Heartstopper icon Yasmin Finney says she feels she was “put on this earth to make a change” as she readies to inspire a whole new generation of trans youth.
It’s safe to say she’s already doing just that. Finney, who plays trans student Elle Argent in the Netflix series, is set to join Doctor Who as the Doctor’s new trans assistant Rose.
Speaking with PinkNews at the sixth annual Attitude Pride Awards on Thursday (28 July), the 18-year-old said: “I’m still gagged that I’m a person that gets to be the first positive representation [of trans people] in the UK media.
“Elle is such a beautiful character. She’s so confident and self-assured at such as young age. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on screen.”
Though Argent seemingly knows who she is, Finney said she’s still figuring herself out. “The way that I get through it all is just knowing that there’s a deeper meaning and I was put on this earth to make a change,” she said.
“I’m hoping that everything I do with the representation that I’m giving people, they can see themselves represented, and they can see a positive side being a queer person.”
She added: “The thing about Heartstopper is when you watch it as a queer person – especially as a young queer person – you think, oh my God, why don’t I have this in real life? And then it starts that conversation and that like spark in your mind, and you’re like, OK, maybe like this kind of happen, and I never had that.”
Yasmin Finney at the Attitude Pride Awards. (Getty Images)
Finney’s role in the beloved BBC One show comes at a time when trans young people are increasingly facing fire from all sides. Everything from the healthcare they can receive to the sports they can play – and even if they exist in the first place – is being turned into “debate”.
To Finney, this makes her simply being visible a trailblazing act. On her triumphant speech at London Trans+ Pride in July, Finney said: “I think when I go on the stage and it’s a live audience, something comes over me and I get emotional as I never expected to be here.
“In moments like that, it gets really surreal. Like, God, you’re actually doing this at such a young age and you’ve only just come out of high school. This time last year I was probably filming Heartstopper. But two years ago, I was in high school thinking: ‘What am I going to do with my life?’”
On the contentious topic of whether cis, straight actors should play LGBTQ+ roles, Finney said it’s a tricky question to answer when there are such few opportunities for trans people to begin with.
“It wouldn’t be a conversation because we would just be playing roles and it wouldn’t be a matter of gender identity or anything like that,” she said. “It would just happen fluidly.”
So her making inroads in the acting industry will hopefully pave the way for more trans actors to come. “This is a step forward, not just for me but for the trans community. I’m hoping that with the work I’m doing it will open doors for any trans person that wants to be in the industry,” she said.
Yasmin Finney was among the many queer famous faces honoured at the Attitude Pride Awards at the Langham Hotel, London. She was, for obvious reasons, handed one of four Attitude pride icon awards, which celebrate the often unsung heroes of the queer community who have triumphed over tragedy.
German activist Riccardo Simonetti, French disc jockey Kiddy Smile and Dutch Black Pride NP founder Naomie Pieter were among the other winners of the award.