The fight for marriage equality involved more than just the right to be legally recognized in a committed union by the government. The legal recognition of our loving unions led to a reduction in the demonization of our relationships in general. Part of the stigma attached to same-sex unions comes with the perceived prohibition found in the bible and the very real prohibition found in civil societies around the world.
Part of being included in main stream discourse and accepted by society in general is seeing representations reflecting what was formally taboo in the media.
We have intense beautiful, multi- dimensional relationships that are just as complicated as our heteronormative counterparts. We make mistakes, we cheat, we have lifelong relationships, we have short term relationships, we hurt each other, we uplift each other, and we have exes that we just can’t get over. JUST LIKE THE STRAIGHTS.
One portrayal of a complicated lesbian love story is centered around a character in the mid-season hit 911 on Fox.
The show focuses on the lives of first responders in Los Angeles as they deal with various emergencies and handle the complications that arise in their private lives. Aisha Hinds plays, Henrietta Wilson, a paramedic in a Los Angeles fire house. Unlike her co-workers however, Hen (as she prefers to be called) is gay.
Here’s the plot in a nut shell (if you’re not afraid of a little spoiler then keep reading!)
Hen has a wife (Karen) and a child (Desi). The child Hen and her wife are raising is the biological son of Hen’s ex-girlfriend (Eva) who was sent to prison several years ago.
Hen and Desi’s mother decided not to continue their relationship during her incarceration, so Hen and Karen adopted Desi and began raising him as their own.
Fast forward to a few years later and Eva is up for parole. She has a good chance of getting out and she wants to speak with Hen, well she wants to do more than speak. Eva wants to revisit the way their relationship ended and possibly rebuild their family which would involve a total upheaval of Karen and Hen’s life. Eva was Hen’s first love, but she was more interested in criminal activity than building a life with Hen. Now, Hen has to make some really important decisions that could change her life in ways she never imagined.
The actors play each of their roles with sensitivity and nuance.
The fight for equality is a fight to be seen as equals. Being seen as equal means we get to be forgiven for our flaws just like our heterosexual counterparts. Our love lives have twists and turns and sometimes end up in tragedy because we are flawed humans who need the space and time to learn from our flaws just like anyone else.
The Hen, Karen, Eva love triangle in Fox’s 911 seamlessly weaves into the other heterosexual social circles and doesn’t seem like it’s different or particularly special. Part of me loves the way our stories have become part of the fabric of every day story telling. The other part of me wishes we could have stories told from a predominantly gay point of view.
There has been a lot of discussion about LGBTQ representation in the media. A lot of people feel like we need our own LGBTQ television shows with story lines that center around a cast full of LGBTQ characters. We’ve had some interesting and fun LGBTQ shows that primarily centered around the lives of gay people trying to navigate personal and professional lives. Queer as Folk, The L Word, Noah’s Arc, The Fosters, and Sense8 to name a few.
Gays and Lesbians have also been integrated in shows that focus primarily on the lives of straight people. Shows like Will & Grace, Modern Family, Glee, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, How to Get Away With Murder, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, all had active and integral gay characters who helped create a multidimensional story line.
However, it has been years since we have seen a portrayal of a cast living in a predominantly gay community. And while we still haven’t forgiven Ilene Chaiken for the end of the L word, I do appreciate what she was able to accomplish. A story surrounding lesbians, highlighting their unique cultural and social difficulties with the straight people serving as supporting characters was a refreshing change from the norm.
I can certainly appreciate both types of representation.
I like that we are seen as the neighbor, the cousin, the colleague, the hero, the friend, and the leader without our sexuality being the main topic of discussion or a reason for disqualification. But, I would like to see a story that centers around us and has a couple token straight people trying to navigate our world. I would like to see it, so maybe it’s up for me to write it.