Ryder is the classic high school football jock. He’s popular, athletic, friendly... and very much into girls. He might respect Unique — a fellow glee club member who, though born male, identifies as female — but he would never be attracted to her romantically.
Or would he? In Season 4, Episode 16: “Feud,” Ryder struck up an online relationship with a girl named Katie. The problem is, Katie refuses to meet him in person, and it seems pretty clear (especially if you read show creator Ryan Murphy’s tweets), that Ryder is being catfished.
Katie isn’t who she says she is. And given the history of the Catfish TV show, we wouldn’t be surprised if she turned out to be shockingly different from who Ryder expects.
Wetpaint Entertainment recently spoke exclusively with Blake Jenner’s former Glee Project co star Lily Mae Harrington, and she had an interesting theory. “I would love to see [Ryder start dating] Alex Newell's character. That would be amazing,” Lily says. “They already built it up by [Ryder] not calling [Unique] a "he." She/he, Alex, could totally pull that.”
After all that drama between Ryder and Unique over her gender, it certainly does feel like Glee could be laying the framework for a storyline like that. Issues of gender identity are common on Catfish, as individuals who identify as female, but are or have been biologically male, find it hard to explain their complex situation to their potential online boyfriend.
There’s just one problem, you might say: Ryder isn’t into guys.
While that appears to be true, the issue might not be so simple. Months ago, back before Blake Jenner ever made his Glee debut, show creator Ryan Murphy tweeted that his role “will inspire many many people.” Of course, we realize Ryan could have just been talking about Ryder’s struggle with dyslexia. But before that learning disability reveal, we initially speculated that Ryder might be gay.
Now, Ryder having feelings for Unique wouldn’t make him gay, but it would present a nontraditional love story that many people are unfamiliar with. The way we see it, it still isn’t too late for Glee to take on such a powerful, culturally significant storyline. An attractive, masculine jock working to define his sexuality is a story that just hasn’t really been told on network TV before.
Glee is all about breaking stereotypes, and showing the wide range of individuals who question and struggle with their sexual orientation would be another opportunity to continue in this tradition.
The show already scratched the surface with Karofsky’s (Max Adler) powerful coming-out story last season, but to have a leading man like Ryder deal with the issue of attraction to a transgender woman would be breaking down more stereotypes than ever before.
Is it a risk? Sure. Will their be backlash? Probably. But this is a powerful story with the potential for impact. And that makes it a risk that we sincerely hope Glee is willing to take.