The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Our Visibility Award Nominees

This week we put out the call for nominees for our 2012 Visibility Awards. While we tally up your suggestions, we thought we’d try to weigh in with who we think deserves to win in their respective category. So, team, what’s your pick?

Heather Hogan: The clear choice for Out Les/Bi Woman of the year is Rachel Maddow. When she landed her own show on MSNBC during the 2008 election, there was a real sense of Charlie Bucket’s Golden Ticket novelty about it. An unabashed lesbian with a butch sensibility who earned a PhD from Oxford and refused to capitulate to the lowest common denominator in her punditry, the country just sort of patted her on the head like Willy Wonka and said, “Well, you’re just lucky to be here, aren’t you?” Fast forward to 2102 and Maddow is the voice of forward-thinking America. She’s the go-to political pundit on cable TV, the go-to panelist on beltway news shows, and the go-to bartender on late night talk shows. People in the right-wing media and conservative politicians might get a giggle from saying she “looks like a boy,” but none of them have the balls to brain-up against her on her show, despite her repeated invitations even to folks like Dick Cheney.


Photo from NBC Newswire

This year, she anchored MSNBC’s political coverage, and it never got old watching a bunch of loud-talking dudes in suits sitting around her throne waiting to be asked by her to speak. Even more beautiful is the way that gay people and straight people and people of color and white people and lads and lasses and all the whole world seemed to agree that those guys should just be quiet and let the smart lady tell what was up. But I suppose what really set Maddow apart from most political commentators in 2012 was her unbridled enthusiasm and unquenchable optimism about democracy and the fate of the United States. On election night, when it was clear that Americans had elected their first openly gay senator in Tammy Baldwin, and that Claire McCaskill was going to easily defeat Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, and that Massachusetts was sending Elizabeth Warren to Congress to get progressive shit done, and that the same-sex marriage initiatives on all four state ballots were going to favor the gays, and that President Obama was going to win re-election, she got choked up on the air and didn’t apologize for it. Just like she did in the wake of President Obama’s DNC speech, after which she said, “I was moved by the speech. I find it moving. And I am happy to be moved. I think it’s a sort of cynicism eraser.”

Being a harbinger of doom is the order of the day in political punditry, but Rachel Maddow refuses to believing in good things while fighting the good fight.

It was appropriate that the butchy gay lady with the hipster glasses and the skater shoes and the jeans on under her desk ushered in the liberal mandate of 2012. Times, indeed, are a-changin’. And anyway, Charlie Bucket inherited that chocolate factory in the end.

Oh, and she also wrote a New York Times bestseller this year. So, you know. Who rules the world? (Maddow.)

Elaine Atwell: It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads my recaps, but I think the Favorite Les/Bi TV Character of the year is Bomb Girls‘ Betty McRae. Betty stands out from the pack because she’s not just a beautiful woman who “just happens to be gay” but actively, vibrantly, gay as hell from her smirks to her dyke nods, to the ever-present glass of whiskey in her hand. And, like of a lot of my favorite gay women, I can never decide if I like her tough facade or gooey interior more. As we move forward into this brave new world of equality, it’s more important than ever to remember our past, and let that memory make us kinder, braver, and pluckier. In short, more like Betty.

Lucy Hallowell: The Best Lesbian/Bi Moment of the year has to be the election. First let’s start at the top. We elected the first presidential candidate who said “I believe in marriage equality.” The DNC was a big old love fest for equality with speakers dropping “gay and lesbian” into speeches without rhetorically running for cover. They spoke with pride about believing in equality, the mealy-mouthed half measures were gone. Candidates looked at the audience and said, “we think this equality thing is pretty great and we’re not afraid to tell you so.” They did all of that and then won.

Equality won in more places than just the top. We had been zero for a lot before this year when it came to putting marriage equality to a vote (we can debate the absurdity of voting on civil rights elsewhere) and this year we cleaned up. Maine, Maryland, and Washington are now places we can go and get ourselves legally wed. Minnesota rejected a constitutional amendment that would have banned marriage equality. We won all of that. Suck on that NOM.

There were other gains including Tammy Baldwin becoming the first openly gay Senator. It was a les/bi time all over the States. This year, the gays won all over. Equality won and that’s my biggest moment of the year.


Photo by Darren Hauk/Getty

Dana Piccoli: Hottest Hook Up Scene in Film/TVKyss Mig. It seems like it was an eternity before this Swedish import finally made it’s debut in the states, but boy was it worth the wait. Considering it made the #3 film in the AfterEllen movie poll, a lot of you would agree. The brewing and palpable tension between Frida and Mia (who are soon to be step-sisters!) comes to a boiling point when the women find themselves stuck together on a rustic island. (Don’t you love when that happens) Lots of wine, fresh Swedish air and a chance deer encounter lead to a long, intense kiss. After that, it doesn’t take too long before Mia and Frida are ditching their scratchy wool sweaters and hopping into a twin bed together. The scene is electric and emotional, and the actresses have an intense chemistry with one another. The lighting gives it an almost ethereal feel and really transports the viewer to this place that only exists in that moment, between these two characters.

When I watched it in the theatre, I was holding my breath the whole time. So was the rest of the audience. When a love scene can induce a collective exhalation from an audience, they have done something right. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, grab a Vebab and get on that.

