Your Guide to Ladies Loving Ladies on Television
Everyone wants to have pop culture figures that they feel they can identity with and that’s why many members of the LGBT community will seek out movies and tv shows that showcase LGBT characters. Who among us hasn’t watched a show just because we heard there were lesbians in it? I decided to put together a guide of LGBT ladies in TV for anyone who is looking for some characters they can relate to. These aren’t in any particular order and I may very well have missed some (feel free to comment and tell me if I did!) Also, SPOILERS. You have been warned.
Main Characters/Long-Term Lesbians (aka shows where girl-on-girl is more than just an episodic plot device)
The L Word
The L Word had to be first on this list. 6 seasons (5 if you’re like me and like to pretend the last one never happened) of awesome lesbian story-lines that we hate to love and love to hate. The L Word was revolutionary when it comes to LGBT representation on TV and will always hold a high spot in the collective lesbian heart for that reason. Also: Shane.
I should also mention that this show spawned a reality show called The Real L Word about actual lesbians, also worth checking out.
South of Nowhere
South of Nowhere is one of the best teenage coming-out stories I’ve ever seen. The main characters of the show are Spencer and Ashley (known affectionately by their fans as Spashley) and its their relationship as friends and girlfriends that drives the show (along with some other awesome characters as well). South of Nowhere is possibly my favorite out of all the shows on this list.
Lip Service is sometimes referred to as “the British version of the L Word” because it features a cast with a majority of lesbian characters. This show only lasted two (short) seasons but gave us some great characters and interesting relationships. Like The L Word, it wasn’t afraid to kill off one of the main characters. It’s a short watch and definitely worth doing if you’re into lesbian-themed programming.
Skins UK’s 2nd Generation (series 3 and 4) featured another fan favorite couple: Emily and Naomi. Season 3 is quite brilliant as we watch these two girls discover themselves and their sexuality, fall in love, and come out of their shells. Season 4 mucks everything up but comes around in the end. And whatever you do, DO NOT watch their 2 part episode appearances in Skins: Fire (series 7) unless you want your heart ripped out of your chest. Another season of a show I like to pretend doesn’t exist.
Okay I’m still working my way through this show (love it so far!) and I don’t know about all the relationships yet but I do know that A. Bo is a super hott bisexual with super hott hook-ups B. They didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that she goes both ways, which is awesome and C. Tumblr lesbians go nuts for this show. There’s more than one lady-on-lady relationship (or so I am told) and I can’t wait to see how it all develops.
Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars is essentially a giant murder mystery where four girls make four seasons worth of bad decisions. The best part of the show is one of the friends, Emily (played by Shay Mitchell)’s coming out story as she falls for the gorgeous Maya and comes out to her friends and family. Their relationship suffered many tragedies and Emily is now with Paige but regardless, the show handles the lesbian relationships pretty well. Emily and Maya > Emily and Paige.
Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black is possibly the best thing to happen to Netflix. Bisexual Piper goes to jail where she encounters her super hott ex-girlfriend Alex who is sort of the reason she’s in there in the first place. We get flashback scenes, along with new developing relationships, and lots of characters with varying sexualities.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy’s best friend (and badass witch) Willow figures out that she’s gay in Season 4 when she meets fellow witch Tara. The two’s relationship is one that is a favorite among Buffy fans of all types and even though Joss Whedon hates us, we will never forget it. Willow’s relationship with slayer potential Kennedy is hated on by fans, mostly because Kennedy simply isn’t Tara.
The Foster’s is another ABC Family show that isn’t afraid to bring in the lesbians. Lena and Stef are a gay couple who live in San Diego, raise children and deal with typical crazy plots. The Fosters gives us a stable and loving lesbian marriage wrapped in the ooey gooey drama that accompanies all ABC Family shows.
Dates is a recently created show about strangers meeting, interacting, and dating. One of the episodes focuses on Gemma Chan, a beautiful closeted lesbian who goes on a date with the vivacious and stunning Katie McGrath. They argue, they kiss, they argue more, they hook up, and they confess secrets to each other. Their episode is only 20-something minutes long and definitely worth watching for an honest look at the high speed dating world of the 21st century. The follow up episode deals with Gemma’s character coming out and defending herself to her brother, another one worth watching.
