There's so much that goes on between the Fab Five and their heroes that fans, unfortunately, don't get to see. And Skyler, the first transgender hero featured on Queer Eye, says his episode is no exception to that rule. The guys spend days with their subjects, so their interactions have to be heavily edited for time. But in particular, Skyler's deep discussion with Tan France about the transgender experience could've been an episode on its own. Some viewers were critical of the discussion, but Skyler believes they'd have a different impression if they had been a fly on the wall during that talk.
Following Skyler's fitting for his first suit, fashion expert Tan admitted to the hero that he was ignorant to much of what it means to be part of the trans community, and he had many questions. "I feel f*cking stupid, to be quite honest," Tan said. "I truly didn't understand." Some fans were really moved by the honesty that led the correspondence, while others felt that the dialogue was lacking.
"The viewers only get so much," Skyler says, speaking over the phone after the episode premiere. "Of all the messages I get, 98 percent are positive. About two percent are members of the community being like, ‘I wish that this would’ve been brought up or discussed.’ And actually most of the things that people have brought up … we did actually talk about that, you guys just didn’t get to see it. We were sitting on that couch talking for about an hour and a half to two hours."
Skyler explains that their conversation touched on not just basics like using proper gender pronouns, but also really intricate and complex components of the trans experience, like medical access for transgender individuals; what it's like to be trans in countries where it's life threatening; what it means to be a person of color and transgender "especially here in the south and the implications of that"; hormones for both trans men and trans women and their effects on the body; as well as different types of surgeries that may be available.
"We delved really, really deep into, not just ‘Trans 101,' [which is] what people are calling it," Skyler says. "But like expert level, deep trans experience knowledge that I imparted to him, and I really am very very pleased with that conversation that we had, and everything that he took away from that conversation because I truly felt like he had been enlightened in that situation. And now, he can use what I taught him as the megaphone with his broader audience, and continue to educate people and know the actual way to step up and be a good ally to a trans person."
The episode didn't leave an overwhelmingly positive impression on everyone. For Screen Crush, E. Oliver Whitney wrote that Skyler's experience "served as a teaching moment for the show’s cis hosts, turning their ignorance into an ever-so-convenient educational angle for the episode’s narrative." But just as Skyler found his encounter with Tan to more fulfilling than it may have seemed to viewers, he also says that Tan, Bobby, Karamo, Antoni, and Jonathan are even more open and giving in person than they appear on screen.
"They’re even more amazing than you get to see and I’m sad that you don’t get to experience how truly amazing, not just those guys … the crew as well. They’re all just really really great people and it was like spending time with family that whole week," he says.
Speaking of family, during his episode, Skyler got the opportunity to meet a person who has felt like family to him for a long time: multi-talented YouTube star Todrick Hall, who he credits several times throughout the episode for inspiring his own individuality. Skyler says Hall didn't only fly in to surprise him, check out his new-and-improved crib, and share in a few minutes of conversation.
"He actually came to the bar that night and partied with all of my friends," Skyler says. "And it was a really beautiful moment. So many members of the community got to meet him that were important to me and it just made their day, and it made it even more special. And that was another thing that ya’ll didn’t really get to see, but was super magical about the whole experience."
Since his episode aired, Skyler says he's received an outpouring of love and support as the first transgender hero to appear on Queer Eye, and he couldn't be more grateful. And while some viewers felt that the inclusion of Skyler's surgery was invasive, the subject himself is glad to have the moment preserved.
"This experience was really unexpected," he says. "[The show] found me at a point in my life where I was coming out of a lowest low and riding up the highest high. And I feel so incredibly thankful to have so many important moments of my transition so beautifully documented. Like, I’ve watched the surgery section of my episode at least like 15 or 20 times."
And that's why Queer Eye is so revolutionary — it documents transformations so its heroes can reflect on how far they've come. And Skyler seems proud to have shared his journey with the world.