Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Pride Month Spotlight: Gael Martinez of ‘Good Trouble’

Welcome to the 12th installment of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQIA+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQIA+ community and in mainstream media.

Note: Some spoilers ahead for Good Trouble.

Ever since The Fosters premiered in 2013 on what was then ABC Family and is now Freeform, it was hailed as a trailblazer for representation, particularly in teen television. When it was announced that the show would come to an end in 2018 and spawn spin-off Good Trouble focused on sisters Callie and Mariana Adams-Foster, fans were excited to see the new, more adult chapter in their lives after watching them grow up on The Fosters. Callie and Mariana moving to Los Angeles after the events of The Fosters in Good Trouble‘s pilot opened up the door to introducing new characters, many of whom identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. But one new character immediately started a discussion not only among the characters but also among viewers: Gael Martinez.

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We are introduced to Gael through Mariana, who excitedly describes him to Callie as the hot guy in her new office. He also happens to be their new roommate in The Coterie, the co-living space they share with several others. But Callie doesn’t make the connection between the man Mariana is talking about and the new roommate. Immediately, sparks fly between Callie and Gael, and they sleep together. When Callie realizes that Gael is the crush Mariana told her about, she agonizes about whether to tell her. But ultimately choosing her sister over her new love interest, she lets Mariana know what happened as they sit by the pool. But then they both see a sight through the communal window that surprises them: Gael hooking up with another man.

Mariana is instantly turned off Gael romantically in an unfortunately all too familiar situation for many bisexual men, “forgiving” Callie for sleeping with Gael and telling Callie, “Don’t you think he should have told you that he’s bisexual? If it were me, I’d be super insecure dating a guy who was into both sexes. Knowing that I couldn’t give him what another guy could, that would just drive me crazy.” The fact that this biphobia is coming from a woman who grew up in a household with two mothers, later gained an adopted younger brother who is gay, and was surrounded by members of the queer community her whole life is an important commentary on how biphobia often comes from within the queer community as well as outside it.

Callie herself is conflicted about this new piece of information and avoids Gael for a week, until a conversation with her younger brother Jude clarifies where she stands. Jude offers his advice from the perspective of a gay man, telling Callie, “Bisexuality is a hard thing for some people to wrap their head around. Why do we have to put ourselves in boxes when it comes to who we want to be with? Shouldn’t it just be about the person?” This settles it for Callie, and when she talks with Gael later that night, they have a frank discussion not just about what Callie saw but Gael’s experiences dating as a bisexual man. He calls her out for avoiding him, asking if it freaks her out that he’s bi. She says she was just surprised, and he mutters, “It wouldn’t be the first person it’s been an issue with.” She firmly says it’s not an issue for her, and so begins a love triangle between Gael, Callie, and Bryan, the man from the window.

But Gael is so much more than a third of a love triangle, which becomes clear as his backstory unfolds and we see more of his character (and he gains new love interests of his own aside from Callie). He’s an artist with an easygoing personality who stands up for what he believes in, particularly when it comes to his sister Jazmin. Jazmin is transgender and has faced bigotry from her family since she came out after her service in the military. While Jazmin and Gael don’t always get along due to their clashing personalities, he loves his sister fiercely and stands up for her, especially within their family.

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One of the most moving episodes of Good Trouble is “Doble Quince,” when Gael comes out to his family as bisexual and Jazmin celebrates her 30th birthday. Gael had returned home to get Jazmin’s dog tags for the big event, something that means a lot to her but that their father has kept as a reminder of his “son.” As his father rants and says he’s glad he at least has one son, Gael is frustrated and has finally had enough, saying, “You know what? If Jazmin is no longer your child because she’s trans, then I guess you have no children at all, because I’m bisexual.” Gael is the one who escorts her at her “Doble Quince” party to raise money to fight the transgender military ban, giving Jazmin the Quinceañera she never got when she was 15. It is his coming out to his family that gives Gael and Jazmin’s grandfather the courage to defy his son and arrive at the party with Jazmin’s dog tags, accepting her for exactly who she is and telling her he loves her.

Gael is a rare form of representation on television: an out bisexual man who is proud of who he is and comfortable in his skin. He is a fully fleshed out character whose bisexuality is only a small part of who he is and yet is also an essential part of him. We see his struggle to balance his passion for art with his need for a day job, his involvement in activism, and his romantic trials and victories over the course of three seasons. Most importantly, his storylines break down many of the tropes commonly associated with bisexual characters on television (and bisexual men in particular). According to GLAAD, in the 2020-21 television season, only 33% of out bisexual characters on television were men.

Too often, bisexual male characters on television are portrayed as in denial about being gay or being untruthful about their intentions towards their partners (a sentiment Jude briefly echoes in his discussion with Callie when she frames her question around his feelings about “straight” men hooking up with him). Gael’s experiences and interactions with the other characters shatters this stereotype and portrays bisexuality in a positive light. As co-creator Joana Johnson explained in an interview with ET, “We have this stereotype of what a man who is attracted to men should be like or act like or present as. Many times, it’s more feminine and less masculine, and that’s not true.”

It’s also important to note that Gael’s identity as a proud Latino man also makes him stand out amid LGBTQIA+ representation on television. Watching Gale negotiate living openly as a bisexual man while trying to maintain ties to his culture and family is a story that deserves to be seen and praised for its unflinching honesty. Actor Tommy Martinez shared what playing the role has meant to him and his community in an interview with MTV during the first season:

“I think that playing a character like this, and knowing that people from my hometown are seeing it, because everybody knows everybody there, and having that kind of exposure would just make it that much easier. It’s like breaking down that wall that like, ‘Oh, you can’t talk about it.’ Here, I’m f**king throwing it out at you. Let’s talk about it. And we have.”

It was expected that the successor series to a show like The Fosters would continue to tell diverse stories, but Good Trouble has expanded that mission tenfold. The series is not only racially diverse and interested in telling complex stories about social justice (with one writer for season 2 being Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement who also plays herself on the show). It is also invested in portraying the full spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ community, with non-binary, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and transgender characters featured as series regulars and recurring stars. The Coterie itself is an excellent way to show the importance of found family to the queer community, and by populating it with characters like Gael, Good Trouble tells a beautiful story about growing up and finding yourself. With Gael, Good Trouble sparked a conversation about biphobia and also created a compelling character finding his way in the world.

Be sure to watch the first two seasons of Good Trouble on Hulu, with the first half of season three also included on the streaming service. Good Trouble season three will continue on July 14 on Freeform. Be sure to check back tomorrow for another Pride Spotlight!

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Jules
I am a nurse and dedicated nerd from Boston, MA. When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing, or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find me on Twitter @juleswritesblog for more nerdy nonsense.

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