Warning: spoilers ahead!
On last night's episode of TeenNick's Degrassi, Adam Torres, one of only two regular transgender characters on television, died as a result of injuries he sustained in a car accident which occurred while he was texting and driving.
Introduced in the summer of 2010, Adam was the first transgender teen character to appear as a series regular on a scripted TV show. When Degrassi viewers met Adam, he was already living as a boy with the support of his family. He began attending Degrassi Community School, and neither viewers nor the other Degrassi students knew that Adam was transgender.
In the two-part episode, "My Body is a Cage," the students at Degrassi learned that Adam had transitioned from female to male, and viewers discovered that Adam's mother was not as completely accepting as she appeared to be. But by the end of the episodes, Adam's friends re-affirmed their support for him, and his mother realized that she needed to fully accept her transgender child.
GLAAD provided notes on the scripts for these two episodes, (and several subsequent episodes featuring Adam), helping the Degrassi writers make Adam a character that truly reflected the lives of transgender youth.
GLAAD also helped create a PSA to raise awareness of transgender issues, as well as direct viewers to additional youth resources at PFLAG.org. This PSA ran every time the episodes aired on TeenNick and TeenNick.com.
In 2011, "My Body is a Cage" was selected to receive the prestigious Peabody Award, and also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children's Program. Degrassi has received five GLAAD Media Award nominations for Outstanding Drama Series.
Embraced by Degrassi fans, Adam quickly became one of the most popular boys on the show. He appeared in 128 episodes, allowing the show's writers to tell a diverse range of stories about Adam - from dating problems, to band competitions, to everyday school drama. Adam was not solely defined by his transgender identity, and fans of the show could see that transgender people face the same challenges - and have the same successes - in school and love that all teens face.
"Adam Torres has been one of the most important characters we have ever featured and Jordan Todosey brought him to life brilliantly," said Linda Schuyler, the executive producer and co-creator of Degrassi. "This year, the creative team was presented with the challenge of telling a realistic story about the deadly consequences of texting and driving. The combination of Adam being a favorite character, and Jordan being at the end of her contract, presented a unique opportunity to tell this story through such a beloved character. As saddened as we are to say goodbye to Adam, we feel this storyline will now affect even more lives in an authentic way."
"When Degrassi introduced its large and loyal audience to Adam Torres, an authentic, multi-dimensional transgender character, the show not only made television history, but set a new standard industry standard for LGBT inclusion," said GLAAD's Wilson Cruz. "With so few transgender characters on television, we are disappointed that Adam's story had to end this way, and we hope other shows will follow Degrassi's lead in bringing stories like his to viewers."
Fans of the show can tune into next week's episode for Adam's memorial service, and to see how other characters react to Adam's passing.