Yasmin Finney’s gender — All about her transition and identity

Yasmin Finney

For an actress who thought she had no place in the acting industry, Yasmin Finney’s primed to add a sizable feather to her cap: she’ll play Rose in Doctor Who. Following the announcement, Finney wrote on Twitter that ‘8-Year-Old Yasmin Is Screaming Right Now.’ 

Earlier in the month, however, Yaz tweeted about a transphobic experience at a restaurant. “Are you a boy or a girl?” a woman at a restaurant shouted at her. Finney continued: “I was clearly in shock when she said this and then said, ‘I’m not transphobic. I have trans friends.’ At this point. I’ve given up hope lol.”

Yasmin documented her transition into a trans woman on TikTok

Before Yasmin became a television star, she ran a TikTok page that documented her transition. “Everybody knows me from before I transitioned,” Finney talked to Elle Magazine about growing up in Manchester. 

Yasmin Finney | Photo by Jordan Rossi/Attitude

As a Black queer woman, Yasmin wrote off her chances of success in the entertainment industry. However, TikTok showed her that people of all identities could carve out a niche in the industry. 

“I started to realize that maybe there is somewhere for me in the entertainment industry,” Yasmin told Elle. “There’s so much young queer talent, especially on TikTok, who are finding a way to make it for themselves through the platform.”

Finney’s efforts earned her a nomination in GLAAD’s ’20 Under 20 List’, celebrating young LGBTQ+ individuals’ creativity and activism. 

Yasmin’s successes stemmed from an arduous life that involved bullying. “I was bullied for being queer at my first high school,” Yasmin said. “At the time I didn’t know I was trans.”

Finney’s attempts to embrace her authentic self sometimes led to friction with authorities. “You know, it says in the series that she nearly got expelled because of her hair length,” Yasmin told Teen Vogue, “and I also nearly got expelled because of my hair length.”

Yasmin might not have landed the role of Elle Argent on Heartstopper without her social media exploits. She told Teen Vogue that her followers alerted her to the casting call. 

“I wouldn’t have seen it if it wasn’t for them [her fans],” she said. “There were hundreds of people like ‘Oh my God, Yasmin, this is your moment,’ and I was like, ‘oop, girl!” I screamed, and I was like, this is it.”

Finney couldn’t believe that a show wanted to cast a person exactly like her: a Black trans woman. “I literally screamed because I was like, there is no way this is a casting call in British TV and film for a Black trans girl of color,” she said. 

Finney and her Heartstopper character Elle had similar high school experiences

Yasmin Finney as Elle Argent in Heartstopper | Netflix

Netflix sent a worldwide casting call for Elle, so Yasmin had to be at her best to snag the role. She had no previous on-screen experience, with her acting roles coming in theater productions, but she did enough to book the part. 

“I’ve got to stand out somehow, and somehow I did,” Yasmin said. “So yeah, it was, I was speechless, basically.”

Finney found that she shared many similarities with Elle, especially their high school experiences. Both Elle and Finney switched high schools, but Finney didn’t feel as confident as Elle did in moving to an all-girls institution. 

“When I moved schools, it was to another mixed school but for Elle to move at 16/17 from an all-boys to an all-girls school… I had the option to do that but I wasn’t confident enough yet,” Finney told REVAMP magazine.

“I didn’t yet know what was going on and what was in my head, it’s just a lot of anxiety to be around a whole new gender exclusively.”

Yasmin told Elle Magazine that her character’s bravery was ‘on another level.’ She appreciated that the showrunners told a positive trans story. Finney said:

“It’s so beautiful to see a trans story on television that’s normalized, rather than see a narrative focussed on gender dysphoria, bullying, or the dark parts that comes with being a trans person.”

Yasmin learned a lot from Elle, including being unapologetically herself. She loved that the series didn’t expressly mention that Elle was a trans woman: the character embodied her identity effortlessly. 

It’s unfortunate that Yasmin still has to deal with transphobia. Nevertheless, she’s comfortable in and proud of her trans identity. The rapidly rising actor told Elle Magazine:

“I’m never going to look like Ariana Grande, but I’m no longer at a place in my life of wanting to look like somebody else. I’ve started to embrace who I am. I don’t want to be perfect. I just want to be me, authentically.”

Finney wants queer actors to play roles that don’t highlight their gender orientation

Yasmin Finney

Many people have pointed out the differences between Heartstopper and other diverse shows like Euphoria. An apparent variation between the two is the much darker nature of the HBO show. 

Finney appreciates Euphoria but feels like young queer people benefit more from a show like Heartstopper due to its realism. “It would have meant so much to a younger Yasmin to see an Elle on screen who is living authentically and unapologetically as herself,” Yasmin said. She continued:

“It’s about time that we have young, black queer representation on screen. Hopefully, with the increase of queer-focussed projects over the years, the younger generation won’t feel pressured to fit a certain mould or live up to society’s expectations anymore.”

Yasmin enjoys playing trans roles but feels that the next step involves queer characters playing roles that don’t focus on their gender or sexuality. “We have to start seeing trans actors and actresses playing cis roles and just roles that don’t highlight their sexuality and gender orientation,” she said. 

Finney appreciates the strides made to improve queer representation on screen. However, she opines authorities need to take more steps to ensure that queer people live better lives. She explained:

“I think, sadly, even though Heartstopper’s out there, high school is still hell for pretty much 90% of queer people. And Heartstopper is a fantasy. When queer people watch it, it’s like we escape. It’s something that we watch and feel like, what if the world was like this, and it kind of gives us hope, in a way, but it’s not the reality. It’s really not.”

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