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Degrassi: The Next Generation has been airing for almost 15 years now and throughout the seasons it has featured multiple LGBT characters and relationships. There was Paige, the popular girl who found herself falling for rebel Alex, FTM transgender and his religious and confused girlfriend Becky, and rich girl Fiona who falls in love with her best friend Holly J ad eventually ends up dating spunky individual Imogen. The show has done some crappy things to some of our faves but it never fails to include LGBT characters and Adam especially is a victory for LGBT television representation.
Not gonna lie, I hate Glee. But I do admit to watching YouTube clips of the various lesbian relationships in the show, especially Santana and Brittany, Santana and Demi Lovato, and the one-time-only amazing incident between Santana and Quinn. While I applaud Glee for their representation of gay and lesbian characters, I do think they handle bisexuality very poorly and should stop with the underhanded insults.
Paramedic Leslie Shay is a lesbian and the show mentions her previous long-term relationship with the now pregnant Clarice Carthage. There is speculation that the plot will eventually include a relationship between Leslie and fellow paramedic Gabriella Dawson. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.
Orphan Black is a recent hit show not just because of it’s crazy sci-fi/action/mystery plot but also because of the tremendous performances of Tatiana Maslany who plays at least 4 different characters in each episode. One of those characters is Cosima, a dreadlocked lesbian biologist who promptly won the hearts of anyone watching. Her relationship with Delphine is rocky and full of secrets but has potential for series 2.
Dracula’s short season has yet to be confirmed for renewal but we loved Katie McGrath’s Lucy Westenra, the sparkling socialite who is secretly and desperately in love with her best friend Mina who rebuffs her advances. After being manipulated by vampire hunter Lady Jane, Lucy makes some terrible decisions out of spite and ends up in a very interesting position by the end of the series. I sincerely hope for a Season 2 so we can see what they have in store for our gorgeous gay blonde.
Black Sails is a new show on Starz and has only had a few episodes so far but its lead female is stubborn tough girl Eleanor Guthrie. We immediately know that Eleanor is into both men and women and the best part of the show is that they never make a big deal out of it and no one ever questions it. Her relationships with sultry prostitute Max is wonderful, tumultuous, and terrible all at once. I’m definitely intrigued in how her character will evolve.
Once and Again
Once and Again features two popular actresses back when they were younger: Evan Rachel Wood and Mischa Barton in a sweet teenage love story. The characters start out as friends but when one discovers that the other is gay she begins to question her own motives and eventually their relationship blossoms into romance. It’s an adorable coming out story and their relationship is built up quite realistically.
Grey’s Anatomy has had many power couples over the seasons but it’s Callie and Arizona that seem to have the strongest fans lately (despite plane crashes and adultery). Callie coming to terms with her feelings for women was a sweet journey and her father’s journey to acceptance was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. There’s been other LGBT ladies on the show as well with both Callie and Arizona having on-air relationships and hook-ups with other females.
This is more of an obligatory add than anything else because this was a terrible show that got axed pretty quickly and handled their lesbian character horribly. But it still had one so here you go.
Bomb Girls is another one of my favorites. A short-lived show, Bomb Girls was about women in Canada working at a bomb sheler during WWII. One of these women is Betty, the feisty mother hen of the group who falls for her best friend only to have her heart broken. Luckily, a beautiful soldier named Teresa comes along to pick up the pieces. I was devastated to hear the show wouldn’t get a season 3 but luckily, they are making a film to give the show a proper ending. Keep an eye out this spring for it.
The Playboy Club
The Playboy Club is another short-lived television show. Set in 1961, the show follows the Bunnies (employees) of Chicago’s Playboy Club. Real life bisexual Amber Heard headlines as Bunny Maureen but it’s Leah Renee as Bunny Alice who brings the lesbian storyline to the show. She and her husband are both closeted homosexuals who attend secret meetings, at one of which she meets socialite Frances Dunhill and it’s love at first sight. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled before we really got into the relationship but I like to think they lived happily ever after.
Rookie Blue features bisexual Gail Peck (played by Charlotte Sullivan) who meets and falls for a forensic specialist Holly in Season 4 and the two begin a relationship that the fans are definitely looking forward to seeing more of.
Sailor Moon is the beloved anime that has survived and thrived over the years (and will be coming back to TV soon). Despite any homosexuality being dubbed over in the episodes aired in the US and Europe, the original plot-line includes a lesbian relationship between two of the sailor scouts: Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. The relationship between these two is one of the most beloved (and googled) one on the internet.
