Juliana Joel, First Trans Actress on Disney Channel, Addresses Grooming Your Child

in Disney, Television

Juliana Joel

Credit: Juliana Joel

Juliana Joel is the first openly transgender actress to play the first openly transgender character on a live-action Disney Channel sitcom. That sentence alone is enough to cause outrage across the country and further fuel the accusations that Disney is “grooming” children. Joel is aware of this but proudly doesn’t care. She addressed her story in an interview on this week’s episode of Vulnerable, Christy Carlson Romano’s podcast.

Juliana Joel
Credit: Disney

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Juliana Joel plays Nikki on Disney Channel’s Raven’s Home. The show is pretty progressive, as it stars the now openly gay Raven-Symoné. Raven was a child star who starred in her own Disney Channel sitcom, That’s So Raven, and came out as lesbian once she became an adult.  Ten years after that show had ended, Disney asked Raven if she’d like to come back to do a sequel to the series where her character was now a lesbian. Raven-Symoné said yes to the reboot but no to the lesbian storyline. However, that didn’t stop the show from being a welcoming platform for the LGBTQ+ community.

Raven's Home
Credit: Disney

Joel landed the role of Nikki, Raven’s new wealthy design assistant in the show, when she discovered that Disney was looking for an openly transgender woman to play an openly transgender character. Joel told Christy Carlson Romano, who was also a Disney Channel star that she was thrilled to portray a character where she could be authentically herself. Joel, however, is aware of the backlash this role has sparked in the media.

Juliana Joel and Raven
Credit: Disney

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“My favorite was the conservative headline that said ‘Disney’s newest degenerate; Juliana Joel,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I should get that on a t-shirt,'” said Joel on the podcast. She gave other examples of the comments she heard about her appearance on the show. To which she responds, “Like, what do you think I’m going to do on that show? Do you think I’m going to get on there and teach kids how to inject themselves with hormones?”

Joel answers her hypothetical questions by saying, “No. My character doesn’t even talk about being trans.” She went on to say that Raven’s character only mentions it once in the whole show.

Disney being accused of “grooming” has been a trending topic since the entertainment company added more LGBTQ inclusion into their stories for film and television. These accusations are only heightened when Disney Parks introduce another Pride celebration event. Those making the accusations typically tend to be conservatives who are using the excuse “it’s to protect our children,” but don’t get this upset whenever there’s a school shooting. “Homosexuality is a concept children can’t understand,” but their religious and political values are okay to instill in their children as early as they can be baptized.

LGBTQ content in Disney
Credit: Pixar

If the excuse is that children are too young to understand these concepts, then that gives the impression that children should only be taught any concept once they are older. However, that’s not how it works, is it? For example, it’s best to take your children to church at a young age so they can instill the values early. Hmm, that sounds like grooming a little bit, doesn’t it?

It would seem Disney is just trying to teach the concepts of inclusion and acceptance to children at an early age because most families in America fail to do so. As many people know, once you’re older, the damage is already done, and it’s hard to change your beliefs. And if Juliana Joel’s pride teaches us anything, it’s not to let others’ “concepts” bring your values down but rather to ignore them and just do you.

Were you a fan of That’s So Raven back in the day? Let us know in the comments. 

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