Last year, Netflix premiered a reboot of the classic Norman Lear sitcom One Day at a Time. The new iteration of the show features the daily life of the Alvarezes, a Cuban-American family. While the show isn't perfect, it brought us a glimpse of a type of family that rarely gets their story told and part of that has involved queer representation through poignant storylines involving memorable characters.
In the show's current second season, One Day at a Time introduces a non-binary love interest named Syd (played by Sheridan Pierce) for the show's lesbian teen daughter Elena Alvarez (played by Isabella Gomez). The amazing thing about this is that Syd is not just a secondary character in the background; they are actually featured in several episodes of the show. Not only do they feel like an actual character with a gender identity that is respected, but their feelings for Elena are returned in a way that is sweet and authentic.
Right now, there aren't a lot of non-binary characters on television, and some of them have been hit or miss. Another Netflix series, Degrassi: Next Class, has a non-binary character named Yael in the fourth season of the show. While Yael does have a coming out storyline that results in them being supported by their friends, Yael isn't so lucky with their love interest. For this reason, a character like Syd on a show like One Day at a Time is really welcoming.
Through the introduction of the character Syd, One Day at a Time continues the queer narrative that began for the character Elena in the previous season. In season one of the series, Elena Alvarez comes out as a lesbian to her family. Her coming out storyline was remarkable in that it gradually took place over several episodes. This allowed Elena to not only explore her identity on her own, but it also allowed her family time to process it once she came out. These episodes showed a realistic portrayal of coming out to your loved ones and how it can be scary, hurtful, and celebratory all at once.
With the episodes featuring Syd, Elena is finally able to make some attempts at flirting with and dating other queer people. She also ends up educating herself and her family about queer stuff that relates to her and her queer friends. In the episode, "To Zir, With Love," Syd is featured for the first time along with Elena's new queer friends. When introducing themselves, Elena's friends state their name and pronouns and Elena explains to her family why the pronouns are stated.
During this episode, Syd is shown to be as awkward at flirting and dating as Elena is. At one point, a flustered Elena exclaims, "Me gay!" when Syd thinks that Elena isn't interested in them. Barely missing a beat, Syd exclaims, "Me gay too!" and is offered a cookie by Elena in return. By the end of the episode, Elena asks her mother Penelope if she can go out for ice cream with Syd.
Since Elena comes from a Cuban-American family that puts school first and dating second, Elena is initially not allowed to date anyone. After Penelope experiences some events at work that teach her about her own romantic and sexual relationships, she allows Elena to start dating Syd. This moment shows how distinct Elena's experiences with dating are by integrating it naturally into the storyline without being preachy.
Throughout the second season, Elena and Syd have many awkward, goofy, and tender moments that are relatable to queer couples. Together, they provide the queer representation that other television shows should follow. They are here, queer, and happy—and we need more of that on screen!