Punky Starshine: My choice for Favorite Fictional Lesbian Couple would have to be Emily and Paige from Pretty Little Liars. And if you had asked me during Season 1? I would have never guessed that Paige would ever be on my list of “favorite” anything except “self-hating psychopaths who need to get their act together,” but darn it if Paige McCullers didn’t bike her way into my heart.

Individually, Emily and Paige are two strong, independent, gorgeous, smart, funny teenage girls with their own flaws and quirks and lovable qualities. Their relationship has been treated the same way as all the other couples on the show — that is, wrought with tragedy and stress and tears, but with eventual smiles and kisses and beautiful moments. After the coming out dramas — which were handled with such grace and realistic writing and flawless delivery by both Shay Mitchell and Lindsey Shaw — their relationship problems have been on par with the other Liars and their significant others. (Blackmail, kidnapping, murder. You know, just regular teenage relationship stuff.) Their storyline isn’t about being in a homosexual relationship, it’s just about being in a relationship. And not being axe-murdered by ghosts of girlfriends past or creepy cousin-posing stalkers.

They’re just another couple on a crazy, emotional, potentially supernatural, murder-mystery drama. Which is one more step toward getting the real world to see same-sex couples as just couples, especially since this show has a large, passionate audience comprised of many age groups.

Emily Hartl: I’m not really sure which category Lena Dunham‘s Girls belongs in (comedy or drama) but man, I mean, GIRL, it’s amazing. I don’t even really know where to begin without ruining the entire series if you haven’t had the opportunity to watch it yet. Basically if I could do 24 all over again and live with a roommate who wasn’t a total psychopath (that was my reality!) I’d want to try and replicate the entire situation. The series is brilliant and there has never been anything so intelligently written with such a real and accurate portrayal of straight young women on television. It had one slightly lesbian incident the entire season and I’m still sold, so, MAJOR winner in my book.

Erika Star: Best Coming Out StoryLana Wachowski. I mean, sure she’s already won the Human Right’s Campaign’s Visibility Award for as she says “being herself,” but I think both her story and her acceptance speech deserve further props. As half of a super anonymous writing duo, Lana Wachowski felt it was her responsibility to the transgendered community to share her story. I find it so moving in that she’s willing to stand up as a role-model for LGBT youth who may not have had anyone to look to before. She’s amazingly successful, poised, brave and showcases her tremendous wit proudly. Her use of humor to address her transition and her struggle with the complexities of the word “transition” speak volumes and hold so much weight for those who continue to struggle privately. She makes sure to stress that her deciding to speak publicly is not about the actual coming out story but, instead, about the responsibilities we have to others quoting here newest film Cloud Atlas saying, “If i had remained invisible, the truth would stay hidden and I couldn’t allow that.”


Photo by Epsilon/Getty

If you make it through the first half of the speech without running for the tissues, try and get through her heartwarming shout-out to her wife’s blue eyes or her brother’s support without weeping openly. I think this incredible speech as well as Lana’s impressive resume are exemplary of someone who is not only deservingly visible, but also using her visibility deliberately.

Trish Bendix: I’m campaigning for Sarah Paulson to win Favorite TV Actress of the year. I’d like to start with the fact she’s riveting no matter what role she’s taking on, but the part of Lana Winters on American Horror Story: Asylum alone would make her deserving of this award. The out lesbian actress (bonus points!) plays a closeted reporter who aims to expose Briarcliff Insane Asylum for the horror show it truly is. Instead, she’s committed in a sad blackmail scheme initiated by Sister Jude and signed off on, regretfully, by her love, her partner Wendy.


Photo by Vera Anderson/Getty

Sarah Paulson’s descent from polished and professional into discouraged mental patient is so good, you wished she’d be part of every scene in the ensemble show. Despite the fact she’s a major character, there’s just never enough of Lana, who endures the worst mental torture imaginable, including a retching ex-gay conversion scene.

Outside of American Horror Story, Sarah played political strategist Nicole Wallace in the HBO film Game Change, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. She outshines her co-stars, even when one is playing Sarah Palin, and expands upon what those who have been watching her for years have already known: Her range is incredible, and there’s nothing she couldn’t play believably. The sign of a great TV actress, stage actress, or film actress. And Sarah Paulson is all three.

Jill Guccini: My choice for best book would have to be Emily Danforth‘s Miseducation of Cameron Post. I reviewed it for AE back in April and I’ve only seen it getting more and more attention as the year has gone by, including mentions in publications that young adult books about lesbians typically don’t receive: a wonderful review on NPR by Malinda Lo, and shining mentions in the LA Times and Slate, among others. In fact, it was just this week nominated for a Morris Award, the award for excellence in debut fiction for young adults. I also have high hopes for it for the Printz, the overall award for excellence in young adult lit. If it wins either, even just as an honoree, I do believe it would be the first ever lesbian tale to be recognized by these awards, which are used widely by librarians and teachers around the country.

 

In any case, official praise and recognition aside, the depth and breadth of this novel is so remarkable, so warm, so true; by the end, you feel like you know Cameron Post in a personal, meaningful way, and you wish she never had to leave you. One of those books to hold in your heart forever — and to give to those people who are skeptical about young adult books not being worthy literature for all ages.

What category do you feel strongest about? And who or what should win it?

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