Relationship role models in television

Growing up, most of my friends saw aspects of their sexuality and gender in regards to relationships nearly everywhere they looked.  They saw the male/female couples on TV getting married, having kids, experiencing ‘normality’.  It was this mainstream heteronomality that left me questioning if I was ever going to be accepted into a world where normal equates to set binaries.

It wasn’t until I sat down and watched the TV series, Bad Girls as it first aired 6 weeks before my 17th birthday that I saw any glimpse of lesbian relationships on television.  Of course, a women’s prison was the ideal place to find them.  And I clung to that show, to the characters of Helen Stewart and Nikki Wade and the will they/won’t they aspect of their relationship.  I was being given a chance to watch people with similar attractions to my own on television. And who could blame either woman for falling for the other? I identified with Nikki’s attraction to Helen and with Helen’s attraction to Nikki which was complicated by so many different factors, by no means last or least the fact that Nikki was a woman.

Looking back, I think my mother wanted me to watch that show.  She wanted me to know that I was normal.  I hadn’t come out at that point, but she sat there with me week after week, routing for the two women to get together.  My mother shipped them harder than I’ve ever shipped any canon or non-canon relationship ever and believe me when I say that I’ve been through my fair share of shipping heartbreak.

Bad Girls, a British television series shown on ITV gave me my first understanding that I wasn’t the only woman alive who was attracted to other women.  It wasn’t until Tara McClay appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, however, that I allowed myself to understand my own sexuality and start to explore and discover it. Watching Willow and Tara’s relationship unfold gave me a hope in my heart that was so pure and so real. Through every trial and tribulation I sat there routing for them to be together always, to overcome anything.  I’m going to be careful here not to throw any more spoilers over the relationship in but needless to say Joss Whedon was cursed, loudly and often during the course of that relationship.

Then came the years of finding Lesbian films (in large part thanks to ED). I devoured the film Better than Chocolate.  A true love story that gave me a reason to adore Christina Cox and a comparison to my own place within the local LGBTQ community back home. It spoke to me on levels I didn’t know a film was capable of.  And to this day I will still sit and watch it with a smile on my face as two lesbian relationships unfold on the screen in front of me.  Two true relationships dearer than most in my heart.

Of course we also had a mainstream movie in Imagine Me & You. One that tears at your heartstrings and causes you to question if you should be routing for the couple or not.  But in the end you can’t help but do so.  Imagine Me & You deals with love at its most primal and understanding yourself as well as the world around you.

Doctor Who has given us Vastra and Jenny. Not only a lesbian relationship but interspecies as well.  I’ve noticed though that Sci-Fi does tend to give us interspecies lesbian relationships when we have the lesbian ones given to us.  Take a look at Defiance and you’ll see the same with Stahma and Kenya.  Interspecies attraction (although to be frank who could blame either woman there?) appears to be the easiest way for Sci-Fi.

Warehouse 13 is a show where the audience and the two actors know that Myka and H.G. are in love but we haven’t actually been given it in canon yet.  So we cling to Jaime and Jo telling us that they see it too and pray for some sign of it becoming reality in canon.

One thing I’ve left out here is a pilot of a TV series called Nikki & Nora. A series that gave us a lesbian couple as detectives in the New Orleans Police Department.  One episode that gave us, as a community, hope that we would find understanding within the media without the over showy draw of shows like The L Word (that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the show, I did).  That episode, although it never aired, has touched lesbians around the world and we all held out hope that Liz Vassey as Nikki and Christina Cox as Nora would come back to our screens.  Now in post-production we will have our chance with a webseries called the N&N Files, which comes out later this year.  Something that I am inpatient to see and something that gives me hope again.  Hope that those who watch it will see the lesbian part of being human as just another facet of our being, not the whole part of us.  Which I know Grey’s Anatomy has attempted but I haven’t watched that show since Callie’s first attempt at a lesbian relationship and will not watch again (I have issues with the way it was handled).

I wish that growing up, I’d had fairy tales and shows and books where women had fallen in love with women, where men had fallen in love with men and traditional gender roles were played with (other than The Famous Five because let’s face it, George was not just a tomboy, she broke gender stereotypes).

I don’t accept that our children don’t deserve the chance to have more varied relationships in front of them. I don’t accept that ‘straight’ is the only ‘normal’.  It’s normal for me to sit in my pyjamas at 2:30pm on a Sunday afternoon, but that’s not normal for everybody.  It’s normal for people to engross themselves in reality TV but it’s not normal for me and a lot of people I know.  Normality is subjective and as such we should see the media portray that.  Let there be more strong female role models who also happen to be lesbians, like Camille Wray in SGU and let the children see that lesbians don’t just come in ‘butch’ or ‘femme’ and that gay men are not all ‘bears’ or ‘effeminate’.

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