Netflix Outed Me: “Gay & Lesbian Movies” Was My Smoking Gun

While some people believe in God, and others (mostly Paula Deen) believe in their deep fryers, I believe in the enlightening power of Netflix. The bright red envelope was my ticket to the world. Through these films, these stories, I gained a better understanding of our world and of myself. And as I’m sure many other Generation Me closeted queer girls, I was outed by my Netflix.

But before we get into my rainbow colored queue, I guess I should start in the beginning, back before I knew who Tegan and Sara were and way before I got my partner’s name tattooed on my skin.

In case my t shirt wasn't enough of a red flag

In case my t shirt wasn’t enough of a red flag

I spent my pubescent years crushing after guys that wanted nothing to do with me (if they knew I existed at all) while going all Cruel Intentions on my girlfriends at sleepovers. I attended a private high school known as much for it’s weekly drug busts and philandering teachers as it was for its academics and high SAT scores, and the best way to describe the LGBTQ community there would be: nonexistent. Well, except for a handful of rich white guys who spent all their time in drama club and hosting wild parties at their parents’ mansions with their “fag hags.” These said “hags” were other rich straight girls that fit into size 0 jeans (usually due to their bulimia or cocaine addiction) who would make out with them when they were drunk. Since I was neither skinny enough nor damaged enough, it’s safe to say I was never invited. But to be honest, I didn’t really want to be.

For the longest time I thought being gay meant being catty and having slick hair. I now know this is totally false, but could you really blame me? All the gay guys I saw on TV were flaming copies of each other and the clique at my school were walking clichés. Forget lesbians, who were just as hidden in my school as the media I consumed.

That is, until Netflix.

In the olden days, I had to go to the Blockbuster the next town over if I wanted to watch Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You. But now, I had her entire IMDB credits at my fingertips. Half my nights were spent adding entire film careers of my favorite actresses into my queue, while the other half was spent masturbating to said movies under my covers and hoping my parents wouldn’t notice their teenage daughter watching what sometimes looked like soft core lezzy porn. And on a school night no less! It’s no wonder most of the movies I gravitated towards were part of the dark and mysterious world that is the Gay & Lesbian category on Netflix. I think it’s fair to say if you’ve seen every Jamie Babbitt movie, you’re probably a lesbian. And if you didn’t get that last sentence than you’re probably straight! A foolproof theory.

After years of adding and watching these unicorn friendly films, I didn’t realize our Netflix account wasn’t just for my nuclear family, but my entire family! Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, illegitimate children, pets; everyone was able to see the L Word marathons I thought I was so cleverly hiding. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, Netflix started to do film recommendations on their home page. The Saddle Club would be snuggled in between If These Walls Could Talk 2 and Boys Don’t Cry. It wasn’t long before my family smelled a rainbow colored rat, and that rat was pointing its glow sticks at me. By the time I had accumulated enough films for it to get its own section on the homepage, I was in college and had already come out to myself and a close group of friends. It seemed like everyone knew about my woman-loving inclinations except my own parents!

Along with my grandma (the only person in my family who doesn’t own a computer), they were the only two people who kept asking me if I had a boyfriend. Though I knew my parents loved me, I had seen enough documentaries to know that you never truly know how someone is going to take the news that their daughter is a carpet muncher — but hiding it from them didn’t feel right either.

I officially came out to my dad and my sister at a fancy restaurant where the clientele consisted of legislators and other pervy white men. Of course my dad was very sweet about it, and of course my sister couldn’t be bothered. “Does that mean you’re going to cut off all your hair and start wearing cargo shorts?” she asked. I told my mom soon afterwards and she was just as supportive.


I will forever be grateful/resentful to the big N for introducing me to Jenny

Since my official coming out, I have traveled with my partner to my hometown of San Juan, PR where my awesome, open-minded relatives have met her and tried to beef her up with mofongo and ceviche. In a way, I’m glad Netflix had my back on this one. I never felt comfortable with the idea of “coming out” to begin with. If my heterosexual cousins never had to pronounce their love for the opposite sex, why did I? But Netflix saw to it that I’d never need to have a weird intervention-style meeting. Netflix not only helped me understand my sexuality, it helped my family to understand it as well. It normalized it in a way that heterosexual people take for granted. Netflix is kinda like my fag hag, the kind that wraps you up in a warm rainbow blanket with a bowl of soup when you’re recovering from a Cinco de Mayo hangover.

Thanks Netflix, I owe you one.

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Born in the small island of Puerto Rico, Nina currently lives in Athens, GA with her phantom corgi, Potato.You can find her work in BUST Magazine, HelloGiggles, Thought Catalogue and She spends most of her time daydreaming about what it would be like to hand out with Taylor Swift and writing in her blog,

Nina has written 21 articles for us.


