Hank Paul's Blog

Tips and tricks to help you be a better LGBTQIA+ ally in business and in life.

What Doctor Who Got Right About Trans Allyship

Nov 28, 2023

Doctor Who, one of the BBC’s longest-running sci-fi shows, recently celebrated its 60th anniversary by bringing back some of its most celebrated cast members: David Tennant and Catherine Tate. In Sunday’s episode, The Star Beast, we also saw the introduction of Rose Noble, played by Yasmin Finney.

My Mum has been a fan of Doctor Who for longer than I’ve been alive. As a child, I have fond memories of coming home from school and watching old episodes on ABC in the nightly 6 PM timeslot. Then, in 2005 when the series was revived, it became a weekly event in the Paul household. Sunday nights were Doctor Who nights. The silliness of Daleks and Cybermen made it the perfect family show, and my siblings and I grew up loving the characters.

When Jack Harkness was introduced in the series, it was one of the first times I was every exposed to a a bisexual person, fictional or otherwise. I probably didn't even know what the word "bisexual" meant at the time, but I knew that Jack liked to kiss girls and boys. 

Fast-forward to 2023, and Doctor Who has taken another huge leap forward in Queer representation. With Rose Noble, the show has introduced its legions of fans across multiple generations to a version of transness that is rarely celebrated on-screen: trans joy.

Rose is depicted as a bright, compassionate teenager who, despite what the bullies say, knows who she is: a girl. And delightfully, her entire family are shown to be active allies. They embrace her, protect her, and celebrate her in her fullness.

Here is where we get to the crux of what made this episode and this depiction of trans allyship so powerful: The episode authentically shows the fear and awkwardness people feel when someone they love transitions.

Early in the episode, Rose’s Gran Sylvia, played by Jacqueline King, expresses this awkwardness when trying to compliment Rose. She questions whether it’s sexist to tell Rose that she looks “gorgeous” while misgendering her in the same sentence.

“I just get so clumsy”, Sylvia says.

Rose's Mum responds, “I know. So do I”.

My heart. This is so real. Despite their best intentions, they still mess up from time to time.

As one user, CaptTenacity, wrote on Reddit:

“I felt the scene with Sylvia tripping over Rose’s pronouns and how to compliment her, was so wonderful and vital. It’s a deeply real part of allyship, the desire to simply do right by the person you want to support, but finding yourself being clunky with language…. We don’t get to see that messiness often on television, how normal it is.”

As they conclude their remarks, CaptTenacity wrote “As allies, we’re trying our best, and that’s more important than consistent perfect”.

Trans allyship is awkward sometimes.

It's awkward because it's new and different, and we don't want to offend anyone.

Trans allyship might be awkward to start, but it gets easier.

The best things you can do as an ally to trans people is:

  •  Actively express your love and support;
  •  Educate yourself continuously;
  •  and speak up on behalf of trans people

Thank you, Russell T Davies, for writing a show filled with humanity and heart (and wacky aliens too!) I'll be sure to tune in next week to see what other adventure awaits the Doctor.

And yes, in case you're wondering, Rose Noble is set to appear in another episode soon!


6 Steps to Mastering LGBTQ+ Inclusion in your Business

Download the Small Business Allyship Roadmap

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.