The 2005 Visibility Awards


Saving Face Tegan and Sara

Saving Face
There were actually a number of good (or at least decent) theatrical releases with lesbian characters this year, but Saving Face leads the pack for its winning combination of humor, romance, good acting, and a compelling story. As the first American theatrical release ever to feature an Asian American lesbian couple, it also brought some much-needed visibility to Asian American lesbians.

Honorable mention: D.E.B.S., for giving us our first lesbian action movie, and a funny one at that.

High Tension
It’s hard to explain why this this French horror movie deserves this award without giving away the ending, so we’ll just say that although it’s not a bad movie if you like this genre–it received mixed critical reviews overall–it plays on all the worst heterosexual stereotypes about lesbians. And that’s so 2004.

Sugarland and Tegan and Sara (tie)
The Nashville trio Sugarland, which includes openly gay singer/songwriter Kristen Hall puts the lesbian back in country music, and Canadian twins Tegan and Sara, for a breakout year which found them all over the American pop culture scene–from a cover by White Strips to playing on television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, and Veronica Mars and in movies like Monster-in-Law. Come to think of it, we’ll just overlook that last one…

This lesbian-inclusive band of women (comprised of sisters Amy and Elizabeth Ziff, and friend Alyson Palmer) deserves credit for supporting GLBT rights and other important political causes over the last 20 years, long before it was trendy to do so. But in the last 12 months, they’ve become the Lindsay Lohan of the lesbian community. From writing and performing The L Word‘s new theme song to incorporating their performances, music, or cameos into every other episode, to coordinating the score for the season and providing commentary on the Season 2 DVD, to joining the third season writing staff, Betty has taken over the only lesbian series on TV to such an extent that even many fans of the group are saying “enough already!” To say they’re overexposed is putting it mildly.

Whether you like Betty’s music or not–and plenty of lesbians do–is really just a matter of personal taste, but listening to their music should also be a personal choice, and it isn’t anymore.

Melissa Etheridge
There are several reasons Melissa Etheridge deserves this honor this year, from her openness about surviving cancer and her relationship with her partner Tammy Lynn Michaels, to her triumphant performance at the Grammys and her tireless charity efforts on behalf of breast cancer research and the children impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Not to mention putting out a greatest hits album.

In short: Melissa Etheridge entertains us and makes it hard for the Religious Right to convince Americans that lesbians are evil.

Sheryl Swoopes and Portia de Rossi
Both WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes and actress Portia de Rossi have long been rumored to be gay, but this year, they finally came out publicly, amid a firestorm of publicity and at some risk to their careers. While they were motivated primarily by personal issues that had nothing to do with becoming lesbian poster girls (including a lucrative endorsement for Swoopes, and a high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres for de Rossi), they have helped to expand the American public’s concept of what a lesbian goes through, and looks like–Swoopes as one of the most high-profile African American lesbians in America today, and de Rossi as one of the most feminine. And both are pioneers in their respective fields: Swoopes is one of the only out players in the WNBA, and de Rossi is the only out lesbian series regular currently on network television (at least for the next week or two, until Arrested Development gets officially canceled). And they have made it that much easier for the next person to come out.

Honorable Mention: Ellen DeGeneres. While the publicity around her love life wasn’t always positive this year, it wasn’t any worse than the gossip generated by a thousand straight celebrities every year, and it was quickly overshadowed by the awards and high ratings she continued to receive for her daytime talk show. Of course, one of the reasons Ellen is able to hold onto the awards and the massive audience is by tacitly agreeing not to bring up gay issues on her show, but hey, everyone struggles with office politics, right?

That’s it for this year! Check out our 2004 awards for last year’s winners and losers.

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