Coach Sheldon Bieste returned to McKinley High on Friday's episode of Glee, "Transitioning."
Last month, Coach Beiste (played by out lesbian actor Dot-Marie Jones) came out as transgender and informed colleagues that he'd be taking some time off to pursue a medical transition. The coach returned on Friday's episode, and after suffering some transphobic harassment from rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline, Beiste is welcomed by trans student Unique (Alex Newell), who surprises the coach with a chorus of 200 other transgender people as they sing an uplifting version of "I Know Where I've Been" from the musical Hairspray. The bullies of Vocal Adrenaline are in the McKinley auditorium to witness a classic, Will Schuester-style lesson in acceptance.
"This isn't about tolerance; it's really about coming home and coming home to who you really are and who you're meant to be -- and who you're meant to be with," said Glee executive producer and the episode's director Dante Di Loreto. "This really is the face of America, and you hope that when people see this episode, they realize, 'Hey, they look just like me.' "
GLAAD helped facilitate a nationwide search to recruit the 200 singers, many of whom said they'd never been in a room with so many trans people before.
In a January call with The Advocate, Jones described the filming process as "one the most emotional [set of] days I've ever had in my life. It was amazing." The tears you see in Beiste's eyes during the song are authentic, Jones said.
"My biggest thing is just being respectful," Jones told The Advocate. "The last thing I want to do is disrespect anybody in what I'm portraying, and to do it respectfully and with class, and with dignity and pride, and I could not have been prouder than I was that day [that we filmed those scenes]."
Check out the inspiring performance below: