Autostraddle March Madness: Better Halves — GROWN

I broke the cardinal rule of March Madness this year: don’t get too emotionally invested.

Sure, if your alma mater or your favorite team makes it into the field of 68, people expect you to cheer them on…maybe advance them unreasonably far in your bracket pool…but you can’t get too invested. The thing to remember about March Madness is that 67 of the teams in the field end up losing…that’s just the nature of the beast. Getting too invested means forgetting that there’s only a 1.47% chance that your team ends the NCAA tournament with a win. But this year, I got invested. The Wolfpack were good this year — probably the best squad I’ve seen since becoming a fan — and I had high hopes about their success.

But earlier this week, NC State joined the 98.53% of teams in the tournament who’d end their season with a loss: an instant classic double OT four point loss to UCONN in Bridgeport, CT. And now, some days later, my voice is starting to return to its usual timbre, my pride in the team is starting to eclipse my disappointment and I think, maybe, I’ll be up to watching the Final Four this weekend. Next year, though, I’ll remember: don’t get too emotionally invested.

Thankfully, that’s not a problem in Autostraddle’s March Madness. Well, at least not yet.

Earlier this week, you all voted in the Baby Gays region and I think I was right: it seemed to be the easiest set of picks we’ve had thus far. There wasn’t a single contest that was close. Of course, easy first round match-ups mean the second round match-ups will be much tougher so don’t say I didn’t warn you. The pairs from Atypical, Yellowjackets, Euphoria and Motherland: Fort Salem all advanced to the next round.

I’m not sure I was surprised by the outcomes in any match-up but I was surprised that it wasn’t much of a competition. I really wanted genera+ion to have a strong showing because Greta and Riley’s storyline really got me in the feels. I also expected a better performance from Elite, particularly as that show gears up for its new season. Thus far through the competition, couples have advanced to the bracket together and I’m anxious to see how much longer that holds up.

Speaking of brackets, we have no more perfect brackets in our competition. I managed to pick up some steam in the Baby Gays region and managed to move up several spots on the Leaderboard. How’d you do in the Baby Gays region? Did you move up the Leaderboard?

Now we’re onto the GROWN region, the last before we move into the Round of 32. You’ll have two days to vote and then we’ll update the bracket and start a new round of voting. I can’t wait to see who makes it out of this region.

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Emily vs. Miranda. Voting ends 4/2.

Emily, Dickinson

Relationship Status: Happily Ever After

There’s a moment in Dickinson where Sue asks her husband — Emily’s brother, Austin — to ask her sister if she’ll be coming to their party tonight. Emily declines the invitation but urges her brother to tell Sue to come over to her house instead so they can talk. Eventually though, Emily relents and shows up to the party covered in ink: and of all the things she could say in this moment — with a potential editor standing in the next room — all Emily wants to hear is Sue’s opinion about her latest poems.

The poems are incredible — they make Sue’s heart want to explode — but Emily allows them to become a substitute for deeds and for actual closeness. For Emily, being in love in a poem is easier; Emily and Sue can be together on the page in a way that they can’t in the world. But Sue would rather challenge convention and be together…really together…and she longs for Emily to want the same.

Miranda, And Just Like That…

Relationship Status: In Gay Love

Soon after the conclusion of And Just Like That…‘s inaugural season, a few members of the TV Team got together to talk about it. On the particular subject of Miranda’s queer awakening, Heather said this thing which has stuck with me in since: “Falling in love, falling in lust, falling down the queer rabbit hole for the first time, it really does kind of make people go a little bit crazy.”

Here’s what Shelli added…which I think gets to the root of while Miranda resonates even if she annoys:

“…this is a reality for so many women right? And I hate to talk so much about age/generations, but it’s an even bigger reality for women of that generation, so I think it’s great that they showed it. Because it’s probably the story of some fan who watched the show originally and gets to see their story represented with these people they have followed over the years who feel like friends — because that’s what envelopes us into these shows right? Like, that’s what gives them this longevity is because we feel so connected to them that they feel like part of our lives, and isn’t that the beauty of TV & Film? Like, isn’t that the point — to be able to search and connect outside of your real life and sometimes find that solace or sameness that you’re in search of?

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Bradley vs. Ana. Voting ends 4/2.

