Neighbours star reveals the importance of representation to tackle transphobia

Mackenzie Hargreaves (Georgie Stone) made history when she arrived in Neighbours, and has continued to make history ever since.

She is the first trans character to arrive in Ramsay Street and Georgie the first trans actress to join the soap, and her role in both educating viewers in a world they may know little about and giving a voice to those who are not heard nearly enough is proving hugely effective.

She has arrived at a time when the trans and gender diverse community remains massively under-represented and when transphobia is still all too prevalent, but also at a time when the conversation is finally starting to change. Mackenzie, and of course Georgie, is part of that, helping to educate viewers of the Aussie soap with a glimpse of the tribulations a trans teenager might face.

It’s particularly poignant at a time when celebrities and people in a position of influence are making such damaging comments so publicly, trying to shout the loudest about their views online.

For Georgie, being able to use Neighbours as a platform to shed more light on her community is so important in fighting back against this, and it has become critical for her to authentically represent Mackenzie’s struggles as a transgender teen to go some way to help tackle the transphobia.

Goergie told ‘Even though we have come a long way, we still have to be reminded, people can forget how to be a good ally and the importance of representation’

‘There are some very public and powerful voices who are actually against the trans and gender diverse community, so it is extremely essential to have that representation.’

The viewer reaction to Mackenzie has proven just how essential that representation has been.

Georgie added: ‘I get messages from fans every day saying it meant so much to them to see Mackenzie on screen and also people who aren’t trans and just learning.

‘And feeling grateful that they had the opportunity to learn in the form of entertainment.’

Mackenzie has been on a roller coaster since she arrived in Erinsborough. She has faced being disowned by her own dad due to being transgender, viewers shared in the anxiety of her first kiss as she agonised over the dilemma of whether to tell Hendrix the truth about her gender identity.

She was later accidentally publicly outed by well-meaning Yashvi, which then led to the horror of having adults fighting to stop her from being able to use the girls’ toilets at school. All plot lines yes, but they heartbreakingly reflect real life for some.

In her latest storyline, it’s joy for Mackenzie as she is set to finally receive the gender confirmation surgery she’s so desperately wanted, a huge milestone in a very long road of struggles that is underestimated by anyone who hasn’t come close to experiencing anything like it. But she’s made it here with overwhelming support, and that demonstrates the power of acceptance.

Georgie said: ‘She really trusts the Rebecchis.She feels really safe and secure, and part of their family – and they are always trying to support her in any way.’

And she also has loving boyfriend Richie by her side when she returns from surgery.

Georgie continued: ‘She has come from surgery feeling very comfortable in their relationship and they have finally said “I love you” to each other so they are in a really nice place at the moment – they are closer than ever.’

As Mackenzie’s story has progressed, it’s been important for Georgie that viewers have been exposed to both the good and the bad. Nothing about her journey has been sugar-coated, raw emotions have flowed freely, but equally viewers have been privy to the heart-warming positivity surrounding her story as she has developed relationships and found herself, and viewers have seen first hand the power of acceptance.

For Georgie, who was involved in the development of Mackenzie’s character and storyline, this is hugely significant.

Georgie explained: ‘I think you need the balance between some of the negatives that trans people face so the audience can be confronted or question their own prejudice – and also having a positive story so it shows people what is possible – and it’s important to have positive role models.’

Her gender confirmation surgery is a huge moment for Mackenzie. It’s not about her proving anything to anyone, it’s the moment she can finally be herself.

‘It is a very personal moment for her,’ Georgie explained. ‘It’s not just a step to make her a girl because she has always been a girl but so she can feel comfortable in her own skin – purely for her own benefit.’

But it is of course still a soap and with that comes further plot twists as Shane, who has so far been her rock, starts to turn on her.

Teasing the upcoming storyline, Georgie said: ‘Shane is starting to go through a very difficult time because of uni and he is so stressed and taking it out on the people around him – and because Mackenzie is at home recovering, she seems to be in the frontline of his outbursts.’

Find out what happens next with Shane and Mackenzie by tuning in to Neighbours weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5.

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