After Ellen DeGeneres Came Out on National Television

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AfterEllen aims to support the backbone of the lesbian community.

On May 13, 1988 romantic partners Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner were shot to death while enjoying a camping trip together.  Their murderer’s reason was because he was enraged by their lesbianism.  On December 4, 1995 Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill were killed in Oregon by a man who stated he has “no compassion” for homosexuals.  In May 1996, the couple Julianne Williams and Lollie Winnans were bound, gagged, and their throats were slit in Virgnia.  They were in their 20’s.

Their murderer still lives freely  without consequence having never been convicted.

Julie Williams (left) and Lollie Winans (right) / Source: Fredricksburg.com

Julie Williams (left) and Lollie Winans (right) / Source: Fredricksburg.com

In 1663 clergyman John Cotton tried enacting an American law that would make homosexuality punishable by death.  Thomas Jefferson did the same in 1779.  In 1953 Eisenhower made it illegal for anyone gay or lesbian to work for the government.  The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy where LGBT people were barred from entering the military was created as recently as 1993 and lasted until 2011.  Same-sex marriage wasn’t legal nationwide in the US until 2015.

Aside from accounting for the safety and legal consequences of being openly gay, there is family and/or community loss.  K.D. Lang opened up in her 1992 interview with The Advocate about why she was afraid of making her sexuality public for so long:

The Advocate: But your mother must know that you’re a lesbian.

Lang: Oh, yeah, she does. I came out to her 13 years ago.

The Advocate: So that’s not a truth that’s going to be a surprise to her.

Lang: No.

The Advocate: But it’s still something that people in that small town where she lives are going to care about. She’s going to have to deal with that part?

Lang: Yes, she is. And that’s gonna hurt our relationship. And that’s why I’ve always hesitated to be really, really out. I’m still worried about this article, you know? It’s taken me a long time to say yes to The Advocate because I know the repercussions are gonna be there. It’s like, I want to be out. I want to be out! Man, if I didn’t worry about my mother, I’d be the biggest parader in the whole world.

The Advocate: Has your mother ever said to you, “Please, k.d., don’t come out.”

Lang: Yes.

The Advocate: Still?

Lang: Yes.

The Advocate: Recently?

Lang: Yes.

It isn’t shocking that the concept of coming out in a public space has historically been terrifying.

Hiding in the closet / Source: Mr. Lawyer on YouTube

Hiding in the closet / Source: Mr. Lawyer on YouTube

 

Homophobia has been very profiting for Hollywood.  For example, a four-quadrant movie is the aim for most producers.  A film targeting all four-quadrants hits upon both male and female demographics below and above the ages of 25.  These forms of entertainment are typically big money makers in Hollywood.

Source: SlideShare

Source: SlideShare

Having a masculine presenting non-sexualized lesbian as the leading character of a TV Show loses the appeal of a high percentage of this quadrant model.  Therefore, being openly gay in Hollywood is a huge risk to one’s entertainment career.

However, one woman didn’t let that stop her from giving us a voice.

When women have tits of steel, community is created.  Before AfterEllen, lesbian voices were whispers among tiny circles that formed at gay bars and roller derby locker rooms.  An online media presence for LGBT women did not exist.

And then Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet on national television to 42 million viewers watching the ABC sitcom Ellen from their family’s living rooms.

Source: Ellen

Source: Ellen

Therapist: There is nothing wrong with being choosy, Ellen.

Ellen: Right. Exactly. And it’s not like I’m looking for perfection, you know, I just want someone special, someone I click with.

Therapist: And obviously you didn’t click with Richard? (Ellen shakes her head)

Therapist: Has there ever been anyone you felt you clicked with? (Ellen looks up)

Therapist: And what was his name?

Ellen: Susan.

Her career still suffered after her selfless act for some time, but now she is one of the top ranking talk show hosts of America averaging almost 4 million viewers per episode.  In 1997, most people didn’t have the luxury of an encouraging social climate for the open act of announcing one’s sexual identity. Ellen DeGeneres was a hero to lesbians everywhere.  Her decision to risk her career in sake of lesbian visibility has improved America’s public perception of gay women.

By contrast, for many coming out in today’s world, it is as easy as hitting the record button on your smartphone and tapping the upload button on YouTube.

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube / Photo: Ingrid Nilsen

Ellen DeGeneres’ bravery during a time when it was still illegal to be married or in the military — just for being gay — paved the way for the birth of this website, AfterEllen.com, in 2002 by Harvard University graduate Sarah Warn.  Her creation was a form of exposure to lesbian entertainment.  From one set of steel tits to another.

Source: AfterEllen

Source: AfterEllen / 2004

Hollywood films and television shows have historically been devoid of diversity for decades and are still lacking right now in 2017.  AfterEllen introduced a hub of entertainment for lesbian and queer women unlike anything else that existed during it’s debut online.  Now women can read recaps about a show that depicts the types of intimacy and conflict unique to the lesbian and bisexual experience.

AfterEllen has served as a TV Guide for lesbian, bisexual, and queer girls.

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Photo by Eves at Asutoraea No Oka

The L Word was a stepping stone for baby lesbians newly out seeking some sort validation in major media.  The Real L Word gives lesbian a glimpse into real-life lesbian culture.  Orange is the New Black included a diverse set of lesbians of underrepresented gender expressions and ethnicities.  Pretty Little Liars helps validate LGBT youth.

In its current condition, AfterEllen is now so much more.

The evolution of this exceptional media website has developed its content beyond an entertainment resource.  It is now currently a home for lesbian voices from all faucets.  From political commentary to celebrity interviews to narratives about one’s personal journey, there is no limit to what type of topics AfterEllen covers.

AfterEllen.com - April 2017

AfterEllen.com – April 2017

While many non-LGBT forms of media safely maintain a “neutral” stance in the face of LGBT adversity, the writers of AfterEllen openly announce their disdain for hateful policies that infringe on human rights and we celebrate the protests that urge social change.

AfterEllen has been unapologetically pro-lesbian, proud of who we stand for, and refuses to conform to self-oppressing trends. Many LGBT people have recently started choosing division over debate within an already incredibly small community. AfterEllen seeks to protect the identity and validity of lesbian, bisexual and queer women from all walks of life.  Everyone has a unique experience of the world and these experiences are all equally important.

Source: We Heart It

Source: We Heart It

AfterEllen aims to support the backbone of the lesbian community.

Someone has to do it for the sake of lesbians everywhere.  And if anyone is going to do it, it’s us.  This website still exists to give women a safe space to be heard.  So hear us roar — because we’re not shutting up.

We have Ellen DeGeneres to thank for inspiring women everywhere to be out, loud, and proud.

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