For the trans community, every single hour is exhausting. If we make it through the day, we have “Steven Universe” to believe in.
The Internet and social media are my lifeline to many of my queer and trans friends. So when I found my friends pointing to the animated TV series “Steven Universe” on every news feed I encountered, I was a bit curious. My curiosity was postponed until one day, while wallowing in boredom after another fruitless job hunt, I decided to message a friend to ask why this relatively new show was so amazing.
Their response was a link to all of the episodes in chronological order. So I began watching the first season via Hulu. And about ten seconds into the theme song, I concluded that “Steven Universe” is the most queer creation ever to hit television.
Growing up in the 90s, during the golden era of Nicktoons and Cartoon Network, I was conditioned to believe child-geared animation would not have a place in my life once I became a teenager.
But after completing episode one, in the age of where many millennials compare and contrast cultural phenomenons to those of the past, I was convinced I’m in love. “Steven Universe” is the cartoon I’ve waited my entire life for, and I’m glad I never ceased watching “SpongeBob Squarepants” to temporarily fill in my imagination.
Spoiler alert if you haven’t watched: The show, which debuted in 2013, centers on Steven, a boy who is half-human and half-gem. Steven’s mother was a magical alien combatant that gave up her physical form to give birth to him. She was the leader of the Crystal Gems, who protect the Earth from demolition and wickedness and include gems Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, warriors that present a feminine gender expression cast from the magic of their gemstones. They live together and help Steven to navigate and summon his powers with the inheritance of his mother’s gem.
And everything and everyone is queer.
Shows like “Rugrats,” “Hey Arnold!” and “Dexter’s Laboratory” entertained us for after-school playtime and weekend escapades. But it’s impossible to recall a single cartoon from my childhood and adolescence that speaks directly to personal identities or the exploration of who we are or could possibly become.
“Steven Universe” accomplishes this and its success is continuously celebrated by trans, non binary, and genderqueer people, especially of color. Social justice, with the additional artistic wing, is gradually becoming more intersectional from a queer and feminist eyesight. We’ve survived a dreadful string of murdered trans women and violent erasure of non-cis history and representation. We’ve witnessed President Obama demand a trans Latina woman be escorted from the White House pride reception while she aggressively protested an end to deportation, reminding him that the first pride celebration was a justified disturbance.
On a daily basis, we are fatalities to various types of violence and use our platforms to call out oppressive language and attitudes, to gather the privileged and make them uncomfortable, leaving them the only choice of performing the undressing of conditioned clothes. Every single hour is exhausting. And if we make it through the day, we have “Steven Universe” to believe in.
In a world of new presentations of solidarity and crowd funding campaigns, there are people rooting for our survival and health, for our ascension to superhero status. Sometimes superheroes need rest and time to study more ways of becoming magical. It’s like the theme song says: “We’ll always save the day. And if you think we can’t, we’ll always find a way.”