TV

‘Orphan Black’ Just Exploded Television’s Gender Norms With A New Clone

New clone opens up major discussion about gender and sexuality.

So. There’s a new clone on Orphan Black. And while that prospect was always sort of an inevitable one, we bet you didn’t see this particular clone comin’. Because the latest clone isn’t like the others: Tony is trans.

BBC America

Yep: the sestrahood like no other just compounded on that slogan of theirs and upped the sexual and gender fluidity ante on a show that’s already done so much to champion and pioneer the way people think about sex and gender on a breaking-new-ground level. And we’re sure Tony’s existence is going to cause a stir — or at least a discussion on our expanding understanding of sex and gender on a much larger level.

Tony — formerly Antoinette Zwicky — is trans: identifying himself in a way that bucks the traditional gender binary grain. But it’s important to note what, exactly, that means as Tony’s existence is not so cut-and-dry: he’s altered his reproductive organs (read: he shoots himself up with testosterone, has a penis) while simultaneously expressing his gender in a non-traditional way (he has long hair, was born female). This, naturally, can cause some confusion considering our world’s up-until-recently, longstanding two-pronged sex and gender system.

The term “transgender” — or its shorthand, trans — is more an umbrella term than anything else. According to the American Psychological Association, a person may identify as transgender if their “gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”

Transsexuality relates to a person’s sex in its physical form (via hormones, chromosomes, and the internal and external reproductive organs) and how their physical sex and gender are opposing on some level.

Gender identity relates to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else entirely. Gender expression is the way a person communicates their gender identity to others — most commonly through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or other physical/bodily characteristics and/or choices. Being transgender and/or transsexual are identifiers independent of a person’s sexual orientation. This means Tony, though born female, identifies as a male and expresses himself in a way that reflects that.

On a story level, we know that Tony is a Cincinnati, Ohio based clone who — up until this point — had no idea he was a clone. From what we can tell, he had a monitor named Samuel “Sammy” Dean, who’s now dead after taking a shot from some ominous-sounding “suits.” Sammy apparently got in on the clone-monitoring gang the same way Paul did: which is to say… we still don’t really know, but somehow has something to do with Afghanistan and being ex-military. Apparently Sammy, Tony, and Beth had met (more than a few times) previously, though we currently have no idea what their conversations were all about.

But what’s important here is the discussion Tony’s existence creates in terms of the biologic and environmental origins of being transgender.

On a show that’s all about body autonomy and ownership, the introduction of a trans clone illustrates not only the differences that occur within our personhood on a surface level, but also how that biology can manifest itself from person to person — even if the base-level science is the same — and how much control over said personhood we all have. (Though to be fair, we don’t really know if their biologies are completely identical, or if the synthetic sequences used to keep the clones viable had any sort of affect on that level.) Making Orphan Black a pioneer in the discussion of our modern understanding of what it means to be human in its myriad ways, shapes, and forms.

So what does the inclusion of Tony means into the world of Orphan Black? That remains to be seen, but it’s an exciting prospect regardless.

What do you think? Will this expanding biologic and gendered definition of the clones change our understanding of what our individual existences and biologies mean? And how do you feel about the inclusion of a trans clone? Feel free to sound off in the comments, but remember: keep it respectful. If you don’t understand it, educate yourself (there are some resources here and here) or ask questions of people who know better what they’re talking about. Knowledge — just like self-governance of your own body — is power.

Too much exuberance for one person.