Sex Education Is a Pioneer in LGBT+ Representation

*WARNING: This article contains spoilers*

Last month, Netflix released Sex Education, an original series starring Asa Butterfield as Otis, a British teenager whose mother is a sex therapist. Using what he’s learnt from her, Otis, and fellow student Maeve, set up a sex therapy clinic at their school to help fellow students with their sexual concerns in exchange for money.

The show is frank and honest in its portrayal of sex, relationships and everyday life but it’s the representation of LGBT+ individuals that’s had fans singing its praises.

Starting with Otis' best friend, Eric. He is a black openly gay teenager, perpetually optimistic and unapologetically himself. Throughout the series, we see Eric being his authentic self, dressing flamboyantly and using drag as a form of self-expression.

He nonetheless faces homophobia but refuses to bow down to the pressure from school bullies, despite his family's conservative religious beliefs and father's fear about him getting hurt for daring to be different.

Nuanced storytelling by the show's creators shows not only the nature of self-acceptance, but how simply accepting yourself doesn't mean you'll automatically be accepted by those around you.

While Eric accepts his identity proudly, others aren't so sure. Throughout the series, we see hypermasculine school bully, Adam, harassing Eric, but when they are forced together in detention, the pair end up kissing.

It immediately becomes clear that Adam's harassment of Eric is to overcompensate for his own repressed sexuality that he has been hiding due to his overbearing father, who also happens to be the school headteacher.

Most episodes begin with a sex scene that introduces Otis' latest clients. Ruthie and Tanya's story starts with them desperately trying to find a pleasurable scissoring position, but, as much as they try, something isn't clicking.

It turns out they both came out as lesbians at the same time and, as best friends, thought they should take it to the next level. But friendship chemistry doesn't always translate to sexual or romantic chemistry and they learn not to force something just because they think they're supposed to.

Elsewhere, Jackson, the seemingly perfect jock and headboy, has two mums in an interracial lesbian relationship. Even though they have little screen time, they feel like fully developed characters with a strained relationship due to different approaches to parenting.

Authentic LGBT+ representation can be hard to find on TV. LGBT+ characters are often limited to stereotypes e.g. the single white twink whose sole purpose is to provide sassy comebacks. If they are of colour, they’re either not out to their family, have been kicked out or are overly dramatic and theatrical.

In the rare case that there are two gay characters, they’re almost guaranteed to be in a relationship. Either one is a closeted, popular jock, or they are both skinny, white and are essentially photocopies of each other.

Sex Education is different. There are two openly gay characters, both men of colour. The possibility of a relationship between them is shut down instantly in episode one due to them being polar opposites in personality. One is dramatic, good-hearted and unpopular, while the other is bitchy, suave and part of the cool crowd.

The two openly gay characters do not have to end up together because Sex Education breaks the boundaries of typical LGBT+ media representation and treats such characters with the same respect as heterosexual characters, allowing them to develop as individuals as opposed to token stereotypes.