FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: Who Was Your First LGBTQ Inspiration Model?

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Hello, sweet pepper jam biscuits!

Welcome to Friday Open Thread, your virtual queer retreat from a long week in the cisheteropatriarchy. We’ve got hot chocolate and perfectly brewed coffee and every type of tea made in the world, including your fav! We’ve got huge, soft, comfy chairs and bean bag body pillows and seating at the very perfect height and firmness for your specific human body. Delightful! We’ve got all your fav movies and shows queued up (even the rare hard-to-find ones) in stereo surround sound and also quiet meditation rooms overlooking the sea and also, somehow, a 24-hour open bar and dance party in the desert. Come in, hang out! I’ve been waiting for you, babe!

2019 has been a lot for me so far—so many ups and downs—and also feels full of potential. Twice in the past 24 hours, I’ve had someone come up to me and tell me I’m a role model to them. It’s a weird thing, being told that someone wants to be like you. As you can imagine, I overprocess the shit out of it whenever someone compliments me or says they want my life. Cuz, like, I’m just a very normal person with my own hangups and I don’t know if anyone should be like me. My life is far from perfect! I’m a mess, is what I’m saying! Also, you should be like you and live your life!

It got me thinking, though, about how important it is to have inspiration models, to have representation, to meet people who give you hope for your future. So instead of CRUSHING THEIR DREAMS about the gritty realities of the nonprofit industrial complex and my general sense of constant exhaustion and not-enough-ness, I told these people what I think I’d like to hear from my role models.

I’m really flattered! You’re already doing super amazing work! I’m so glad we connected! Let’s stay in touch!

The first time I remember seeing a gay person on T.V., I think it was…Ellen. On the show Ellen. Or maybe it was Melissa Etheridge? I don’t know. Those two blond white lesbians who both came out in the early-mid-90’s kind of blur together for me. I remember thinking it was interesting, but not being old enough (I was a preteen) to really grasp what was going on let alone my own sexuality.

The first queer inspiration model I really took to was Margaret Cho. I watched her show for its exactly one season run when I was little. She was the only Korean person I’d ever seen on T.V. and also was a Loud Korean Girl, which I didn’t even know was a thing yet. I’d only been exposed to stereotypical versions of quiet, demure Asian women. Something about Cho’s whole persona was confrontational and powerful and sexual in a way that was 100% for herself. I later became obsessed with her standup in high school, both before and after she officially came out. For sure, Margaret Cho was one of my very first inspiration models for being a queer, fat, Korean.

Speaking of, remember when Margaret Cho poignently annotated her tribute song to her inspiration model, Anna Nicole, for this very website?

My first queer inspiration model in real life was probably, ridiculously, this person I worked at McDonald’s with circa 1998-2000. I come from a small town, so I’ll just call her Tracy. She was the first butch woman I’d ever met and also the first out bisexual. I didn’t know women could look like that and look that good doing it. I didn’t know I could blush like that when talking to a woman. When it came to Tracy, I didn’t want to be her, like I kind of always wanted to be Margaret Cho. I wanted to kiss her. I saw in Tracy a future where I was totally comfortable with my sexuality and with everyone knowing about it. We did kiss, many years later, under the hazy lights reflected in the 80’s-style mirror walls at a tiny gay dive bar in Erie, PA, where we both randomly showed up (neither of us lived there) on a weekday night. The kiss itself wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it might be, but it was part of a week that marked a new era in my bisexual, queer life.

How about you, beautiful people? Do you remember the first LGBTQ inspiration models or role models in your life? How did you find them? Or they, you? Why do you still remember them today? How did they shape who you became or are becoming? I’m curious!

Feel free to share all your pics and news and life updates and thirst traps here, too! I want to be inspired by you! I’m here all day for it!


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KaeLyn is a 37-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, over-caffeinating herself, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 219 articles for us.

78 Comments

  1. Laneia!

    Honestly not even a joke. When I was leaving my husband, leaving the church, and coming out in 2013 – what feels like a LIFETIME ago but is honestly not that long! – it felt like there was just a dearth of material that even remotely touched on what I was going through. There were so many coming out narratives, but most of them, it seemed, were focused on teenagers, or young adults, or the “we have always known! how could you not possibly know! we were born that way!”

