Glee, which received the GLAAD Media Award last year for Outstanding Comedy Series, raised the bar for diversity on network television again last night, when it introduced a new character named Unique, a transgender African American student and performer in rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline.
The character is played by Alex Newell, who finished as a runner up on The Glee Project; the Oxygen reality show in which a group of hopefuls competed for a spot on Fox’s hit show.
Audiences first saw Unique as Wade, a shy student from a different high school who gushed with fandom for Kurt and Mercedes and asked for their advice on coping as outsiders. Wade recalled being tormented by other kids at school and even family members, and revealed that “Ever since I was a kid, I would play this game. Where I would pretend I was a different person. The person I dreamed of being. The real me. I even have a different name. Unique.”
Kurt offers some words of support, saying “I hope one day you have enough courage to be him.” To which Wade responds “Actually, Unique’s a her.”
But the key moment came later in the episode, after Kurt and Mercedes try to talk Unique out of performing in women’s clothes for fear of a backlash. Kurt tells her “I’ve worn some flamboyant outfits, but I’ve never dressed up as a woman.” To which Unique replies “That’s because you identify yourself as a man. I thought you of all people would understand.”
Watch Unique in Boogie Shoes below