Since its release in fall of 2013, Rebecca Sugar's Steven Universe has quickly developed a large fan base of kids, teens, and adults alike. Much of the draw for the show comes from its non-traditional representation of gender and familial structures; from the main character, Steven, being raised primarily by three humanoid, female presenting aliens known as "gems" — Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl — with only occasional interactions with his human father; to a cannon lesbian couple (with another couple being implied but not yet confirmed); to even Steven himself frequently acting in ways that are often coded feminine, such as enjoying dressing up, dancing, and openly crying and becoming emotional ...view middle of the document...
Stevonnie also turns heads of both males and females alike; there is a scene where they walk into a doughnut shop and both the male and female clerk are so in awe of Stevonnie's appearance that they both become visibly flustered and give them two doughnuts for free.
Because of their ambiguous gender, Stevonnie may very well be the first genderqueer or non-binary character to be positively represented in children's television. However, what makes them unique is that the episode is not central to Stevonnie's gender. Instead, Stevonnie is more of a focus on puberty and relationships. Rebecca Sugar said in an interview with io9's Meredith Woerner,
"Stevonnie challenges gender norms as an individual, but also serves as a metaphor for all the terrifying firsts in a first relationship, and what it feels like to hit puberty and suddenly find yourself with the body of an adult, how quickly that happens, how it feels to have a new power over people, or to suddenly find yourself objectified, all for seemingly no reason since you’re still just you" (Woerner, 2015).
Unlike typical "trans" narratives, Stevonnie, has a narrative that is relatable to transgender, non-binary, and cisgender people alike. Stevonnie just happens to be a person with ambiguous gender. It is a part of who they are, but it does not define who they are.
Garnet, being the gem who knows the most about fusion, explains what being a fusion is to Stevonnie, but never brings gender into the discussion; "Stevonnie… you are not two people and you are not one person. You are an experience! Make sure you're a good experience." ("Alone Together"). In the scene, Garnet does not even question what Stevonnie's gender may be, instead referring to them as an "experience." Like many individuals who do not fall neatly on one side or the other of the gender binary, Stevonnie is influenced by how their gender may be read by others, but at their core, they are who they feel they are. However, Stevonnie is still a person, and still has experiences that are universal to many American children, teens, and adults. Yes, Stevonnie does not fall on one end or the other of the gender spectrum, but they are still feeling, doing, and experiencing things that are commonly experienced by many American teens and adults alike. In this way, Stevonnie quietly serves as a way for non-binary individuals to feel recognized, while also being humanized.
Because of the acceptance Stevonnie receives on the show regardless of their gender ambiguity, the character has become a favorite among the trans and non-binary members of the fan base. Many have formed a parasocial relationship with the character; they feel they connect strongly with the character on a personal level, despite the character not knowing anything about them. In her article for The Mary Sue, Why Talking About Character Gender Matters (Even Though it Shouldn't), Becky Chambers explains how a parasocial relationship can form between a person and a...