Eric Effiong from Netflix’s Sex Education is my favorite modern gay character in the media. In my opinion, he is the most well-rounded queer character, with a backstory that actually makes sense. Here are my reasons why:
Representation of Being Queer in a Black Household
I enjoy Eric’s character because we don’t get to see many LGBTQ+ characters who are also people of color. Being gay in a family of color is a lot different because it’s more frowned upon than (most) white-American families. Eric is a second-generation immigrant; his family is Nigerian and Ghanaian. Although I am African-American and can’t speak on the African experience, I do have many African friends who say that their families and cultures are pretty strict when it comes to sexuality.
In my personal experience, my family is pretty ignorant when it comes to people who are different from them. Whether this is sexuality, self-expression, a different view on religion, they can be very unaccepting. Unfortunately, many other Black households are also unwilling to work towards acceptance to others’ differences.
We get to see how his family handles him being gay; his mother and siblings are aware of his sexuality, yet they profusely hide it from his extended family in Africa. His family takes a trip to Lagos, Nigeria, where he has to tone-down his self-expression by dressing in less flashy, more masculine-presenting clothes. He also cannot wear any makeup while there. Being gay in Nigeria is still illegal and punishable by very serious consequences (lesbian relationships are not mentioned). If he were to travel as his normal self, he risks being beaten, arrested, and even killed.
It was surprising to me that his father was confused about Eric's sexuality, yet not hateful. I say this because unfortunately, many men of color do not take well to men being gay. Plus, many gay men of color are victims of violence, often by other men of color. Coming from a Black household, I’ve heard comments that my male family members have made about gay men and it is... disturbing to say the least.
I also am currently going through a similar situation; I’m out to about 3 people in my family. The rest of my family members I wouldn’t dare speak about my sexuality to. The most uncomfortable situation for me is when my grandma will ask if I’ve met a boyfriend and my mother watches me squirm as I shake my head no. This happens every single visit. Having to code-switch is exhausting but I’ve gotten great at it (sadly).
Relationship With Someone Who is Not Out
Eric was bullied by Adam Groff, the principal’s son, at the beginning of the show. However, in season two, they become involved in a complicated relationship. Eric is confused because Adam expresses romantic feelings towards him in private, but is still mean to him in public. Adam acts this way because he is not comfortable with his sexuality whatsoever, and it doesn’t help that he fears what his father will think of him if he finds out.
I relate to Eric and Adam during this part of their relationship because a little over two years ago I dated a girl who was out to her immediate family, and I wasn't. She hated that we could not be affectionate in my home because my mother wasn’t aware of our relationship. It put a lot of stress on me and also made her feel a bit unloved (I assume). I will admit that I felt a bit pressured to come out to my mother sooner than I wanted, which I did. Although I feel weight lifted from doing so, I wish it wasn’t still a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation.
It’s also so admirable how Eric helped Adam come to embrace his sexuality!
Did you really think I could talk about Eric and not mention his impeccable sense of fashion? He does NOT hold back when it comes to the most colorful, extravagant outfits at school. He wears clothes that are representative of both his heritage and sexuality, without fear of judgement.
Here's a collage I made of my favorite looks from Eric:
In my opinion, Eric Effiong is one of the most well-developed gay characters in modern media. I appreciate that although he does have some hilarious moments, he doesn’t solely exist for comedic relief, he actually has a backstory that makes sense, and he’s intersectional.
What’s not to love about him?!