How Series One Day at a Time Celebrates The LBGTQ Community With Groundbreaking Characters
The Netflix series One Day at a Time broke down stereotypes with the story of a gay Latinx teen protagonist and her non-binary love.
The Netflix series One Day at a Time presents the ups and downs of the Alvarez family, a tight-knit Cuban American clan with the charismatic matriarch Lydia (played by Rita Moreno) as the fabulous abuela that always speaks her mind. In its third season, the family unites with distant relatives at a tia‘s funeral and everyone wonders if cousin Pilar is gay. “Pilar is just eccentric. She rides a motorcyle, she owns seven cats. She shares her one-bedroom apartment with her long-time roommate Susan. How is that gay?”, asks grandma Lydia, in denial. “Someone in this family needs to accept her and I can shepherd her out of the closet and into the light,” says Elena, the teen protagonist played by Isabella Gomez, who came out as a lesbian earlier on the show during her quinceañera party.
Elena pushes her cousin Pilar to talk about her “long-time friend” Susan in the hopes she will too come out of the closet. “I have been hiding something. I'm Jewish,” Pilar reveals, then making the awaited confession: “I converted for my wife Susan.” Pilar talks about how difficult it is for a Hispanic family to accept that she is a lesbian. “Oh, it's not a secret. I'm out to the family, it just does not stick,” Pilar says. Using humor as part of the rhetoric, the series sheds light on Pilar's process of coming out. She explains to her younger gay cousin Elena that she doesn't have to wear rainbow underwear to celebrate who she is. “Eventually you realize you are just a person and it's really empowering not to have to be defined by who you want to make out with,” Pilar reflects.
When Elena revealed she was gay in an earlier episode, her mother Penélope (played by Justina Machado) and her grandma Lydia fully supported her, while dealing with their own conservative taboos about sexual orientation. They also welcomed Syd, Elena's non-binary love, into the family. However, when Penelope, Elena's mom, mistakenly calls Syd her daughter's “girlfriend,” they correct her. “Since Syd identifies as non-binary I want to call them by a term that's more acceptable and inclusive,” Elena explains to her mom. “I'm partial to…my everything,” Syd says about what they want to be called.
LGBTBQ fans of the series have raved about feeling represented on the small screen. Gomez told Vanity Fair that the series' queer fan base is “fiercely loyal, and they're so passionate about it because they lack representation. And the representation they do get is so shallow—we always see the gay man story line, and we never see young lesbians. And when we do, we see it for the benefit of men and we sexualize them.” This show definitely changed that, breaking stereotypes on many levels.