In June 2020, I found my life steadily unraveling. While quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt besieged by cages: my house, where my entire family lived in suffocatingly close proximity; my room, which, thanks to Zoom, had become an ad hoc auditorium for various professors; and my body, whose masculinity felt increasingly alien. I had successfully avoided interrogating my gender for months, but that changed when I watched Steven Universe.
Over its seven-year run — which includes five seasons, a TV movie, and a limited sequel series — Steven Universe’sstorytelling rocketed from a focus on community disputes within the sleepy town of Beach City to an intergalactic opera about life, death, love, and radical acceptance for yourself and others. The Cartoon Network show is also unabashedly queer. It became my latest obsession after I read an interview between series creator Rebecca Sugar and ND Stevenson in Paper Magazine — Stevenson being the creator of my previous binge: Netflix’s She-Ra: Princesses of Power. In the interview, Stevenson admits that She-Ra’s central enemies-to-lovers lesbian romance between Adora and Catra was only possible because of the groundwork Sugar laid withSteven Universe. Sugar is quick to dispel the notion that their pioneering was easy: When the show first aired in 2013, most children’s animation still shied away from centering queer characters.
Knowing the difficulties of executives and censors, Sugar — who is bisexual and non-binary — smothered integral aspects of her identity, which made her “really mentally ill,” she told Paper. Despite that, the show baked aspects of queerness directly into the lore: The extraterrestrial Gems present as female despite not belonging to either sex.Read more on polygon.com