SyFy’s post-apocalyptic original series Defiance features many different LGBT characters including human brothel owner Kenya and married alien Stahma. The show and its characters don’t make a big deal about sexuality, which is a great attitude to have.
Sugar Rush is a lesser-known but must-watch television show for those who like LGBT storylines. The show follows 15 year old lesbian Kim Daniels and how she deals with her obsession with her straight best friend Sugar and other issues with her dating life. Sugar Rush only has 2 seasons and it’s definitely worth watching.
Warehouse 13 is a SyFy show about a warehouse that holds a plethora of supernatural artifacts and the agents assinged to protect them. LGBT characters include time-traveling H.G. Wells (Jaimie’s Murray) and Joanne Kelly‘s special agent Myka Bering.
Under the Dome
Based on a Stephen King novel, Under the Dome is about a town that suddenly becomes cut off from the rest of the world by a clear dome. Amongst the residents of the stranded town are lesbian couple (played by Samantha Mathis and Aisha Hinds) and their daughter. This relationship is not only great because it features an interracial lesbian couple, but an interracial unconventional family as well.
The Good Wife
One of The Good Wife’s main characters is bisexual private investigator Kalinda. We first see her trying to reconcile with her estranged husband but throughout the show she’s been in multiple girl-on-girl relationships. I haven’t seen the show myself but I know Kalinda has plenty of fans.
One of House’s biggest stars is Remy “Thirteen” Hadley, played by Olivia Wilde. Thirteen is bisexual and throughout the show she dates both men and women. Despite some grumblings from the gay community, it’s equally as important to have well-represented bisexual women in television as it is to have lesbians and Thirteen is one of them.
Heartbeat is a medical drama that aired from 1988 to 1989 and while it’s mostly forgotten, it is famous for being the first American television series to include a lesbian as a lead character: nurse practitioner and founding partner Marilyn McGrath (Gail Strickland). And for that, it’s worth a mention here.
True Blood is one of the most LGBT-friendly shows on TV right now featuring gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and various other characters who can identity as queer in some way. Plenty of its female characters have shown their sexual fluidity including Tara, Pam, Sophie-Anne, and Nora. Many fans are anxiously waiting for a Tara/Pam relationship next season that would be incredibly epic. Fingers crossed.
Kerry Weaver was one of E.R.’s top doctor’s and main characters. Her coming out story involved her spouse kissing her in front of her coworkers and her subsequent conflicts at the hospital including a homophobic doctor out to get her. Having a main character who is a lesbian and watching her experience issues that many gay women experience themselves earns E.R. major points in this blog.
Hex is a British supernatural drama. One of its main characters is lesbian ghost Thelma who has many different (some unrequited) relationships on the show.
Ellen/The Ellen Show
And of course we can’t leave out Ellen DeGeneres’s sitcoms Ellen and The Ellen Show. Ellen’s character Ellen comes out as a lesbian during the first sitcom Ellen and is out for her second, The Ellen Show. While there wasn’t too much emphasis on her sexuality during either shows, Ellen DeGeneres is an LGBT icon and her coming out (both on and off screen) paved the way for many others.
Guest Stars/”It was a one time thing” (aka shows that took a peek at the sapphic lifestyle but didn’t stay long)
Good Luck Charlie
Good Luck Charlie made headlines recently by being the Disney Channel’s first show to feature a lesbian couple. The introduction of these two women was short and sweet but worth mentioning because it’s another landmark moment in television history. Unfortunately, the show was recently cancelled.
West Beverly Hills High School’s former child star and current aspiring musician Adriana is known mostly for her on and off relationship with Navid, however; during Season 2 of the show Adriana dates a female student named Gia. This is one of those examples of a female character who all of a sudden dates another female, ditches them sooner rather than later, then goes back to the men for the rest of the show and pretends the storyline didn’t happen. It could be a ploy to up ratings but then again, plenty of people have this type of experience in their lives.
The O.C. had a storyline very similar to 90210’s. Popular girl Marissa falls for rebel bisexual Alex and they have a relationship for a few episodes which eventually ends and Marissa goes back to boys for good. It’s still a great watch, especially for the irresistible Olivia Wilde.