    I was 25 and this was all new. Also I already had an ex-husband. Who the hell was my model?

    ENTER AUTOSTRADDLE AND LANEIA’S ARTICLE ON HOW TO LEAVE YOUR HUSBAND BECAUSE YOU ARE A LESBIAN

    I didn’t actually find the article until I was already in divorce proceedings, but I just sat there, tears fucking streaming down my face. I don’t even know how many times I read it once I first found it, or how many times I read it that month, or how many times I have continued to read it in the years since. It was the first time I ever encountered someone who was “like me”: which is to say, came out later, had married a man first, had seemingly gone about it not-the-way-the-media-said-our-people-did-this. (Was I even a lesbian? Did I have to say I was bisexual in order to explain my rather significant relationship history with men? I didn’t know! These were real questions!)

    So anyway. This is all to say. Laneia. Laneia was my first role model of someone who looked like me.

  2. I love this question!!

    I was fourteen, a little baby dyke (it was 2004, so “baby dyke” was still a term that people used), wearing intentionally mismatched multicolored knee socks with my Skechers and athletic shorts. Extra-thick glasses, not yet aware of how to handle my extra-thick mixed-kid hair, obsessed with theatre, could sing the entire libretto of RENT. I landed a gig assisting the director of our local summer production of BYE BYE BIRDIE, and man, that summer was a game-changer.

    Erin was a Real Live Grown Up Lesbian, with a wife and two young kids. I had never seen two women making a life together. All those normal everyday moments: a small shared kiss after rehearsal, a Subaru with a rainbow sticker on the back (GAY), the kiddos calling them “mama” and “mommy.” Not to mention Erin’s impossible coolness level: funny and extroverted and poised, charismatic and also A PROFESSIONAL THEATER PERSON. Basically, I took one look and was obsessed.

    A decade and a half later, Erin and her family are still in my life (with both of those kiddos now a foot taller than me!). I call them my “lesbian mamas” now, and invite them to openings of my shows. I spent a while trying to be just like them (tall, extroverted, white) before realizing that this petite, introverted mixed-race Japanese American kid is gonna have my own life and my own strengths. I found queer API community and role models of my own (APIENC in the Bay Area, NQAPIA nationally, and many others!). But something about that summer and that family sticks with me.

  3. I think a super prominent person in my babygayhood was Cameron Esposito, and then later Rhea Butcher. Cam’s show “ask a lesbian” made the little bit of space for me that I needed when i first came out and then Queery has been huge for me since then. I often find myself screaming in my car like “YES you just articulated something i could not” when listening to her interviews with the various queerdo’s she books. Going to a Cameron and/or Rhea shows is one of my favorite ways to be in a super queer space, it’s one where everyone feels safe enough to be our gayest selves. Take My Wife came out at exactly the right time for me too, and now I have every episode downloaded on my laptop. It’s kinda my thing….

  4. Great topic! Before the ‘ring of keys’ moment became a thing, I used to refer to this phenomenon as someone’s Ellen. Ellen has been the first LBGTQ inspirational model for so many queers, and so many other role models can be Ellens.

    When I was in high school, Jenn Colella was in the short-lived High Fidelity musical on Broadway. As a theatre kid, I thought in order to work in musical theatre, you had to be a gay man or super straight woman. Enter Jenn, an out queer woman performing in Broadway musicals. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and get to know Jenn as adult, but she will always be “my Ellen.”

  5. I can just tell I’m going to be a crying mess when this thread picks up steam. I’m already a little misty after just the first couple of stories.

    Mine is my grandad, who I named myself after. He came out sometime in the late eighties/early nineties, I’m not sure exactly when but sometime either shortly before I was born or when I was a baby. So I grew up knowing what gay meant, but not realizing it was a thing I could be. Maybe because I was AFAB so it felt different, or maybe I was just so thoroughly enmeshed in heteronormativity because I was homeschooled and learned about the world through pop culture. I don’t think I realized growing up how brave he had to be to come out when he did, but I sure see it now. That was a scary time to come out, and he could have lost everything. Not only did he find/help create a community of queer people in his field, he became an activist to remove homosexuality from the mental disorder list. Much of his family came around eventually (I’m a little fuzzy on that since I was so little), which is hella impressive for folks from a tiny Southern town in the nineties. He doesn’t really talk about what he left behind, just that the people who matter came around in the end.

    My parents’ friends when I was growing up were at least 50% lesbian couples, so that was again a very normalizing influence. But I still didn’t figure it out! They were just, you know, my parents’ hippie friends who gave us baseball tickets, or the nice chiropractor they’d known for 15 years who fixed my neck and talked about her wife. In retrospect, my whole upbringing was super gay all through the nineties, and I have no idea why it took me so long. My diaries from ages 9-12 are full of fake entries about boys who were my friends that people teased me about, so I figured I was supposed to be in love with them? I didn’t know. I pretended it was true and I wrote their names in hearts all over my diaries, even though I knew it wasn’t real.

    But then in the 2000s I finally saw RENT, and that’s what really changed things for me. It was the first time I’d seen a *young* sapphic couple? Like, my parents’ friends were their age. I didn’t really apply that stuff to me. But there was something about Maureen and Joanne. I identified with them, I wanted to be them, AND I wanted to kiss them. Adding that to my confusing feelings about Keira Knightley in Bend It Like Beckham (and, well, everything else she was in)… That was a big one. and Joanne wearing suits!! and suspenders!! Joanne in the movie was honestly the first one who made me think maybe I was into girls, like, way more than boys. And the idea of a queer community really affected me as well, so I started seeking that out online. My Harry Potter fanfiction became almost exclusively “femmeslash” and I never went back ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I think my trans inspirations were all people I met in college who I watched transition and become so much happier and secure in themselves, even with the struggles they faced. I went to a women’s college but it’s very trans-inclusive so the conversation was happening, and listening to my peers who were ahead of me on the journey helped. I definitely came out as genderfluid in college, but didn’t really consider myself trans or do any kind of transition until after I graduated. I don’t think I felt like I was “trans enough” for a long ass time, and I definitely had a lot of freakouts about being nonbinary and sapphic at the same time and was that okay?? But then I met some other nonbinary people on the internet, and through my other queer friends in town, and, honestly, through Autostraddle. Thanks, y’all <3

    • You named yourself after your grandfather? Oh, my heart!

      Thank you for sharing these stories! It’s making me nostalgic…

      And also? Crushing on Kiera Knightley in the mid-2000s was a MOOD. I still remember her weird shirtless harness getup in some shitty movie from like, 2005. It was a major feminist brain / lesbian brain moment.

      Feminist brain: where is her SHIRT?! also that looks uncomfortable as hell! Her boobs are all squished! Wtf!
      Bisexual brain: but also… Kiera knightley’s torso though… Help

      (Torso is an incredibly unsexy word but oh well)

      • Thanks, Larisa <3

        Her abs alone in Bend It Like Beckham should have made me realize a lot sooner, let alone the fact that they were OBVIOUSLY SUPPOSED TO BE LESBIANS. That backless shiny halter top knocked me on my gay ass and I did NOT know why hahaha

        I believe you're referring to the tiny leather getup from King Arthur, and BOY AM I WITH YOU on that one. It's like Jack in Mass Effect–number one, how does it stay on? and number two, why am I so into it?

  6. For me, it was a coworker. She was happily married and active in the queer advocacy world. She had a similar gender presentation to me, which mattered because for so long, I had felt like I couldn’t be queer because I wasn’t butch. And she was kind and considerate to everyone around her. I had to see it to be it, so seeing her be queer and proud and happy helped me envision a future where I could also be those things!

    • Love this story, @cobaltazure! I remember my first femme role model who really changed everything for me. I don’t know if or assume that you’re femme, but getting to know someone who shares your gender presentation is a really big deal! She sounds like a really incredible human.

  7. I don’t know if she was my first, because I was out for years before I came across her articles, but Heather is the only person who springs to mind.

    I have always had a lot of feelings about television and television characters, but as I got older I felt like it was something I should have grown out of, but then I discovered Heather, a similar age to me, who not only had a lot of feelings about television, but was making a living writing about those feelings. It was so refreshing to read reviews and recaps by a person who was writing with their heart instead of an intellectual criticism (which is not to say that Heather isn’t writing in a intelligent way, but it’s intelligence with feeling).

    I am in awe of Heather because she is comes across as both very ordinary and down to earth whilst simultaneously being incredibly kind and smart and brave in how vulnerable she makes herself.

    Also I am aware that I could at least have a go at writing tv reviews myself (whether or not they get published) and I have put it on my list of ways to invest some of my emotional energy more wisely this year. (I’m not into New Year’s resolutions, but it happens to be January).

  8. Um, don’t think I’ve ever had a lesbian role model. Mostly because I oddly don’t seem to know many lesbians. Though I have known and worked with a lot of gay men. One time, I worked in a call centre and the guys joked about it was like being in a gay nightclub all the time because there were so many of them! They were all really nice and a couple of them were some of the first people I came out to as bi. So they took me to a mixed gay nightclub in Cardiff on a week night (I felt so rebellious, even though I was in my twenties! And we all had the next day off). There was a drag act in the adjoining bar first and in the club hardly anyone seemed to be drinking alcohol and my friends got jealous at all the cute guys dancing with me! It was honestly the best night out I ever had. It felt a lot safer than any of the ordinary nightclubs I ever went to in Bristol as a student – not that I did that much, because I was a “mature” student as an undergrad.

    • I also came out to a call center coworker first. Like, I was just processing at her. We got hired on the same day and just a week after training i was having a drink at her place and told her about this girl from college I thought I had a crush on. I don’t talk to her anymore since she was soon laid off, but we are still Facebook friends. She’s bi, very open about her sexuality and a therapist so t makes sense that I felt comfortable coming out to her just as i was coming out to myself.

  9. Honestly I don’t remember, because as far as I can tell trans women never had proper representation when I was young in the 90s. Lesbians stories never really resonated with me, because compulsory heterosexuality told me that I can’t be trans because I like women. One of the first times I saw myself, and I’ve said this before on here, was Lisa from season one of the L Word. It wasn’t until the last two seasons of the show a college friend told me to look up Eddie Izzard who likes women and sometimes calls himself a male lesbian(didn’t like the term). It was also then when I read online that Illene(L Word creator) based Lisa off a roadie she met and Lillith Fair. I’ve spoken to and read articles from other trans and non-binary people and they’ve told me similar stories.

    How’s everyone’s week going? I am work getting over a cold when I’d rather be at home napping in a warm bed, which btw it’s Spring weather right now. I spend my Sunday with my best friend and we went to a all you can eat Korean BBQ and I went to town on the veggies, tofu, and noodles. It was kind of needed. I think we have plans to meet up again sunday so yay.

    Was it sunday or monday the blood wolf moon? Either way I tried to take pics of it, this was the best I could hand-holding the camera(tripod is broken). Part of me wants to get a telescope and hook a camera up to it for near shots of the solar system, but I think those require the more pricier telescopes and not the budget $60 ones to do.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my post. Have a positive weekend!

  10. Oh, there’s many, but my first hero was Gro Hammerseng (Now Hammerseng-Edin). She plays on the Norwegian national handball team and she was outed on live television. Purely on her athletic prowess, she’s a hero in her own right. Add in her activism and well-spoken nature, she’s a damn gem. Still my hero, to this day.

  11. Everyone saying their role models are Autostraddle people are making my heart grow several sizes. Such feels, many emotions!

    My first lesbian role model was my fourth grade teacher, an incredibly good educator who understood how to get through to intellectually understimulated, hyperactive kids like me. One day my mom told me she was a lesbian and explained what that was, and how she had to not talk about it at school because parents could make an issue about it. I remember looking at her with increased fascination, a combination of “Wait, this is possible?” and also that childish realization that teachers have whole lives outside of school that students know nothing about. I kept looking at her for some sort of sign, not knowing why I wanted one so badly. She was calm and smart and straightforward and wore her brown hair short. A legend.

    My subsequent queer role models were—shoutout to the early 2000s explosion in manga and anime!—all fictional characters. Utena and Sailor Uranus from Sailor Moon were both badass, capable, hot queer women who blended feminine and masculine style elements and always got the girl. They both truly spoke to my brash, fighting-inclined tomboy self. (Especially Uranus because she was blond like me, so maybe someday I could look like her?) Plus the whole gender nonconforming thing was a pretty big deal for baby enby me.

    These days there are so many more visible role models out there, real people and fictional ones alike. But I’m glad I had the ones I did to light the way.

  12. I was obsessed with Martina Navratilova because she was literally the only openly gay person I knew of in the early 80’s. I watched women’s tennis because of her. There was a TV show on at some point in the 80’s that took place at a women’s health clinic. One of the secondary characters was gay, so I watched that too.

  13. I was going to say Ellen,too, because following her coming out arc somehow made it possible for me to be gay.
    However, chronologically speaking, there was someone else I was rushing home to see after school:

    One might say, I had a type:

    Maybe I’m just using this thread to fondly reminiscence about my (SUPER nerdy) teenage TV crushes, after having watched the newest Star Trek episode today, but right now, I’m
    just grateful I had Buffy and Xena and the space babes to crush on in the first place, no matter how far in denial I was about all of it.

  14. I honestly have no idea! The first person that comes to mind is a friend from high school who’s younger than me but has always known she was a lesbian. For some time I felt our relationship was tense in that I didn’t feel validated by her when I came out as bi, and have only felt she started respecting my queerness when she saw me heartbroken by a woman. But I’m also not sure that’s all her, maybe I was projecting some internalized biphobia on her? Who knows?! But I definitely looked up to her, how confident, happy and queer she is.

    Nowadays I look up to Gaby Dunn, mostly because I admire how vocal she is and how much she cares about bi visibility.

    I feel like the blood moon eclipse was a wonderful and moving moment for me. I broke a tooth (!) and had some really lows, but after it looked like we wouldn’t find an apartment for another month, we found a bigger, cheaper and better located place to rent. I felt like I sacrificed a molar to the moon and she gave me a home. 10/10 would lose another tooth.

    January’s been super intense but I’m profoundly happy and excited for what’s to come.

  15. I didn’t know how lucky I was when I was young. I went to an art school with plenty of punky queerdos of all types. I never felt like I needed to figure myself out or label myself until I was older. My family is full of bold successful queer and trans people. My butch cousins made me feel like it was okay to sleep in shorts and not want to wear dresses even as a tiny kid. They’ve taken me under their wings and taught me how to dress and how to not give a fuck and I am so grateful. Shoutout to queer punk painters and dapper studs.

  16. The very first person that really spoke to me and is my queer inspirational role model was Janelle Monae. In 2013 when I had just come out and was figuring stuff out I didn’t see any representation of queerness that was black feminine and queer. My friend introduced her music to me and honestly it changed my life. I looked up videos, interviews and every content related to Janelle I could find. And even though at the time Janelle wasn’t out, something about the way she dressed, her music and her personality was deeply relatable and spoke to me. I was so happy when she came out and dirty computer honestly is everything!!

    • Ugh. Dirty Computer really is everything. I was also immediately drawn to Janelle Monae. I saw her as the opener for the opener at a concert back in 2009 or 2010. Somewhere in the range. It was just her without a full band and she pulled out a chair to stand on as her only prop and she was wearing a suit and her then-signature pompadour. I was immediately obsessed. I’m so glad she finally got the recognition she is due and that she did it on her own terms. She’s such an inspiration to me, too!

  17. This is going to sound depressing as shit, but past early childhood I never looked to other as sources of inspiration the normal idolization fashion most people seems to have. Some that is how young my trust in authority figures and adults was broken and my sense of expect the worst so you won’t be disappointed was established.

    Xena and Batman are the only ones I can remember, anything else was picking up traits I see in my self and obsessing over the historical figure or character. Queer people and mirrors, it’s not vanity, it’s an attempt to feel sanity when you feel like a ghost or vampire.

    But back to Xena she was bad, but worked to become good and as a special ed kid I did feel like I was “bad” and needed to work to become “good” which is making adult me very upset right now.
    Batman was just a human being but he kept up with gods and supermen by working hard.

    I want to give child me a hug so bad right now, I feel like I have heartburn.
    Fuck,things went from depressing to heart breaking real fast.

    Oh boy and it’s not going to get much better cause the first queer lady type character I can remember is Cleo from Set It Off.
    Lighter notes; Never saw Ellen or Margret Cho’s sitcoms, thought Cho was badass/cool from quotes and clips of her stand-up. None of that had any queer content.
    Had no idea what to make of Tim Curry’s Frank-n-Furter but def fell in love with garter belts and for lack of a better term at the mo confrontational femininity. I could ramble forever about the gendery things and how thankful I am that I was exposed early to other ways of existing as feminine beyond my mother and mainstream society. Childhood friend’s mom wore a Chelsea(was a trojan skinhead) she also had goth friends, and when I was 12-13 saw a recording of Eddie Izzard’s Dressed to Kill.

    I made a new “dish” this week I’m calling Yellow Chicken which is a terrible name for something so delicious. Have like 1 sort of picture of it, but the very night I made it I wrote down all the details. Toasted cashew, sesame,coriander, garlic and the seasoning was garlic, turmeric, ginger, paprika, ground fenugreek,and lemon grass.

    Have a tremendous hankering to use mango extract in white cake and use guava jelly as the filling instead of frosting but I don’t have room for a 9 in round 2 layer cake in the fridge. I’ve got 4 inch spring form rounds however reducing cake recipes is not something I can calmly math out, at all. Me trying to reduce cake recipes is like watching someone have a Midterms cramming freakout.

      • Seeing someone swagger in stockings, heels, and pearls like that was amazing for a lot of people for a variety of reasons.
        We can acknowledge the inspiration something gave us and the flaws of it, but I think that’s hard for some people to reconcile. They want nice clean little boxes, the damned and the blessed. Pedestals become pillories right fucking quick.

  18. I’m surprised no one has mentioned this yet but mine were all writers. I grew up Catholic in a conservative southern state but baby gay me discovered Virginia Woolf at the library and then Susan Sontag and Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich and Natalie Barney and Radclyffe Hall and many many others along the way.

    Also huge shout out to librarians because the woman who kept checking these books out for me never commented on what I was taking home. Maybe she was my first queer role model? I’ll never know.

    • Ooh that reminds me I was as a weird kid given illustrated books about Emily Dickinson and Eleanor Roosevelt to inspire me that I could too be useful or worthy. So much focus on Eleanor’s ugly ducklingness not being shed but her learning to be charming/engaging enough to snag a man despite her looks *eyeroll*

      Hell yeah librarians, and that specific librarian all of the stars.

      • I love that you were given illustrated books about two *almost definitely* queer women to teach you how to be useful and worthy. This renews my faith in the universe even if the givers of these books had no idea what they were doing.

        • They wanted to help inspire me to be normal and no way in heck did they realise how queer Emily and Eleanor were, the irony of it is eternally delicious and nutritious.

          Eleanor Roosevelt was a great example on how to be a boss bitch without well being such a bitch. Walk like a proud lion, but don’t maul people.

          Ever read Flannery O’Connor?

          • Yes I love Flannery O’Connor! Another maybe queer lady if it weren’t for her overwhelming Catholicism. I was living in a small Georgia town in the early aughts and was reading a lot of O’Connor, Carson McCullers, and Dorothy Allison.

            Your description of Eleanor Roosevelt is perfection! That is what I aspire to!

    • That reminds me that I read a load of crime novels with lesbian protagonists (detectives/journalists etc) as a teenager years before I was out, which I stumbled across in the crime section of my pretty small local library. So they were all stories with people who happened to be queer rather than it being about them being queer, which was a pretty good introduction and also made me less nervous about my parents questioning what I was reading.

  19. It took me so long to figure stuff out that by that time, I had queer role models way before I realized I was queer. That was probably Steven Universe just showing me a variety of presentations and relationships, especially between women.

    Once I knew, I have to say my first role model was Cristan Williams of transadvocate, just because her writing let me take confidence against all the hateful people out there before I knew it was okay to be transgender.

    I did hve one role model who was not queer nut helped give me courage to be queer and that was Frank from MST3K. I was tripping pretty hard and figured out I was trans near the beginning and then we watched MST3K most of the day. At one point, Frank was doing a skit and said something along the lines of, “Remember, no matter who you are, never let any one make you feel bad about yourself. Be creative, be yourself, and let your freak flag fly.”

    That made me feel really happy and loved even though it was silly.

  20. I didn’t know any lesbians as a teen and I surely didn’t know any bi men or women. I remember being fascinated by Melissa Etheridge but for reasons I couldn’t quite get my head around.

    The first woman I knew who was queer was a professor of mine. I knew she had a husband who she was separated from and a woman she lived with (no label given to this). She was the first person I openly talked to about my bisexuality and what I was finally learning and realizing about myself around the age of 20. She was the first person I talked to when I fell in love with a woman who also loved me. And her relationship with a woman was something I aspired to, even if it was messy and sometimes closeted in the Bible Belt.

    A co-worker of mine was gay and he had recently come out to his religious family. He was grappling with what this meant to those relationships and his reputation in a close minded, predominantly one religion community. His struggle was hugely important to my own as I came to terms with what living my life in that same community would mean.

    It was as important for me to have those two people in my life for the queer representation I could look to as it was to have a listening ear about sexuality, love and religion.

  21. Mine was an older queer person I met a few years ago and who just absolutely did exactly what the fuck they wanted regardless of the world. They had lived periods of life passing as a man and as a woman and as neither, had worked in academia and writing and the sex industry, had dated people 20+ years older than them and 10+ years younger, and just seemed very at ease being themself no matter how anyone else saw them. I had never seen the possibility of living outside the gender binary so thoroughly until I met them. And then we dated for a hot second and I fell madly in love and they moved away suddenly (again, because they did EXACTLY WHAT THE FUCK THEY WANTED WHEN THEY WANTED IT so I should have seen it coming, tbh). I wish there was a non creepy way to tell them how much they helped me to live my life happy and out

  22. There was an inspiring couple who lived in a house where I was during college. Their names were Jen and Dana. They had a butch/femme relationship and were very independent. Dana was working nearby as a bike mechanic. Jen used to bring her a lunchbox during the day. Dana had learned how to do tattoo art and had done tattoos for both of them. She had a Southwestern desert-influenced set of bones on her arm. Jen had a green vine on hers. I’m not sure where they are now. They were a very positive influence on me because they got along really well and gave one another space.

  23. Lena Adams-Foster. I was just starting to realize I liked women a lot more than I’d been admitting to myself when it went up on Netflix. I knew intellectually lesbians could be happy and have families, but everyone I knew or saw on tv was either stressed and sad or they were a professor, and then here was the Fosters with a loving, tender family like the one I grew up in, but with two moms, and here was Lena as a kind, gentle badass, but a lesbian, and I sat in my bed and cried through the whole first half season. I didn’t know if I wanted to be Lena, but I hadn’t realized that was still an option.

    • I love the Fosters because of Lena and Stef, @annamolly! I would have loved to watch a sitcom that was more about them and less about the kids because they are probably the most interesting and relatable lesbian couple on TV. I agree!

      I love that Lena inspired you to be more you, whatever that turns out to be!

  24. This is such a lovely thread. I didn’t really have any queer or bi role models growing up in the 70s and 80s. David Bowie was the only bi person I’d even heard of in high school – and he wasn’t exactly a relatable role model for me – a nerdy, shy European-American girl in the midwest.

    In college, I met my friend Jean – she was the very first person I met who was openly bi. I’m not sure if she actually used any labels for her identity, but she was matter-of-fact about having dated men and women. And she flirted with me. And I flirted back. We never went beyond flirting but it was her friendship and example that helped me figure things out and eventually come out to myself and my friends.

    The year I came out, I used to hang out a lot in one of the dorm tv lounges with a group of loud, funny queer women. We watched LA Law together and I vividly remember watching the “lesbian kiss” story arc between two of the lawyers – CJ and Abby. Abby later dated a man and when they got together, she told him that she’d dated women and men in the past. That was the only model I had for being bi and dating men and honestly it helped to have that – years later, when I came out to my future husband, I felt like I was channeling Abby (looking back on it, there are a lot of not great things going on in this story arc and episode but it was still helpful to me).

    I also had someone tell me that I’m a role model to them – because I’m a middle aged woman married to a man and I’m visibly bi. And it feels amazing to be that – being visible is so very important and also so very hard.

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