Notes & Queeries: Friends and “The L Word”

I have found fault with
many of The L Word‘s story lines, but
there is one thing that I have always felt it did right. It revels in
friendships between women. Many television shows have tried to do the same, most
notably Sex and the City. But none
have reflected the way I feel about my friends in the same way The L Word does.

I think that’s because there’s
something more visceral, more familial
about friendships among lesbian and bisexual women. It’s not only because our
friendship circles often include our ex-girlfriends — with all those attendant
layers of physical intimacy and emotional entanglement. It’s because coming out
brings us together in a way that friendships between straight women do not.

We’ve all gone through
the experience of discovering that our sexual orientation does not fit the norm.
Some of us had more painful coming-out experiences than others, but we’ve all
seen how it can twist up our biological families or the families of our friends.
We’ve all felt homophobia in one form or another, and it never feels good.

So yes, I think it is
about friendship borne out of shared adversity; I have felt similar connections
with my Asian-American friends. There’s nothing like discrimination to bring
people together. But it’s also about the experience of being women who love
women. I feel as though there’s a secret, shared joy in that — we all know what
it’s like to look at another woman, to touch her, and discover for the first
time that she feels exactly right.

When I had a lingering
cold that was making me feel quite miserable, my friend Dawn brought me her
homemade chicken soup — still among the best soups I’ve ever tasted — along with
mint tea and a copy of Finding Nemo
to cheer me up. When I was heartbroken over a particularly awful breakup, my
friend Sarah invited me to stay at her house for a week, where she pampered me
with a massage, frequent soaks in the hot tub and hours spent lounging in her
home theater, watching DVD after DVD on the big screen.

When my grandmother
passed away, all of my friends offered their support, listening to me patiently
even when I lashed out at them in my grief.

It’s no wonder, then,
that in the gay community, friends do become family. I think it’s no accident
that the biological families of the characters on The
L Word
rarely make an appearance, and when they do, it’s often in story
lines about their difficulties in accepting their lesbian daughter.
Unfortunately, that is still the reality for many LGBT people. Friends often accept
you even when your family does not.

As the fifth season of The L Word moves into its second half,
Showtime still has not announced whether or not it will renew the series for a
sixth season, and I no longer watch the show with a group of friends on Sunday
nights. Other things have changed as well: I live in a different apartment;
some of my friends have had children; some have moved on to different lovers.
And I am no longer in touch with some of the women who crowded into my living
room back in January 2004.

But if this is the last
season of The L Word, I think I will
put on the hat of L Word hostess one
last time. I’ll make dinner, but this time I’m not going to issue an open
invitation — I’ll only invite the friends who make up my own chosen family.
We’ll get together over cocktails (if it’s the last episode, we’ll need
something stronger than wine), and we’ll watch Bette, Tina, Shane, Alice,
Jenny, Kit and all their assorted lovers, friends and enemies create a
fictional lesbian universe one final time.

I think it’s only
fitting, because even if I never loved The
L Word
, I did love what it did for lesbians: It gave us a publicly
validated community. It gave us the opportunity to get together with our
friends, every Sunday night, and celebrate each other.

Malinda Lo is the managing editor of AfterEllen.com. Watch her on The Lo-Down or
visit her website for more about her.

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