Bradley Jackson, The Morning Show

Relationship Status: Laura’s Woman

I’m not even sure that Bradley means it when she first kisses Laura. Sure, they’d spent the whole day together, enjoying each other’s comany…being slightly flirtatious but not too much…but nothing that prepared Laura (or me) for that kiss. She’d given Laura permission to ask any question she wanted, off-the-record, and Laura asked the one question that Bradley absolutely did not want to hear: “did you actually get vetted for this job?” Answering truthfully was an impossibility so Bradley kisses Laura instead. She pulls back and tries to apologize for her impulsiveness before Laura pulls her back into a kiss…the question long forgotten. But no matter why the kiss was initiated, by the time Bradley ends up in sharing a hotel bed with Laura, it’s clear that she’s doing exactly what she wants to be doing.

Ana Morales, Gentefied

Relationship Status: Begrudgingly Single, But With Nike Money

For her entire life, Ana Morales has wanted to find a way to make a life for herself as an artist. But in a world fueled by capitalism and rife with racism and homophobia, producing art as a brown lesbian woman is never as simple as that. Every win seems to require compromise, with every large victory comes a small defeat. It’s a lesson that Ana learns the hard way over two seasons of Gentefied — finding a way for all facets of her to co-exist — and it’s a lesson that Ana has to learn on her own, she can’t just take Yessika’s word for it.

Ana returns to Yessika in the end, realizing that she’d asked so much of her but failed to return Yessika’s faith and support. She admits, “I guess I’m at this point in my life where I…choose to be with the ones who chose me, who see me, who love me.” And before she can apologize for their fight and break-up, Yessika accepts the apology with a kiss.

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Maya vs. Quinn. Voting ends 4/2.

Maya Bishop, Station 19

Relationship Status: Newlyweds on a Baby Hunt

For her entire life, Maya Bishop has been conditioned to be the best. Her father’s abuse conditioned her to put coming in first — in racing, in the firehouse — above all things, including friendship and love. But then she fell in love with Carina Deluca and everything changed.

Maya finally realizes what it means to put someone else first. She puts Carina first as she nurses her back from the shock of losing her brother. She puts Carina first when she volunteers to join her in Italy. She puts Carina first when she suggests getting married to stave off deportation. She puts Carina first when she puts aside her own fears and embraces the possibility of motherhood. Even last week, when Seattle’s new fire chief opted to make Maya’s demotion permanent, she doesn’t hesitate to put Carina first.

For weeks, Carina had quietly worried that without Maya being restored to her captaincy, she’d put off wanting to have a child since it might throw her even further off her career track. But even with the Chief’s refusal, Maya doesn’t change course. She begs for a moment to be angry but tells Carina, “I still love you, and we’re still making a baby, okay?” She puts Carina first again.

Quinn Joseph, Harlem

Relationship Status: Trying Okra

From the moment we first meet her on Harlem, it’s clear that Quinn Joseph is on the hunt for love. She seems, at once, both open to the possibility that love might come from anywhere and yet confined by her pre-conceived notions of what that love looks like. She walks around with these expectations about who her partner should be, what he should look like and what he should do. Even as she eschews her mother’s expectations in her professional life, she adopts them in searching for a partner. And yet, in Harlem‘s first season, it’s the two times that Quinn breaks free of those expectations that she finds happiness.

“We have been good…we have been good for so long and where has that gotten us?” Quinn’s best friend Camille asks during a drunken outing.

“Nowhere, girl, because we have just been trying to everybody’s expectations and for what? We just need to do us,” Quinn responds. In that moment, Quinn decides what she wants, expectations be damned, and goes to ask Isabela out on a real date.

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Kat vs. Sarah. Voting ends 4/2.

Kat, The Bold Type

Relationship Status: Boss Bae

On the eve of her city council election, Kat Edison arrives on Adena’s doorstep worried that she might actually win her campaign. She wanted to talk to someone who knew her but hadn’t been invested in her run — so no Tia, Jane or Sutton — to get some perspective. It meant putting the personal aside for a moment — they hadn’t really talked since that time Adena suggested she was her anti-muse — and just grappling with Kat’s current anxiety. But because the personal and the professional are always intertwined on The Bold Type, Adena finds an answer for both.

She pulls out a photo of Kat that she took in Paris and admits, “when I saw this picture, it clicked: you did inspire me Kat — with your grace, your fire and your spirit — and I know you’ll do the same for everyone else when you’re elected. Only you can decide what’s best for you right now but the Kat Edison I know, she is all about growth.”

Adena’s right, of course…about the campaign and about them…and when Kat answers, “I don’t want to run from this,” I think she means all of the above.

Sarah, Home Economics

Relationship Status: Reluctantly Considering Motherhood Again

When Connor brings his new girlfriend, Jessica, to family game night, Tom recognizes her right away: Camp Girl, the girl who broke his heart by standing him up on their last night of camp. The rumor that Jessica had gone off and met some other boy on the docks haunted Tom for years. But, it turns out, this story that’s a defining chapter in Tom’s life is also a monumental one for Sarah. Jessica didn’t go off with some other boy, she (known as “Dock Girl” in this version of the story) met Sarah on the dock that night and they both had their first same-sex kiss.

Sarah’s kept that information from her brother for years and, now that Jessica’s joining them for game night, she’s worried he’ll find out and never forgive her. Once Jessica arrives, Sarah corners her in a closet (irony abounds!) and convinces her to keep her secret from Tom. But when Tom persists in his search for answers — who didn’t anticipate that — Sarah’s forced to tell the truth: “It was me. I kissed Jessica.”

She apologizes and adds, “I-I had feelings for a girl for the first time ever, and…I was ashamed and confused. If I told you the truth then, it would have meant coming out, and I couldn’t even come out to myself.”

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Sue vs. Che Diaz. Voting ends 4/2.

Sue Gilbert, Dickinson

Relationship Status: Happily Ever After

Che Diaz, And Just Like That…

Relationship Status: Pilot Season

I am not sure if there is a better description of Che Diaz, one of the most polarizing characters on television today, as this one from Riese in the TV Team’s AJLT roundtable:

From their first press of the “woke moment” button I found myself in distress. Sara Ramirez is so great and hot, but everything they do and say is insufferable? There is no comedy at the concert? They show up uninvited to their employee’s hip surgery aftermath and fuck her friend in the kitchen? They are very one-note and the note they are is the note in which God-Des and She performed the eating pussy rap at Shane’s bachelorette party.

And then Heather added this which, I thought, nailed the entire conundrum of Che Diaz’s existence:

Because the thing about Che Diazes is that they can certainly drive you nuts, but they’re also always the people who are there with the perfectly-timed monogrammed handkerchief, the deeply inappropriate laugh that was just what you needed on your darkest day, the way that they are a beacon of courage to people who don’t yet have the ability to be so out and so proud, the suits, the drive, the competence. I think the problem with Che is the problem with every other character of color on the new series: They are all under-written. They’re not there to serve as fully realized characters who volley with the main trio; they’re there to be the backdrop against which the white characters work out whatever thing they need to work out for their own character arcs.

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Laura vs. Yessika. Voting ends 4/2.

Laura Peterson, The Morning Show

Relationship Status: Something Like That

When Cory calls with an offer for Laura to fill-in for Alex on “The Morning Show,” Bradley is elated and quietly pleads with Laura to say yes. Once Laura agrees, Bradley finagles an invitation to spend the night and Laura offers her space in the closet. Bradley is so excited that she can barely contain herself. But just as she starts to accept happiness, the rug gets pulled out from under her. First, her brother shows up unexpectedly, ruining her plans for a sleepover with Laura, and then, just as Bradley and her girlfriend go live for “The Morning Show,” a gossip blog posts a story about Bradley and Laura dating.

As is her wont, Bradley freaks the fuck out. Laura tries to calm her down — she admits its fucked up but promises her that it’ll get better — but to no avail. But the more Bradley considers the situation, the more she starts to believe that, maybe, this isn’t a bad thing after all.

“By some miracle, I have this woman in my life that when I’m with her, I see what I should aspire to be,” Bradley tells Cory. “Maybe…maybe it’s good that this is happening, you know, cause it’s gonna force me to say that I care about somebody. I’ve never really done that before because you can lose something that you want. I do think I want Laura so maybe this is a good thing.”

Yessika Castillo, Gentefied

Relationship Status: Hungry and Thirsty

Yessika and Ana haven’t talked much (or, maybe, at all) since their break-up until Ana and her mother show up in Yessika’s office, looking for way to break free of their slumlord. The pair, who fell in love as young kids, are cold to one another…in part because Yessika’s job requires that she treats all the clients the same, but also because she’s loathe to offer special consideration to a family that never offered that consideration for her. Ana’s so heartbroken by the interaction — its coldness, the distance — that she runs off, later crying into the mouth of a new potential hook-up. Eventually, though, Ana realizes what Yessika brought to her life.

“I know I used to come to you to fix my problems and that is not what this is, okay?” Ana admits. “I just…just wanted you to know that our relationship taught me a lot. You taught me a lot. I am forever grateful for that.”

Ana acknowledges that Yessika was right about a lot of things but Yessika didn’t just want to be right, she wanted to be chosen. She wanted to know that she’d fit in and be a priority in Ana’s life, even when her family beckoned.

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Carina vs. Isabella. Voting ends 4/2.

Carina Deluca, Station 19

Relationship Status: Newlyweds on a Baby Hunt

The lore that follows Carina Deluca from Grey’s Anatomy to Station 19 often begins and ends with the moniker, “Dr. Orgasm.” What’s often forgotten is that Carina was shown to not have much interest in long-term committed relationships. Maybe that would’ve changed if Arizona had stayed in Seattle but, according to Carina’s brother, she had never managed to have “an actual monogamous relationship” that went past three months. But then along comes Maya Bishop — a person whose skepticism about the longevity of relationships may rival her own — and slowly, Carina starts to shift.

“I’m not in the habit of fixing broken people,” Carina tells Maya at once point, but in truth that’s exactly what she does. She loves Maya even when Maya can’t fully return it, she doesn’t leave when Maya pushes her away, she supports Maya as she comes to grips with her father’s abuse. In short, Carina fixes what’s broken in Maya…and, perhaps, in the process fixes what’s been broken in herself.

Isabela Benitez-Santiago, Harlem

Relationship Status: Impending First Date

From the moment that Quinn meets Isabela, there’s a spark. The interaction is unintentional: Quinn’s mother — played by the illustrious Whitley Gilbert Jasmine Guy — is hosting a fundraiser for Isabella’s Congressional campaign and Quinn happens to show up to ask her mother for money. Quinn’s mother introduces them and recommends that Isabela become Quinn’s mentor…and, well, I’m not sure that Whitley intended for Isabela to mentor her daughter quite like this.

Isabella never pushes…she doesn’t need to, honestly. She’s charming and funny and she brings those things out in Quinn too. Even when, after their near-kiss, Quinn pushes her away, Isabela doesn’t react and allows Quinn the space to come to her own realization.

(Also? Dear God: can Juani Feliz play gay in all the things? Like, all the things. Amen.)

Background: a young Black woman smiling and watching TV with a remote in her hand, teal squiggles are illustrated on the sides of the photo. Foreground text in purple against a dark gray and teal background: Autostraddle March Madness / Adena vs. Denise. Voting ends 4/2.

Adena El-Amin, The Bold Type

Relationship Status: Taken

Soon after Kat Edison is named the new Editor at Scarlet admits to her staff that, for a long time, she’d been scared of the future but she wasn’t afraid anymore. Now she wants to embrace the future with an open heart and an open mind. It’s a statement that’s as much about her relationship with Adena as it is about the magazine. Adena spends the latter part of The Bold Type‘s final season trying to maintain an emotional distance from Kat — to save them both from the possibility of heartbreak (again) — but that’s not the future that Kat wants for herself.

“You taught me that I can commit and make it my own and we can do that too,” Kat insists. “We can make this our own. We don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules. We make the rules. Together.”

From the moment Kat met Adena, she’s been challenging Kat to expand her worldview…on feminism, on Islam, on sexuality…and it feels fitting that it’s lessons that Adena’s taught Kat that finally bring them back together.

Denise, Home Economics

Relationship Status: Married to the Entire Hayworth Family

In her early review of Home Economics, Nic wrote, “So far, [Sasheer] Zamata’s Denise has played the voice of reason, constantly reining in her wife who often gets carried away.” But by season two, the tables have turned and it’s Denise with her heads in the clouds — cooing over the new baby she so desperately wants — and Sarah attempting to be the more practical one.

Sarah can’t imagine having a baby right now: they’ve finally started saving for a new apartment and their two children, Kelvin and Shamiah, are finally old enough that the women can have time for themselves. Simply put, Sarah doesn’t know if she or Denise could handle all that a baby entails. But then Denise steps in and offers a poignant reminder: I know raising two little kids on our own was tough, but this time we’d have a whole village helping us.”

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A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 401 articles for us.


  1. Thank you for doing this bracket challenge, Natalie, it’s been really fun watching how these matchups unfold, week to week. And it doesn’t hurt that my bracket keeps moving up in the leaderboard hehe :) I finally get why people love March Madness!

  2. YES to Juani Feliz playing gay in all the things. I was about to give up on Harlem until Isabella showed up (and Carmen confirmed I’d already made it through the worst). Loved that they followed up on that spark.

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