What the hell is a straight lesbian icon?
First things first, I am a complete and total fangirl.
No shame, no embarrassment. I'm a fool for wlw storylines whether they are written or produced well or not. I have gone to desperate measures to find movies and television shows with queer women. Extreme. If there's even a chance a character may be a little bit gay, I'm watching it. I join ships like they are handing out free croissants.
As my girlfriend likes to point out, I will watch an entire six-season television series just to see if the two moms of a certain boy will ever end up together. They don't. I'll commit to five seasons of science fiction mayhem only to be rewarded by sensual hand touching and easily the largest betrayal to fandoms ever #Pyka. Given the insane mortality rate of queer characters on TV, a complete 180 of a character's affection isn't even the most horrifying thing a writer can do.
BUT I STILL WATCH THE SHOWS even though I know I'm doomed for some kind of heartbreak.
What I'm getting at is that I actually have incredibly low standards.
It's important that you know this so that you understand that if this bothers me, it should probably bother you a little too. I love these queer female characters so much and have such a deep appreciation for the humans that bring them to life that I will watch anything the actor has been in prior to and following a queer role. For some, it leads to many more queer storylines. Shout out to my girls Jaime Murray, Kate McGrath, Sheetal Sheth and the many, many more that have served our country.
...is a problem.
Yes, there is a small club of straight actors that do not shy away from queer roles but let's not forget that there are actual lesbians and queer women in the world. Out there. In the world. Doing cool things. We actually have our own massively diverse catalog of icons outside of mainstream movies and television. Tegan & Sara, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Degeneres, KD Lang, Samira Wiley, Melissa Etheridge, and Ellen Page, to name just a few super rad totally iconic queer people. Erasing them, erasing actual queer iconography... it's not only incredibly senseless it's avoidable.
While the image above was taken from a Buzzfeed article, the issue is far greater than any mainstream media source. This article and many more like it are a symptom of a much bigger problem. Think of any lesbian or queer characters you know on TV right now. Are they played by an out lesbian or queer actor? Arizona Robbins, Nicole Haught, Stef or Lena Foster?
Think of any lesbian or queer characters you’ve ever seen on TV or in a movie theatre. Carmen, Carol, Kat or Adena, Alex Danvers? Out lesbians or queer actors?
Not a one.
Taking this one step further, these depictions are almost solely of slim, white, and feminine actors who are playing characters that actually belong to a highly diverse community in terms of race, body, and gender-expression. These portrayals include such a small percentage of actual lesbian or queer women lives that it would be comparable to using Comet, the golden retriever from Full House, for every single dog ever. Yep, that means a Tatiana Maslany level of editing & green screen for Beverly Hill’s Chihuahua 1, 2, 3, & 4.
Samira Wiley of The Handmaid's Tale, Lea Delaria of Orange is the New Black, & Master of None writer and actress Lena Waithe are some of the only on-going authentically queer female portrayals available on mainstream entertainment. Interestingly enough, each of these examples is a binge-watching Netflix series. This means long waiting periods between seasons where queer audiences are left to resort to more mainstream shows to pass the time.
It's just not enough.
This isn’t to say that these heterosexually portrayed queer characters and straight actors aren’t loved, viewers are WayHaught for them. Myself included (COME BACK WYNONNA EARP I MISS YOU). But with that being said, because we're sick and tired of poorly-written/cast, underfunded "lesbian films" currently available on streaming services, major television networks and production companies are profiting from starved queer viewership. At the very same time, however, Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher's lesbian comedy, Take My Wife, is struggling to find a second home.
Apparently, networks are not interested in supporting actual lesbians when the white, heternormative world has little to gain from it.
We deserve better, we deserve more.
These directors and producers aren’t just hiring another straight person to do their job (act), they are cheating the queer community from their right to see themselves authentically portrayed by someone who understands. Someone whom they can identify with, someone who has been there and truly knows the feeling to be queer in a world that is anything but welcoming of those that are “different.”
Outlets like Buzzfeed are not to blame, they have been incredibly helpful in promoting queer people, fashion, and issues with their large audience and influence. The issue is that these straight women are not our icons. They are women who are willing to do a job that they get paid to do. Yes, we love them. Oh sweet baby Xena, we love them. And many have been amazing in showing support for the community they are representing.
And yes, we’re appreciative for what little we currently have but we have our own icons and we should have more. Positive LGBT representation is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Where are the demands for authentic representation? Where is the anger, annoyance, or call to take action? The evolution of the Carmilla series, from Youtube channel to full-length film, shows just how much can be accomplished by the strength of queer viewers and their love for authentic queer representation.
We are an incredible community and we have some amazing allies but we've got to stop settling. We deserve positive and authentic queer representation like yesterday. We have the power to make that happen, it's time we realize that. We have to speak out against the lack of actual LGBTQ representation.
We need to demand that queer actors be given the opportunity to represent the queer community as often (if not more often) than straight actors. We want to see queer success, it's what we deserve to see and it's what we need to see.
I'll probably always be a fangirl who takes the chances but, I'll also be the fangirl who fiercely supports authentic queer representation and won't stop demanding more of it. I love you, straight actors who play queer roles. I love you very much but I am also incredibly proud of my community and want more for them.