2012: The Year in Lesbian/Bi TV


The most-watched lesbian-specific reality show of 2012 was, once again, The Real L Word, and this season it split its time between West Hollywood and New York. The highlights of season three included the much-hyped wedding planning of Whitney and Sara, Kacy and Cori‘s attempt to get pregnant, Romis foray into bisexuality, and Lauren finally finding love.

2012 also provided plenty of reality TV entertainment for the, um, less voyeuristic lesbian and bisexual viewer. The Voice gave us De’Borah, Erin Martin, and Sarah Golden. The Glee Project gave us Dani Shay, who announced via music video after the competition that she’d fallen in love and started a relationship with Ali Stroker while on the show.

America’s Next Top Model gave us AzMarie Livingston and Laura LaFrate. Survivor gave us Dana Lambert, MTV’s The Challenge gave us Sam McGinn.

And, of course, lesbian mythical monster hunter Ranae Holland hosted Finding Bigfoot.


No discussion of lesbian TV visibility would be complete without a look at the scores of openly the queer women that Americans invited into their living rooms every day of the week in 2012. Ellen DeGeneres tops that list, of course. When she pitched a talk show to Warner Brothers a decade ago, they worried that the type of women who watch daytime TV were not the type of women who would embrace the most famous lesbian in the world. How wrong they were. When Ellen’s tenth season premiered this year, she was the top-rated daytime program among all women ages 18 – 54, and the top-rated daytime program among all adults ages 25 – 54. These days, Ellen talks easily about her life as a lesbian on her show, chatting to guests about wife Portia de Rossi and even having her on the show from time to time to promote her projects and just generally be adorable. This year, Ellen even became the spokesperson for JC Penny, and when the homophobic group One Million Moms — which, incidentally, is made up of less than one percent that many moms — protested, JC Penny responded with a print ad campaign that celebrated gay and straight families and parents.

And then there was Rachel Maddow, who anchored election year at MSNBC and became the go-to progressive pundit on late night TV and beltway news shows. In fact, MSNBC put her front and center for every major political event of 2012. It was so much fun to watch, it’s hard to remember what a revolutionary thing it was for the butchy, brainy lesbian to be surrounded by a gaggle of men waiting to be asked by her to share their opinions.

Other openly gay news anchors made waves this year, as well. Fox News commentator and out-and-proud lesbian Sally Kohn voiced her liberal beliefs on the most conservative news network in the history of space and time, and even penned the most viral op-ed from the Republican National Convention, a piece of fact-checking that called out vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan on the innumerable lies he told during his RNC speech. Stephanie Miller left the radio game for a spot at Current TV. And Jane Valez-Mitchell continued to host her nightly news show on HLN.

Funny ladies (and former AfterEllen vloggers) Kate McKinnon and Fortune Feimster also took the TV by storm this year. McKinnon barely had time to field all the entertainment reporter questions about whether or not she was the next Kristen Wiig, the next Tina Fey, or the next Amy Poehler because she was too busy starring in nearly every skit on Saturday Night Live. Feimster, meanwhile, continued to bring the guffaws on Chelsea Lately, so much so that she’s in talks to write and star in her own sitcom in 2013.

Sara Gilbert continued to delight us on The Talk and Suze Orman continued to terrify us into saving money on The Suze Orman Show.

The London Olympics boasted a record 23 openly gay Olympians, the majority of them women, and nearly all of them saw primetime TV coverage this summer. While soccer star Megan Rapinoe and newly married Seimone Augustus were favorites among Americans, the Netherlands field hockey team seemed to be made up entirely of gay ladies!


When I started writing for AfterEllen five years ago, we worked hard to scrape together enough lesbian-centric content to fill up one gay-specific column that ran on Fridays. We were lucky to shake more than 15 lesbian entertainment news items out of the internet on any given week. These days, we work around the clock to try to keep up with the dozens and dozens of stories that fly at us on any given day.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

But while we celebrate the strides we made in 2012, it’s important to remember that we’ve still got a long way to go. While lesbian and bisexual visibility — and the quality of that visibility — has increased dramatically, we are still rather underrepresented on scripted television. We also need to continue advocate for more diversity among our lesbian and bisexual characters. Queer women need to see themselves reflected in all shapes and sizes and ethnicities and forms of gender presentation.

As goes TV, so goes social change. Here’s to another year of sweeping victories on both fronts.

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