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Grown-ish's Genderfluid Character Ignites Dating Stigma Conversation

Grown-ish's Genderfluid Character Ignites Dating Stigma Conversation

Grown-ish's Genderfluid Character Ignites Dating Stigma Conversation

Warren Egypt Franklin plays Des, a track star who shows up to a date in a dress. 

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Grown-ish, Freeform's spinoff of the hit ABC show Black-ish, is once again tackling some hard-hitting topics facing the LGBTQ+ community.

This season, the show introduced Des, a Black, queer, genderfluid, and pansexual athlete who catches the eye of Jazz (Chloe Bailey). At first, she dismisses him, assuming he's gay, but after a flirtation at the gym, she agrees to go on a date. But when they meet up and Des shows up in a dress, Jazz is visibly taken aback. 

It leads to some hilarious moments, including a perfectly executed Fashion Nova joke from Bailey, but also incites some real conversations addressing the stigma many straight women have when it comes to dating queer people.

"Why is it okay for a straight-identifying woman to not be with this man who is just gender fluid?" Warren Egypt Franklin, the actor playing Des, asks in a conversation with PRIDE. Instead of following her heart, Jazz is worried about "Is it okay? Is it not? What do my friends think? What do they not think? Do I have to keep it a secret? Do I not?'

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Though she clearly likes Des, Jazz struggles to push through those social norms. Her friends call her out for it and she initially decides to break it off, but sparks still fly when the two meet up later at a party.

"These stories need to be told and I think queer people need to see themselves on TV and different mediums," Franklin reflects. "We don't often see a masculine-presenting queer people and people who are athletes and there are gay – eff gay, they're just queer, the whole umbrella – queer athletes who run track, who play volleyball, who play football, who play basketball at a professional level." And when you do, "it's usually some kind of down, low, messy situation."

He appreciates that about Des "who is like, 'no, this is who I am and either you take me, you love me and accept me or sorry, it is what it is. This is who I am.' And I think that's so inspiring how he really doesn't care what anyone thinks of him."

Franklin says the audition originally called for a nonbinary actor. "I present as he/him/his," he says, and "I was almost scared to take the audition 'cause I don't want to offend anyone and I don't want to make a caricature of non-binary people."

He had conversations with his nonbinary and genderfluid friends, as well as "people in the community that I look up to, to really get a grasp" on the identity.

Franklin, who has been a long-time fan of superstar singing duo Chloe and Halle says working with Bailey was "amazing." "Having her as my co-star was really a dream in itself."

While Franklin is only in three episodes of season four so far, he can't wait for fans to see where Jazz and Des' relationship goes from here. 

Grown-ish's mid-season premiere premieres tomorrow on Freeform. Watch our full interview below:

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!