Image source: Getty / Jerod Harris
“Raven’s Home,” the Disney Channel spinoff of Raven-Symoné’s beloved “It’s So Raven,” made history by featuring a character named Nikki, the network’s first openly trans character. in a live broadcast. In the episode “The Fierce Awakens,” which aired July 8, actor Juliana Joel plays Nikki, Raven Baxter’s assistant.
“Growing up in Florida (like many other kids) I dreamed of being on the Disney Channel, especially That’s So Raven,” Joel wrote in an emotional Instagram post shared the day the episode aired. “Coming from a typical Puerto Rican family, I didn’t think being an actor was possible, especially for someone like me, I thought you had to be born into this world. Fast forward to becoming an actor, so I got myself said I wasn’t young enough to be on Disney and even if I wasn’t, I’m TRANS!”
“I had never seen a trans actor or character on Disney Channel. EVER. Needless to say, I cried in my dressing room after walking on that set for the first time,” she added. “But it was really more than just being on the show. With all the hate and anti-trans narratives in the media and society, it was a win. I claimed a dream and a space for myself- even as much of the world tries to erase me and my community. And now I’m becoming that person I wish I’d seen on TV growing up.
The episode’s writer, Nori Reed, also celebrated the role in an Instagram post shared on July 12. Like many kids across America, I loved coming home from school and turning on the Disney Channel, a wonderful escape from the harsh environment I lived in,” she wrote. “I can’t not fully express what it means to me personally that now a queer young person in rural America can appear on the Disney Channel and witness a funny and nuanced trans character that they can relate to. And I pray in my heart that they hear the message very clear: you belong in this world and are included.”
While Joel plays the first openly trans character on a live-action Disney Channel show, “The Owl House” animated series featured a non-binary character named Raine Whispers, voiced by Avi Roque. “Raven’s Home” and “The Owl House” are both streaming on Disney+.