colourful political satire, which Germaine said is unusual for a trans character.
“Historically there’s been a trope – like trauma porn, or inspiration porn. It’s kind of about that person’s gender identity … and they kind of don’t get to be anything else.”
“To play a character who has been liberated from that, when in the real world I am not liberated from that, is pretty exciting,” said Germaine, noting that James is never “misgendered” in The Politician, unlike his own experience.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, is this what it’s like for cisgender actors? Do they just get to play a character who’s a good guy or a bad guy?'”
Germaine was inspired to persevere with acting by Laverne Cox, a trans actress who appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 2014 after visiting Germaine’s school in rural Illinois.
Nonetheless, he struggled with the idea of representation and whether he was representing other trans and non-binary people well.
“I want there to be freedom to do queer indie films and I want there to be room to do major blockbusters. I want everyone to be able to have access, and we don’t have it yet. We’re grappling for it,” he said.
The actor is currently writing a play and also wants to get involved in political advocacy and in helping casting directors give more trans people roles.
“I have a lot of big ideas and goals,” Germaine said.
“It just all comes from wanting other people like me to have access and to be able to express themselves and to be able to make their own content, and also be safe.”