Culture

The Last Decade Has All Been About Iconic Queer Women

2019 is a truly wild time to be gay.

queer women gay women decade

2019 is a truly wild time to be gay. Sometimes I look at out the media landscape of ladies who dig ladies and feel like we’re seeing the beginning of a renaissance (definition: a bunch of queers changing the face of art forever by being super queer).

Long gone are the days of the chaste ‘out’ness of Tara and Willow, the loveably hateable Jenny Schecter, and burning out the Cruel Intentions VHS from rewinding that one scene.

As we count down to 2020, LBQ ladies are finding and staying in the spotlight — but it’s important we don’t forget the path we took to get here, and the women who we loved, loathed, stanned, stood by, and saw ourselves in.

At lot has happened since 2009, let’s look at some of the highlights.

Out Is The New Black

Coming seemingly out of nowhere with the introduction of Netflix in Australia, Orange Is The New Black took the country by storm, and in doing so presented a complex and nuanced concept of a US women’s prison.

From the outset, sexuality was posed not as the slippery slope of carnal temptation like prison flicks of the past, but as a part of some of these women’s lives for a range of reasons, with Piper Chapman, Poussey Washington, Boo, Sophia Burset, and a cast of others finding their way into our hearts.

While talking about sexuality and gender in ways that felt new and refreshing, the show also didn’t lean on them to do all the work, exploring other aspects of prison and carceral culture, and that diversity isn’t the end goal but the starting place to begin having bigger conversations.

Sharing a platform with OITNB, and also featuring an out trans woman, the groundbreaking Sense8 found a way into our hearts from their very first moments on screen. The representation of not only wlw cherishing each other, but the inclusion of transgender and cisgender women in that love feels as important now as it did at the time, and set the bar for what we deserve.

Nothing New

St. Vincent

Even as someone who believes pop peaked when Britney dropped ‘Toxic’, we have been blessed with a decade full of certifiable bangers. Not only have queer women taken part in making music, but they have also made history — racking up billions of views, streams and downloads.

Queers have always been at the forefront of art making and music, but to be graced by the presence of queens like “lesbian jesus” Hayley Kiyoko, guitar goddess St Vincent (Annie Clarke), Halsey, and Ariana Grande, and far more, is a far cry from the for-attention faux-queer of Katy Perry’s 2008 I Kissed A Girl.

It was like wlw held their breath across the planet when trans-inclusive black girl anthem PYNK was launched, followed shortly by her coming out in an interview with Rolling Stone. Though we’ve been there for years, hearing, pioneering, queering, it seems like more than ever pink is the truth that can’t be hidden.

The Bisexual Revolution

While it’s been a big ol’ ten years for queer women of all strokes, no one has had as much of a moment as the bisexual.

While bisexuality has been around for a long time, my bi brethren have traditionally had a hard time being recognised as real or valid, their sexuality played for laughs, thrills, or flavour.

A lot has happened to get us to The Good Place‘s casual bi brilliance, but paving the way for the last decade was Greys Anatomy‘s Dr. Callie Torres. Starting the path to out bisexual babe in 2009, actor Sara Ramirez approached showrunner Shonda Rhimes (also the creator of messy bisexual professor Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder) about making her character canonically bi.

Greys Anatomy Lgbt GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

As the word is increasingly actually spoken out loud by characters (👀 looking at you L Word), we’ve seen more and more characters not just coming out but inviting their loved ones in, and showing how their sexuality is one part of their complex, amazing selves.

A Decade Of Femme Camp

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If I had to sum up the past decade in wlw culture, nothing would speak as loudly as the suit.

While not at all a new phenomenon — queer women having flattered a 3 piece since their invention — a dam has burst somewhere in lesbian heaven and the result is more women in suits than ever before. It’s not just the item of clothing, either — it’s the knowing red carpet wink, the wry smile, or every single thing Cate Blanchett does with her perfect face while planning a heist.

Cate Blanchett Oceans 8 Movie GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Where in the past celesbians like k.d. lang or Ellen had to face the fatiguing question about “wearing men’s clothes,” there’s no longer any doubt that suits not only belong to every gender — but we know without a doubt who wears it better.

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Burying Our Bad Tropes

The ’10s have seen not only wins but losses. Straight content creators, satisfied with having ‘done their representation’, showed their hand by killing off an extraordinary number of Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer (LBQ) women on TV.

Coming to a head in 2016 with the death of four characters in a single month, fans across the internet spoke out that they’d had enough, and that the “Bury Your Gays” trope had to end.

Dorothy Snarker wrote for The Hollywood Reporter at the time “to date, we have seen some 146 lesbian or bisexual characters perish on TV shows. Yet, in the history of television, we have seen only around 18 couples (on some 16 TV shows) who have been granted happy endings.”

While having increasingly more characters on screen means we have a greater ability to see the mess of reality play out, including that some queer people do die, the dramatic overrepresentation of queer death in media is tired and has no place in the ’20s, let alone ever.

We’re Here Today Because We Are Gay

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Like a vegan, gluten free cupcake labelled Eat Me, pop culture has been getting queerer and queerer — but this gayification doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

LBQ women have always influenced culture and art and stoked fantasy in their fans and audiences, but more than ever they’re getting recognition as queer icons.

Stars have found the space and support to affirm who they are on a world stage, including the likes of Kristen Stewart, Lili Singh, Abbi Jacobson, Rachel Weisz, Tessa Thompson, Raven-Symoné and the aforementioned Sara Ramirez, who herself came out several years after her character’s on-screen opening up.

Actor Ellen Page came out at the Human Rights Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference in 2014, saying “maybe I can make a difference, to help others have an easier and more hopeful time”, and has spoken since of the way that Hollywood tried to convince her not to speak about her sexuality in public. Other celebrities have written and spoken about similar experiences, or the discrimination they faced once publicly out.

While queer rights around the world still leave a great deal to be desired, the fact that so many people feel able to stand up, speak out, and come out does go to show how far the struggle for visibility has come, and how far we have yet to go.


Liz is a writer, researcher and filmmaker who has had articles, poetry and essays in a range of publications. She co-hosts wholesome sex ed show @letsdoitpodcast, and is on Twitter at @lizduckchong.