Emmerdale star Ash Palmisciano is providing vital trans representation on TV

Ash Palmisciano

Since joining the cast of Emmerdale in 2018 as Matty Barton, actor Ash Palmisciano has been one of the most visible trans faces on British TV.

As a trans man himself, Palmisciano was the perfect cast for playing the ITV soap’s first-ever trans character Matty Barton, who is the youngest child of John Barton (James Thornton) and Moira Dingle (Natalie J Robb).

The character originally appeared on the soap from 2009 to 2012 and was played by Grace Cassidy prior to his off-screen transition.

Palmisciano took on the role of Emmerdale‘s Matty in 2018, when the character returned as part of a storyline that saw him share his trans identity with his family. Emmerdale viewers saw Matty’s his family (especially his mother Moira) struggle to accept him as a trans man, while his friend Victoria Sugden (Isabel Hodgins) embraced him right away.

After his mother finally understood his point of view and he moves back with her to Emmerdale, where the following year, he had top surgery. 

Who is Emmerdale star Ash Palmisciano? 

Ash Palmisciano was born on 3 January 1990 and grew up in the British town of Leamington Spa.

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In 2018, Palmisciano won the Best Newcomer Award at the Inside Soap Awards for his work on Emmerdale

Before Emmerdale, Ash Palmisciano previously wrote and narrated a short film called The Lady That Dances, which was shown on Channel 4 in 2018 as part of their Random Acts programme.

On his YouTube channel (@AshPTv), which currently has six videos posted, Palmisciano has posted poetry he has written based on the struggles of taking on his role as the first trans character on ITV’s long running show. 

Palmisciano has also worked for the Royal Shakespeare Society and was the first transgender actor to appear on the RSC stage. Other credits include Summer In London at Theatre Royal, Stratford East and Boy Meets Girl for the BBC.

When did Ash Palmisciano come out as trans?

Palmisciano revealed in an interview with ITV that he came out to his family as transgender in 2012, six years before landing his breakout role as Emmerdale‘s Matty Barton.

He said: “Growing up I’d come to the conclusion that I might be transgender, but the fear of telling anyone had become so huge that it didn’t seem like a possibility. 

“So I kept it to myself and carried on playing the part of a girl, as I didn’t want to be different or seen as a weirdo.

“Although, as discovered, keeping things hidden will always find a way to rise to the surface and in 2012 I had no choice but to open up to my family.” 

Palmisciano said that he is “lucky enough” to come from a “very supportive family”, who helped him through his transition. 

In January 2020, he also presented an excellent, moving and hilarious TED talk about his experiences of being a transgender actor, titled Why Your Truth Is Your Superpower, where he speaks about the issues he faced when he was younger, including the discomfort he felt having to use female changing rooms at the age of eight and being given pink napkins with his packed lunch. He described feeling like his body was a “bit of a prank” played on him by the universe.

Emmerdale hasn’t shied away from tackling issues related to Matty’s identity as a trans man. For example, in April 2019, viewers saw Matty have top surgery, although Palmisciano has also stressed how important it is that the character is also shown as a “regular guy”. In a 2020 interview with the Metro, he said:

“Showing a positive representation of someone who happens to be trans helps normalise what it is to be transgender and makes it less scary and more acceptable in our everyday society.

“Having a trans actor play a trans role not only gives a real authenticity to the part, but also we still don’t know that much about being transgender so its crucial we get the representation correct and change old fashioned images of what that might be. It also shows others trans people that they can grow up, have careers and a normal life like everyone else.”

Who is his partner? 

At the start of 2022, Palmisciano made his relationship with girlfriend Shea Rowan public. 

On Valentine’s Day 2023, he posted a parody tribute to Rowan, which feature an image of their faces superimposed onto characters Jack and Rose from the Titanic. 

Alongside the photo he wrote: “I’m Glad I Dumped Rose for You, Sure, I miss the way Rose would Irish Dance and Spit off the boat and that but you’re well good too! Thanks for being you.” 

Palmisciano is also a patron of Diversity Role Models, a charity that seeks to “embed inclusion and empathy in the next generation”. 

Its website page reads: “Our mission is to create an education system in which every young person will know they are valued and supported, whoever they are.” 

Unfortunately, Palmisciano lost his mum in 2022. Taking to Instagram to pay tribute to his “role model”, he wrote: “Still can’t believe you’re not with us mum, I’m just starting everyday like you did…with a good cuppa, Hope, love and positivity!

“My biggest inspiration and role model, Miss you everyday #Micki #MyMum.” Lots of Ash’s Emmerdale colleagues offered their support.” 

At the end of 2022 he posted another tribute to his late mum, alongside a photo of him and his girlfriend on holiday.