According to historians, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout history.” Since then, every U.S. President has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month, or National African American History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
Some may argue that African Americans are still misrepresented or not represented at all in several fields, including television and film. I won’t argue there. The same can be said about the gay and lesbian community. With writers, producers and show runners looking to bring realistic and complex gay and lesbian stories to light, the inclusion of gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters has grown significantly in the last couple of years.
Black lesbians in particular need more representation on TV and in film, as a largely underrepresented group. In honor of Black History Month, we are celebrating these Black lesbian and bisexual female characters with the recognition they deserve – not just this month, but all year round.
1. Joanne Jefferson, Rent
Tracie Thoms gives life to the successful lawyer who falls madly in love with the irresistible bohemian Maureen Johnson, played by Idina Menzel. Whether it’s the original on Broadway or on the 2005 film version on the TV in your living room, you’ll be hard pressed to find any gay woman who doesn’t count “Rent” as canon and Joanne Jefferson as an iconic character.
2. Bette Porter, The L Word
Jennifer Beals played the ultimate power lesbian in one of the first shows created by lesbians for lesbians. In the Showtime original, Bette was described as multiracial and her black sister and father factored prominently into her storyline. Racial issues were also explored throughout the show’s six seasons, and we have high hopes that the series revival will continue to explore these pivotal issues since Beals will be involved.
3. Tasha Williams, The L Word
Rose Rollins brought the story of being closeted in the military to The L Word, and the story of Tasha’s life post-Marine career had her grappling with her unattractive career choices and how it affected her relationship with girlfriend, Alice. No confirmation has been made, but we’d love to see Tasha return in the revival!
4. Toni Topaz, Riverdale
Vanessa Morgan made her debut as Toni Topaz, the sassy, bisexual member of the Serpents, a local high school gang with a shady reputation. Toni’s a badass, so we can only hope she’ll be a lasting presence in Riverdale. Full disclosure, I shop Cheryl and Toni forever.
5. Tara Thornton, True Blood
In this HBO original, Rutina Wesley became Tara, a waitress-turned-vampire who discovers her affection for the ladies after running away from Bon Temps. Her love story ends in the arms of her maker, Pam, played by Kristin Bauer van Straten. The actress herself recently came out via Instagram when she announced her engagement to her girlfriend.
6. Maya St. Germain, Pretty Little Liars
Bianca Lawson played Emily Fields’ second love – we all know by now that Ali was her first – in the Freeform original series. Even though their romance was short-lived, it opened the door to more queer characters and storylines. “Pretty Little Liars” ended last year, and we’re already in need of a reunion.