The Slow Coming Out of Young Lesbians on TV

By Allendra Letsome, NOW Vice President of Membership

In those rare moments when I have nothing to do, I watch a decent amount of young adult television. We can have a discussion about my maturity and viewing preferences later, but for right now, I have an open question to Hollywood, TV writers and the viewing audience as a whole.

Where are all the young lesbians?

In recent years, I’ve noticed that writers, studios and networks have gotten more comfortable with the lesbian/gay/bisexual storyline. Lesbians and gay men, it would seem, are now on the same playing field as all other tokenized non-white characters. Transgender characters are still notably absent, with the exception of Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Grace/Adam. (Another discussion for later is the sad state of racial, ethnic and other forms of diversity on TV, but for right now, I want to stay on this particular soap box.)

Among the shows I watch, it appears that Hollywood is fine launching a series with a gay male character, right off the bat. In the early episodes, when the audience is meeting all the characters and understanding their interactions, a gay male is likely to be included. For example, Glee’s Kurt, Degrassi’s Marco, BBC Skins’s Maxxie and others.

However, it is not until the second or third season of a show that they slowly work in a lesbian storyline. Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Alex and Paige, BBC Skins’ Naomi and Emily, Glee’s Santana and Britney (sort of).

So, why the trepidation? What is it about the young lesbian storyline that causes TV producers and writers to prolong this character arc?

Have I missed a show (any show — it doesn’t have to be a young adult show) where a lesbian character has been introduced in the first five episodes (I’m being generous here) without a long, drawn-out story?

As far as I know, there is only one current young adult show that introduced a lesbian storyline within the first five episodes — ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, with the characters of Emily and Maya. I am happy to be proven wrong. So, I ask: Where are all the young lesbians on TV?

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