"It's a really big deal for the queer community to see ourselves on screen," says Blu del Barrio

Blu del Barrio can relate to their Star Trek: Discovery character in more ways than one.

The Southern California native, 23, makes their acting debut in season 3 of the hit CBS series as the franchise's first non-binary character, Adira.

"It's really overwhelming," they tell PEOPLE in this week's issue of being cast. "It's a really big deal for the queer community to see ourselves on screen."

In the show, Adira joins the crew as a staff member who suffers amnesia upon arrival and must reveal their gender to the rest of the crew.

Del Barrio says having Adira come out to the crew on screen helped them find the courage to come out to their own family about their gender identity

"I was still going through my coming out process when I got this role," says del Barrio. "The show gave me space to figure myself out. It was a really beautiful thing to be doing it in this duality."

  • For more on Blu del Barrio, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
blu del barrio
Credit: Phil Sharp

Del Barrio hopes that viewers are able to take away a similar sense of courage from watching the show.

"If I had the language when I was 8 or 9 years old, I would have been able to come out then — but I didn't, so I found myself having to conform," says del Barrio. "Seeing a non-binary character would have changed my whole world."

"I'm really honored to be able to be playing a trans, non-binary character on television," they add. "Hopefully, this character can be one that helps someone else."

But del Barrio does eventually look forward to the day that seeing members of the queer community on screen is simply the norm.

"I really just don't want it to have to be a big deal," they say. "I think there could be trans characters on as many TV shows as possible because that's the world that we are living in."

Star Trek: Discovery is now streaming on CBS All Access.