Okay, so Gaia and Lucrezia’s hook-ups were clearly more than a one-time deal and despite the fact that Lucrezia was madly in love with her husband, it was obvious that she cared deeply for Gaia as well. Their relationship wasn’t a particularly strong point of the show but it does serve as another example of the spectrum of love between people.
Legend of the Seeker
Legend of the Seeker is about a man and his companions who seek to overthrow a tyrant in a mythical medieval world. One of those companions is Cara Mason, known for being kick-ass and aloof. She’s also a bisexual, having relationships with both men and women on the show. This is another show that never makes a big deal of her sexuality, which I appreciate.
Arrow is DC’s latest venture into a superhero television show and it’s actually pretty good. Black Canary aka Sarah Lance is Starling City’s newest crime-fighting resident and she brought with her members of the League of Assassins sent to either bring her back or kill her. One of them is Nyssa al Ghul (daughter of Ra’s) who ends up kissing Sarah instead of killing her. We may get to see more of Sarah’s lady-loving side in the future but until then, this one-episode will suffice.
Ashley Greene’s horribly acted secondary character started out as a love interest to one of the male leads but ended up confessing her sexuality during a smooch with Christina Ricci’s character. It’s a shame that they cancelled the show and we’ll never get to see more from any of them.
Masters of Sex
Master’s of Sex is all about exploring and studying sexuality of all kinds. Prostitute Betty DeMilo sleeps with men for money but actually loves women. She has to deal with being gay in the 1950’s which is hard enough without being a prostitute. Betty isn’t a main character but any show about William Masters and Virginia Johnson is sure to feature many homosexual storylines and tones and it’ls interesting to see it in this way.
Once Upon a Time
Once Upon A Time is in this category because A. We had maybe two scenes that were hinting at Mulan’s love for the ladies and then we haven’t heard from her again and B. Her love for Aurora was (sadly) unrequited. We all want OUAT to give Mulan a healthy lesbian relationship in the future. But I’m not getting my hopes up.
Sex and the City
In Season 4 promiscuous Samantha has a brief but serious relationship with a woman named Maria. Samantha’s foray into lesbianism was clearly superficial for both the writers and the characters and it’s not really a show worth looking up to for LGBT ladies but for a moment there, we do have a serious girl-on-girl relationship.
Soap Operas (aka they’ve been on forever so we’ll just YouTube the good parts)
There’s a great many soap operas who have featured LGBT lady characters including:
Hand aufs Herz, Los Hombres De Paco, Footballers’ Wives, Paradise Falls, Passions, Ros na Rún, Hollyoaks, Verbotene Liebe, Fair City, Home and Away, The Bold and the Beautiful, Neighbours, Lindenstraße, EastEnders, Brookside, Number 96, Emmerdale, All My Children, Coronation Street, Guiding Light, Tierra De Lobos and of course the LGBT-oriented Dante’s Cove.
Honorary Mention (aka it’s not official, but we really ship it)
Xena: Warrior Princess
If there’s one undisputed non-canon lesbian couple on TV it’s Xena and Gabrielle. Some fans will fight tooth and nail to defend their opinion that these two really were in love with one another, and who knows, maybe that’s true; the writer’s definitely made it ambiguous on purpose. Regardless, you can’t have a lesbian list with mentioning them.
So Much More!
There are fortunately a lot of television shows with LGBT ladies and since I couldn’t blurb about each and every one of them, here’s some more that might be worth checking out:
Shameless, Upstairs Downstairs, Law & Order: LA, Outlaw, White Collar, Dirt, Stargate Universe, Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men, Heroes, Nip/Tuck, L.A. Law, House of Lies, Stingers, Carnivale, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Melrose Place, The Education of Max Bickford, All Saints, Getting On, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, House of Cards, Blue Mountain State, Go On, Nurse Jackie, Jekyll, Waterloo Road, Torchwood, Ugly Betty, Dr. Who, One Tree Hill, Bones, Weeds, Beating Heart, Desperate Housewives, American Horror Story, Two and a Half Men, Mistresses, Suburgatory, Veronica Mars, Exes and Ohs, The Bridge, Ringer, Banshee, Ray Donovan, Wonderfalls, The Returned, Being Human, Emily Owens M.D., Offspring, Banshee, Political Animals, Hell on Wheels, The Killing, and Boardwalk Empire.
Have I forgotten any shows with LGBT ladies? Leave a comment and let me know and I’ll be sure to add them to the list.