Rowan Blanchard Is Queer: 14-Year-Old “Girl Meets World” Actress Comes Out On Twitter

The future is bright, dear friends! On the heels of Amandla Stenberg powerfully, poetically coming out as bisexual on Teen Vogue‘s Snapchat last week, Rowan Blanchard came out as queer last night on Twitter. The 14-year-old actress is best known for her role as Riley Matthews on Disney Channel’s beloved Girl Meets World  — course Cory and Topanga’s daughter was going to be queer; of course she was! — but she’s also making a name for herself by penning remarkable essays on feminism. Like this one from Rookie Mag from just a few days ago, in which she refused to apologize for being a woman who won’t apologize for her existence:

My codependent relationship with self-blame and self-deprecation, as a means of self-defense has held me tightly since I can remember. It has felt safer and less terrifying to silence myself to a degree, than to actually engage with people, and make them take responsibility for their own actions. I have treated, specifically, male feelings and ego as superior to, and more fragile than my own. This practice dates back to elementary school, where it was first embedded in me and my female classmates, that our feelings, bodies, and minds would be used as weapons against us—mostly, but not exclusively—by our male peers.

No wonder Elle magazine named both her and Stenberg Feminist Celebrities of the Year.

On Girl Meets World, Blanchard’s character, Riley, has a rich and wonderful relationship with her best friend, Maya Hart. Speculation about whether or not Riley and Maya are more than friends takes up about 40 percent of all Tumblr’s server space, and it’s that relationship that prompted Blanchard to come out last night. One of her Twitter followers tweeted: BisexualRileyMatthews2k16. Blanchard respond: “would really be here for this! if not Riley- its vvv important to me, being queer, that there is representation on our show.”

UPDATE: Since posting her original tweet, Blanchard has updated Twitter to say that while she has only ever been attracted to boys, she doesn’t want to identify as straight or gay because she’s open to liking any gender identity in the future, which is what being queer means to her.

Blanchard co-sang the Girl Meets World theme song, has starred (and agreed to star) in a dozens of family-friendly film and TV projects, has spoken at the UN Women and US National Committee’s annual conference, and has now become the first Disney Channel star to come out as queer while still starring on an active Disney Channel show. The Disney Channel didn’t even feature a queer character until two years ago when Good Luck Charlie introduced a pair of lesbian moms as guest stars for a single episode, a decision that caused huge backlash among conservative viewers. Kind of drives home the point about the urgent necessity of all-ages queer representation, huh?

Stenberg and Blanchard make me feel so excited about the queer future of the world. Seriously: What a time to be alive!

You can follow Rown Blanchard on Twitter and Instagram, and watch Girl Meets World on Fridays on the Disney Channel.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1037 articles for us.

103 Comments

  1. To me, the big deal isn’t this one girl who used the term. I just feel like “queer” is becoming cool and I don’t like the idea of non-queer people using it to be cool.
    attracted to people other than those of the opposite sex or identifies as something other than the gender assigned at birth = queer
    attracted to people of the opposite sex but would not be upset if attracted to someone of the same sex = non-homophobic straight person.
    If she is really unsure if she is attracted to people of the same sex, then I don’t fault her. I’m just not looking forward to every twenty-something year old straight hipster calling themselves queer because it’s cool now.

    • You know, I’m 35 now. “Queer” came up while I was in College and meant something different then.*Transgender* was new then,too, and meant something more along the lines of non-binary.
      I however, was a “Lesbian” and told to “read up”on Language and queer history wymyn and what not.
      Words change and so do the generations of us.
      The metrosexual undercut hipsters of Berlin are certainly a lot queerer than I am, as a plain old Gay.
      These are Labels, not Badges.

  2. Dang this is one complicated situation! I feel like this is something a person could write an entire thesis on with how many crazy layers there are to this.

    On the one hand there’s the question of if we should police/protect the term “queer” and what it means/stands for. (For me, yes I think there is an important line that is/should be drawn.)

    Then there’s the factor of her age. It’s so awesome that she’s smart and informed and passionately speaks about feminism and things that are very important to her, but also it’s okay to acknowledge that a 14 year old (no matter how good her intentions) might not fully appreciate the weight of the subjects she’s discussing. Also it’s no secret that we as people are more likely to speak louder and with more conviction when we’re talking about things we don’t know everything about. Plus, when you grow up when so much buzz is happening around LGBT issues it wouldn’t be surprising if a teenager took on a label or identity because it might seem “cool” to do so. But also, there’s a lot of support within the queer community to let people chose what label feels like the most true to their feelings, so…

    And then there’s the consideration of trying to figure out the nuances of a teenagers sexuality through less than 500 characters of text.

    I think in writing this I’ve sussed out my own opinion, which is that I love and support where she’s at in her journey of becoming a human bean and I hope she continues to learn and grow and stay open to ideas that challenge her and help raise others up, but also as a queer person I think it’s important that we really understand what that means and the weight of carrying that identity around with you every minute of every day. If you are a cisgendered person who has only ever been attracted to people of the opposite sex, I wouldn’t consider that to fall under the definition of Queer as it means to those of us in the community. Being open to being queer is not the same as being queer, which is what it appears she’s saying (though I also feel v uncomfortable talking about “allowing” people to identify as queer based only on my knowledge of their sexuality as though I’m wielding some magic queer wand deciding who to bless with it). But that’s okay! I hope she continues to figure out her deepest truths and to meet them with an open heart and mind.

    But also, who knows? Maybe I’m misinterpreting her (very brief) explanation of her sexuality and she might identify as something other than straight in a way that is very meaningful to her. I think it’s awesome that she’s using her platform to open up a discussion on this and maybe help out other young people struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality.

  3. Really sorry, but stuff like this is why my eyes now auto-roll whenever someone uses the word queer. People have decided it can mean practically anything and everything and in doing so have made it mean practically nothing.

    Like, it’s one thing to say you’d rather not use a label, but another to use a label that implies certain things that may not actually be true about yourself and is still considered a slur by many. I can easily excuse this girl because of her age but not so much some of the grown ass adults doing intellectual gymnastics about this.

  4. I am a huge fan of both shows as well and i know most people who watch both are most likey ok with Rowans’ tweet because Boy Meets World was a little more PG 13 and things like dating were involved and something like Rowans’ tweet wouldnt be a huge deal. So Good for you Rowan, that showed alot of courage. What i do hate though, is that people are making a huge deal about two tiny tweets that just erupted to a point where i feel really bad for Rowan and im annoyed by the person who first tweeted about it. People are saying oh it’s inappropriate at her age and a disney star thats show is still going! This is highly unprofessional to them! But correct me if im wrong nor Disney or her parent have really taken to social media to adress this so random people out there, stop acting like her boss, or her parents because your not! Im sure her parents have talked about it with her and so have her bosses but mind your own business.

  5. I know no-one else who watches GMW and was wondering, if anyone else here watches, what they thought of the epussode where Josh buys Maya a new wardrobe? I found it all so ickily intrusive and reductive that I stopped watching, when I mostly found the show relatively pussitive / enjoyably daft, and have been thinking about it since wondering about the reactions of others and can’t find anything online.

    • I haven’t seen that one, but the condescending cafeteria and janitor one (these jobs are a fate worse than death OMG) and the one where Riley was really snobby about going to Maya’s apartment both irritated the crap out of me.

      • I mean, the show continuously rubs me the wrong way (although it’s not meant for me, clearly, as a 32 year old woman). In one episode, the kids learn the value of jobs like lunch lady and janitor, and in the next ep, the janitor as good as says “I was a mean bully in high school and look what I am now, just a janitor.” In another episode, Corey attempts over and over to police his daughter’s dating life (sexuality) in really outdated creepy ways, that kind of promise-ring-my-dad-is-my-boyfriend until I’m older way, and his wife just rolls her eyes. It’s super problematic. The kids are adorable, though. I don’t honestly ever expect Disney Channel shows to be anything approaching progressive.

