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Are young lesbians having an identity crisis?

Is TV stereotyping young gay and bisexual women and could this be why some of us are suffering an identity crisis?

Fran Hayden

Fri, 04 Jan 2013 12:58:48 GMT | Updated 4 years today

Coming out is a difficult thing to do, I should know, I've been there. Coming out is even more difficult for young lesbians when the media address the subject in a questionable manner. When I first realised that I was a lesbian, I found myself trawling the web and flicking through books to try and make sense of who I was. I needed solidarity and reassurance about my identity and I thought I might get some help from TV programmes, but did I? Not really.


Only specialised websites and magazines, like DIVA seemed to offer me an insight into lesbian culture, but still I wanted more. I wanted to see representations of young lesbians and bisexuals in our most popular programmes, I wanted to hear our voices on the television, to see us characterised in a way that rings true. And yes, I know the BBC has attempted to tackle the LGB issue, albeit in a limited way, but as a young gay woman I feel dissatisfied with the way young lesbians are portrayed on the box.


Take BBC3's Lip Service -  before it aired I felt excited about watching a show that I might be able to identify with. It was about young lesbians, after all. Unfortunately however, it turned out the programme was a bit disappointing - even though some of it was entertaining. I am of course aware that some TV isn't necessarily meant to be realistic. Friends or Will and Grace for example aren't exactly documentaries, yet they still seem to cover a variety of topics - friendship, love, family, children etc and they have a sophistication that relies on comedy and great dialogue, rather than titilating Sapphic sex.


Yet it seems that some programmers still think that all young lesbians or bisexuals are interested in is sex, drugs, alcohol, more sex (probably not with your girlfriend) and more alcohol. And despite the BBC's recent acknowledgement that "representation still needs to reflect the diversity of LBG people and to avoid stereotypes", it appears that more needs to be done.


As for me, I couldn't identify with any of the characters in Lip Service. I'm not the kind of girl who sleeps with everybody, I'm not the type to cheat and I'm not being cheated on, I'm not lusting after someone who doesn't want me, I don't take drugs and I don't drink excessively. So where was my story? Perhaps the programmers don't realise that when your life is not reflected anywhere in the TV schedules its easy to feel as though you shouldn't or don't really exist. It's a recipe for an identity crisis.


Naturally enough, I am aware that being young, my identity is changing all the time, but it would be satisfying to see realistic, sympathetic characters for a change. Perhaps then more young gay and bisexual women would feel like there are more options available to them in terms of who they can be.


Not only are our lives inadequately reflected but young lesbians and bisexuals are often presented with fictional lesbian characters having unattainable relationships. Look at Corrie's Sian and Sophie; their relationship ended disastrously. Where are the representations of happy lesbian couples? Even the middle-aged female couple in BBC1's Last Tango in Halifax had an uncertain ending. But there may be some hope. ITV's Corrie has a new lesbian story line between Sophie and physiotherapist Jenna. Here's hoping for a long-term love, for a change.

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  • Klara Piechocki-Brown - Fri, 04 Jan 2013 16:28:30 GMT -

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    I think these shows make the mistake of making all character conflict be about love. A character absolutely needs both internal and external conflict, and for young characters that aren't in lifetime partnerships, then it's easy for a writer to make most of their conflict be about love; losing it, finding it, etc. It's disappointing when there's a show where the entire cast is preoccupied with the same conflicts. I did enjoy watching Tess's career struggles, but even she was more preoccupied with finding love. Lip Service is mostly a romantic comedy/drama, because the cast are primarily occupied with romance. There weren't any characters that genuinely had other priorities; for example, a settled down couple that were struggling for work and money, or perhaps one of them had a problem they couldn't share with their partner, or any other problem that didn't threaten their relationship.