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
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.