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Insecure's New Gay Character Gave a Quick Lesson in Code-Switching

Insecure's New Gay Character Gave a Quick Lesson in Code-Switching

Jean Elie as Ahmal

Issa's gay brother brings some much-needed queer visibility to the HBO series.

Insecure has added a gay character.

The HBO dramedy introduced its audience Sunday to Ahmal, the gay brother of series protagonist Issa Dee (Issa Rae).

Ahmal, played by Jean Elie (American Crime, Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks), debuted at a party in the season 2 premiere, where he arrived as Issa's date. "Your brother is your plus one?" asked an incredulous Molly (Yvonne Orr), Issa's best friend.

"You said we had a lot in common! Ahmal, did you call mom back?" Issa asked. After a negative response, she replied, "Me neither. See?"

Ahmal's scene was short. But it offered a telling lesson in how queer people code-switch based on factors like gender and sexual orientation. When greeting a straight male friend, he said, "Hey, bro, what up?" with a warm hand-slap and half-hug. With a female friend, his tone immediately shifted. Ahmal's voice rose several octaves as he screamed her name, "Tiffany" (Amanda Seales), with enthusiasm. She responded in kind, smiling and snapping.

Ahmal also threw shade at another character, Kelli (Natasha Rothwell), and her coat.

Last week, The Advocate included Insecure -- which follows the love lives and careers of female black millennials in Los Angeles -- in a list, "13 Shows We Can't Believe Don't Have Queer Characters." The article praised how the series, based on Rae's web series Awkward Black Girl, "covers a lot of much-needed ground in terms of representation of women of color," but noted it still "seems ripe for a queer character."

While season 1 lacked LGBT representation, it did make headlines for an episode that discussed black men and sexuality. "Why can't black men explore their sexuality without being labeled as gay or bi or whatever?" Issa asked Molly, who had reservations about being in a relationship with a man who once received oral sex from another man.

The addition of Ahmal this season may introduce more conversations about LGBT identity. How will his storyline progress? We'll be watching HBO on Sundays to find out.

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