        • Yeah I’m twenty-three, I just discofured that Disney Channel shows seem to work well fur me as an escape furom the most awful purrts of being at Oxfurred so, equally, the show is not made fur me, but if it does something that upsets me it kind of defeats the point of me using it as an escape. And I’ve not really found this with sth like Liv & Maddie, though may be furgetting some aspect of the show… Eugh oh yeah wtf with the ancillary staff thing? I think our society’s attitude to jobs is messed up anyway and it’s a reflection of that but really not okay. Yeah I wasn’t old enough when BMW was on to watch it, so I guess I just find the purrents dull and I find Corey a bit of a Will Schuester. My Dad is a brusque Aussie guy, quite blokey in a lot of ways, but finds the way other fathers treat their daughters and how socially acceptable that sort of behaviour is incredibly creepy. And I think treating it as a joke / as just sth a concerned father does is creepy as fuck. Also, his whole “aaayyy aaaammmm suuuuh inspirational and caaaare suuuh much” thing really bothers me because he undercuts it all the time by being shit, and not in an amewsing way. Hmmm, I guess I wonder why this was the thing that stopped me watching because there are a lot of shit elements. I think it was because I was expecting SOMEONE to question Josh and no-one did – Liv & Maddie is fur furom purrfect, but I feel like it wouldn’t happen on that show and there have been a fur few plotlines involving the teenage girls determining their own lives + self-worth, so I was like “come oooon Disney, tell Josh he’s a slut-shaming two-dimensional bastard!” and then I was just bizarrely upset when they didn’t.

        • Corey was always my least favorite character on that show (at least once they got to high school) so it makes sense that he’s still awful. It is sad that Topanga has been reduced to rolling her eyes, though. But if I remember correctly, her character had lost a lot of what made her great by the time BMW was over, too.

          • Yeah she’s also relegated to this weird role where although she is apparently a lawyer, she is always home with her youngest son, who has a “fiance” (you know when you get married on the playground like kids do) and she is like in this stereotypical joke bit where she hates her five year old’s “girlfriend” to the point where it’s really weird, like if an adult was hating on a five year old to her face like that in real life it would be terrible and incredibly immature. And she does all of the cooking and cleaning, apparently, from what her family says at various times, even though she’s a lawyer and Corey’s a history teacher (who would generally get off work way earlier).

            I get that it’s a show for kids, but the parents are fulfilling all sorts of weird traditional gender role bits in a way more antiquated way than even my parents did in the eighties, and it’s a bummer.

          • What annoys about what they’ve done to Topanga is that she is essentially wallpaper for most episodes. The show gives her very little to do compared to Corey, who is the kids’ teacher. I’m trying to think of an episode where Topanga had her own main storyline with the kids and I can’t come up with one. She usually appears alongside Cory in scenes with the kids, not by herself.

      • Oh yeah eugh those were bad – I felt like they were suppussed to be doing the oppussite of what they achieved, which is shit, but I think what really bothered me about the one I mentioned is that Josh tells Maya she should change her clothes because HE doesn’t like the way she dresses, and he thinks it lets her down and secretly she doesn’t want to be as sexmewal or alternative as she is and she’s just like OMG yay someone cares about me and he buys her a new “sophistiCATed” wardrobe. I was so confused… I know Disney can be shit, but this surpurrised me because I think Maya is mewsually granted way more subjectikitty / self-knowledge, even if she is sometimes playing a role.

    • I babysit my niece a lot so my tv is pretty much glued to the Disney Channel when she’s around. I haven’t seen all of S1’s episodes but I’ve been watching S2. I feel like they are pretty much done with the Josh character at this point. The show has decided to do something I abhor, which is to have Riley and Maya both want to date Lucas. It’s created this weird love triangle of sorts that has spanned a good portion of the season with Riley deciding to forgo her own interest in Lucas because Maya(who showed no interest in Lucas until the writers decided she was in love with him in the Texas episodes) “deserves it more because of the hard life she has had”. Just WTF? That’s not how life works. What kind of message is that sending children? You should give up your own happiness because your best friend’s parents are flaky deadbeats? It has been maddening to watch. I don’t know how long they plan on dragging this out but they never should have done it in the first place. I feel like it was done out of pure fan-service because fans of the show tend to lean more towards Sabrina Carpenter and have been wanting Maya with Lucas since the beginning. If they really wanted to go with that pairing they could have done so without compromising all of the characters to accomplish it.

      • THIS.

        The love triangle thing is tired, boring and annoying. We need to have better stories about girls and women than this.

        Especially given that Riley and Maya pass the Bechdel test so often, this was a frustrating turn of events.

        It would make more sense if Lucas actually had any charisma at all, but that boy is like a plank of wood.

        Don’t even get me started on what they have done to my Topanga! (She was soooo my teenage crush.)

        Has anyone seen the STEM episode yet?

        • Have realised I think I meant Sean – I get names with similar sounds in mixed up, appurrently linked to my dyspurraxia. Out of interest, what was Topanga like? I get the impurression she was great but am really confused why they bothered having her in the show if she’s just going to hang around and be there but not have storylines.

    • it was shawn who bought maya the outfit not joshua. there definitely was chemistry and more than a little interest in her resonating from him. he was supposed to be courting her mother but was upstaged by the incredibly hot sabrina carpenter.

  6. This hits me! I identify as queer, as a cis woman who has never slept with another woman and is currently dating a straight man. Something about dating a straight conservative Catholic for years and years that may have stymied some personal growth and exploration of.. inclinations until after we broke up. Ended up meeting and sticking with current significant other, a fantastic understanding straight cis man who’s known from day 1 that I’ve gone out with women and is totally fine with it. But sometimes ‘gone out with’ or ‘made out with’ or ‘been very turned on by’ women doesn’t feel like enough to call myself queer when I’m in the middle of this very phenotypically straight relationship. So I guess things like this just make me nervous.. I wish she wouldn’t call it queer.. But I hope being attracted to people of multiple genders, even if you don’t end up sleeping with them, or forming long-term relationships, is enough to call yourself queer, because if it’s not I don’t know what to call myself, since I’m pretty sure I’m not straight. Sigh.

    • Hey, I’m also a queer cis women who has more history with men than women. I’m pretty sure I’m real. I feel so freakin real! I like the labels queer and bisexual and wlw. I think you’re real too, and you can label or not label yourself whatever you want. No matter who you date or kiss or sleep with. There are so many possible reasons behind this, including sexual and romantic attraction, social stigma, bisexual and femme invisiblity, the fact that society trains us from birth on how to act out heterosexual relationships but leaves us completely on our own to build homosexual relationship templates.

      Maybe this is one of the first steps in realizing this girl’s identity for herself. Maybe she’s widening her perspectives. Maybe her potential for same-sex attraction and relationships will remain an unanswered question. Queerness is a hard thing to define and claim, especially when you feel naive through age or inexperience.I see a younger version of myself in Rowan. I wish I had an online or physical gay community to explore and welcome me when I was that age.

      While I understand why people want to police and protect the queer label, nobody has the ability ot draw that clear line in the sand. Nobody gets to be the gold star wearing, eye-rolling sheriff of gaytown.

      You’re real, I’m real, we deserve a space in this community.

      • Katie, thank you. <3 You sound fantastic and I'm so glad you posted.

        Yes to everything, and especially this, when I think back on a particular girl/girl friendship when I was around Rowan's age that in retrospect looked romantic in every way except, well, that it was never sexual:
        "the fact that society trains us from birth on how to act out heterosexual relationships but leaves us completely on our own to build homosexual relationship templates"

    • Same here – I’m bisexual, I 100% know this, but I’ve never been with a woman and I’m in a long term relationship with a man. I worry too that people are going to police my sexuality, which is a huge part of the reason I went to read the comments on this article. I worry that people who want to draw the line on the label “queer” are going to do it with me on the other side. =/

      • Yes to this thread. There is a time in my life, when I was younger, when my comment would have sounded just like you ladies’…and now, just maybe five years later, I date mostly women. But before, when I was in that kind of luminal space where it came to my queer future, I was petrified by the people who might want to put me in a “straight” box because I had never had something I could recognize as a crush on an actual tangible woman. The fear of those people who might call me straight definitely helped keep me in the closet and from exploring that side of me…which is why I am really, really wary of people who would police the kid’s language and tell her she’s straight.

        • Like I said before, I honestly didn’t really get why she wasn’t just saying “straight”.

          I posted looking for some genuine understanding because I definitely didn’t want to police her idea of her own identity.

          All the posts in this whole thread have been amazing and have made me realise that even though I knew my sexuality since the dawn of time, it’s not cut and dry for everyone.

          I think it’s terrible that people are worried they’d be invalidated as properly being part of the community because of who they have or haven’t dated. That sucks.

          I get it now. I’m sorry if I inadvertently contributed to that in this discussion.

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