“Sort Of” Season Three Reinvents the Transition Story

This review contains minor spoilers for Sort Of season three. 

When I first came out as trans, I balked at more experienced trans people who argued against transition storylines. Of course, I understood the desire to have more stories about trans people settled in their lives, but transition stories mattered too! I mean, I was living a transition story and I wanted to see that on-screen.

But as the years passed, and I became a more experienced trans person myself, I understood the exhaustion with these narratives. The coming outs, the clothing shifts, the healthcare challenges — the same tropes with slight adjustments reducing trans people to a flattened portrayal of this one moment in our long lives.

The issue wasn’t just the focus on transition. The issue was how these stories tend to focus on transition. The third — and final — season of Sort Of shows how to do it well. Not only is the season a new kind of transition story; it also recontextualizes the entire show as a new kind of transition story. A sort of transition story, if you will.

At the start of the season, Sabi (show co-creator Bilal Baig) is still reeling from the death of their father — and their kiss with former boss/complicated friend Bessy (Grace Lynn Kung). And by reeling I mean keeping all of their complicated emotions bottled up and ignoring Bessy and her entire family. We’ve watched Sabi begin to embrace vulnerability over the past two seasons, but in times of crisis those walls shoot right back up.

Instead, Sabi decides — without telling anyone — to take steps to begin medically transitioning and start HRT. When their longtime family doctor questions their timing, they admit this probably isn’t something they would do if their dad was still alive. It’s not that it’s a rash decision born from grief like the cishet doctor suggests. It’s just easier to take these steps when the person whose reaction they’d dread most is no longer around.

Of course, Sabi has always been trans. (Medical transition does not make a person trans.) But from the beginning of the show, it’s been clear that Sabi wasn’t quite settled in their trans identity. And even people who are settled in their identity can change! This is the part that’s left out of the transition stories frequently told on-screen. Not everyone immediately changes from male to female or female to male or either to nonbinary. All of these words are more fluid; all of our experiences are more fluid.

And yet, medical transition is a big deal. The show honors the weight of this decision and change for Sabi. It doesn’t invalidate any trans person who doesn’t medically transition to acknowledge that moving through the world is often much different for trans people who do.

Sort Of has always been a show of uncertainty. Sabi was a nonbinary protagonist who could never quite commit to a decision. And so there’s something quite touching about watching Sabi make this one big decision — and to see how making this decision frees them to start making others.

The season deftly balances Sabi’s story with the supporting cast. Sabi’s mother (Ellora Patnaik), sister (Supinder Wraich), and best friend (Amanda Cordner) are all given their own moments of stagnation and growth. But Bessy, her husband Paul (Gray Powell), and their two children are the heart of this chapter in Sabi’s life. Many of the best moments of the season are quiet conversations between Sabi and each of them.

Toward the end of the season, Sort Of allows the threads of these supporting characters to remain loose as the show pivots squarely toward Sabi’s next steps. Transitioning isn’t just about coming outs and hormones — there’s also a freedom to feeling more like yourself that can completely reinvent your life.

I wish we could follow Sabi into their next chapter. Especially given the shifting television landscape, a show as queer and quiet and funny and artful as Sort Of feels like a thing of the past. But this is a fitting end to this moment in Sabi’s life and to a show centered around a period of grief and uncertainty.

While it may be time to say goodbye to Sabi, I hope Bilal Baig is just getting started. Given the nuance and artistry they brought to this transition story, I want every post-transition story they have to tell.

We deserve storytelling this wonderful for every moment in a trans life, every moment in a trans imagination.

Sort Of season three is now streaming on Max.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 545 articles for us.

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