The following post contains spoilers for season 3 of This Is Us, so stop reading if you aren’t caught up.
On November 20th’s Thanksgiving-themed episode of This Is Us, Kate and Toby were tasked with cooking Thanksgiving dinner at Randall and Beth’s house and taking care of their daughter, Tess. The couple, who are expecting their first child, resolve to take the opportunity as parenting practice, and Toby heads upstairs to try to make a connection with Tess. As he brings up a tray with soup to her room, Tess opens the door holding a box of tampons and pads and retreats to her room screaming.
Kate then goes up to Tess’s room to try to help her, aware that this is her first period. With some coaxing, Kate gets Tess to open the door and let her help her through the milestone moment. The two share a lighthearted conversation about Kate’s first period, the first one-on-one conversation we’ve seen them have so far on the show. After Kate reassures Tess that she can always come to her to talk or for help, she reminds her that her period is one of many firsts, and soon she’ll have her first kiss, her first boyfriend.
When Kate says the word “boyfriend,” Tess’s face drops. After a moment of thought, she corrects her aunt: “Or girlfriend.” Kate takes the news in and agrees with her niece.
In their following scene together, Tess asks Kate not to tell her parents. Kate agrees not to while assuring Tess her parents will love her no matter what. This development to Tess’s character and her hesitance to come out to her parents is a storyline that will likely continue through the season, and possibly links to adult Tess’s character in the future timeline the show has been teasing throughout this season.
Though she made it clear that sexuality is something she is thinking about and questioning, Tess did not put a definitive label on hers in this episode. But it is noteworthy that the series is choosing to explore a storyline in which one of their teenage characters is working through her sexual identity and figuring out how and when to share it with her family, especially since her parents’ storyline has taken priority on the show up to this point.
UPDATE: On the fall finale of This Is Us on November 27, Tess continued to grapple with whether or not she was ready to tell her parents that she thinks she might be gay. Ultimately, she confronted her parents, starting by telling them that she has a stomach ache every time she’s around them and doesn’t want to keep secrets anymore. After they assured her she could tell them anything, she began by saying that while many girls at her school have boyfriends, she doesn’t want one.
Joking, Randall said he hopes she never wants one before Tess cut him off to reveal it’s because she thinks she might like girls. Her parents fell silently, before assuring their daughter they love her and are here for her unconditionally.
It was a powerful milestone moment for the show and a stand-out scene for the episode. As for whether or not the storyline will continue when the show returns with new episodes, Tess told her parents she didn’t want to talk about it anymore, for now.