Visibility Matters: Entertaining the Future


While fictional TV shows and movies with prominent lesbian characters are still few and far between, there’s been some progress in the last few months.

FlashForward (ABC) recently revealed that one of its main characters is a lesbian, and it appears that one of lead female characters on The Good Wife (CBS) has a girlfriend. Although Ming-Na‘s lesbian character on Stargate Universe (Syfy) has received minimal screen time so far, she is expected to play a bigger role in the series in the future.

Camille on Stargate, Kalinda on The Good Wife,
and Janis Hawk on

Coming soon on the big screen is The Runaways (formerly called Cherry Bomb), a bio-pic starring the popular actress Kristen Stewart as queer rocker Joan Jett; Precious, the Oprah and Tyler Perry-backed indie film that includes an out lesbian among the characters; and The Kids are All Right, a comedy starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as a couple whose son wants to meet his biological father.

There’s been an increase in books with queer characters, too: there were only 200 young adult novels with LGBT content published between 1969 and 2004, for example, which is an average of around 5 books a year. Since 2005, the average has been 20 per year.

Many musicians are now coming out earlier in their careers, both individual performers like Lady Gaga, Missy Higgins, MeShell Ndegeocello,and Sia, and women in bands like Tegan and Sara, Girl in a Coma, Dance Yourself to Death, Otep, and The Gossip. And their careers don’t appear to suffer much.

Lady Gaga, MeShell Ndegeocello, and Jenn Alva of Girl in a Coma

To be clear: As a general rule, it’s still easier to achieve large-scale success as an actor or musician if you’re closeted, and for authors, filmmakers, and TV creators to sell their work if they don’t prominently include lesbian/bi themes and characters.

But it’s now finally at least possible to be out, or include LGBT themes and characters, and achieve success in entertainment.

(It’s also more difficult to stay closeted these days, given the rise of cell phone cameras and de-centralized reporting on internet, but that’s a topic for another day.)

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