  1. True story, the last conversation about gayness that I had with my mother was when she was yelling at me for watching Orange is the New Black on her account.
    Then my brother watched it and when my mom asked he just casually blamed it on me.
    Oh, Netflix.

  2. this is one of the most bizarrely true things i’ve read this week, and i hang out at autostraddle a lot.

  3. Does this mean that Netflix is the new HBO late night? I feel like it does. We should probably all be excited.

  4. My mom watched Orange is the New Black with me on Netflix! I canceled my Netflix account when I moved overseas and my conservative aunt is letting me use hers right now. She has ‘gay and lesbian films’ on her list of recommendations for the sheer amount of times I have played and replayed I Can’t Think Straight. And other movies, but I love that movie.

  5. Ha! This made me smile.

    I have a shared Netflix account with my family too. But my dad is the one who just marathoned Orange Is The New Black.

  6. Half my nights were spent adding entire film careers of my favorite actresses into my queue

    this is what got Netflix recommending lgbt movies to me

    I got Netflix before my parents did, so when they asked to share my account I had to go through and edit my queue and ratings. I was still not out to my self fully, so i was not ready to come out to them through my queue!

  7. I feel this. Though I was coming out before Netflix was a thing, so I spent a lot of time in the family computer room watching bad LGBT movies and TV shows on YouTube and really shady streaming websites with my mouse on the X button just in case a parent decided to come in unexpectedly. Still, all of those movies (as awful as some of them were) were such a big part of me figuring my shit out.

  8. I wish Netflix had existed while I was coming out. I used to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and the free movies on Logo, queer movies and TV shows illegally, and queer movies/the L Word smuggled into the house in my pant waists (to get them past the parental “if its not pg its not in the house” scanner) on my laptop, under the covers, at 3am to avoid getting caught.

    Such a great article. Glad to hear it went over well with your family in the end!

  9. If I had a Netflix account and shared it with my family, this would totally happen to me too!

    Although now I kind of wish this would happen, I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of coming out, and just wished my parents just knew. Does anyone want to tell them for me? Maybe I’ll start leaving my laptop open with Autostraddle

    • I’m so happy I saw this comment. I’ve always felt so lazy about coming out. I’ve already made peace with myself and my beliefs can’t my mom just know already? Do I really need to talk to her about it b/c that sounds uncomfortable. I should just Google a bunch of gay things and leave my browser open.

      • I agree with all the above. No one in my family talks about their relationships unless it’s to give someone shit about them; why should I have to address my (sadly hypothetical) love life? I figure I’ll just post photos on facebook with girlfriends and eventually tell them that I’m bringing someone to Christmas and she’d like to be part of the Secret Santa. Done.

      • Legit, I have come out to at least two people by accidentally leaving autostraddle open while using their computer/a shared computer.

  10. Literally the only reason I sprung for my own account instead of sharing my mother’s. She may be a little suspicious b/c she knows I’d always rather spend her money than my own but I want to watch gay movies, television shows and queer documentaries in peace. ya feel me?

  11. Honestly, I feel really validated reading all these comments. Netflix was the final piece in the puzzle that outed me to myself, and it’s great to share in some commonality of experience with fellow ASers.

    Last weekend, my very straight friend babysat my dog and I let her use my account. Now my Netflix is very confused at what to recommend. I think it might be looking for a lesbian version of ‘The Notebook’…

  12. My parents only had the dvd plan, so I made myself an instant account before going to college the next month. Then my parents wanted to watch OITNB using my account. I had used my preferred name as my account name and had to change it before they saw, and remove my rating cause I had said I hadn’t seen it.

      • F’real. AS now has testimonials for DAYS. Maybs we could get some free subscriptions out of the deal so we can stop freaking out our families (or in my case, neighbors) with our incessant need to drool over Laverne Cox, Natasha Lyonne, Samira Wiley, Laura Pepron, ETC ETC

  13. Woah this one hit close to home. I wasn’t outed to my family through netflix, but outed to myself, for sure. t think I watched Chely Wright’s Wish me Away on netflix at least 3 or 4 times in the weeks leading up to a my trip home in which I planned (and did) come out. Tears were involved every. single. time. I also went on a kick of watching all the LGBT documentaries because I felt I didn’t know enough….I’m still sad they took down Before Stonewall and After Stonewall.

  14. this is giving me happy memories of sidling into blockbuster eyeing the aisles for the two or three glbt movies in stock, and having to travel to ANOTHER blockbuster because the first one didn’t have the incredibly true adventure of 2 girls in love.

  15. I was outed to my boyfriend’s family because I shared his Netflix, which he shared with all of his siblings. His little (17 yr old) brother noticed that Netflix was recommending steamy lesbian dramas.

    sorry I’m not sorry.

  16. I am ancient by AS standards so I used to get my LGBT movies (and every terrible movie Angelina Jolie was ever in) by searching the movie channels on my parents satellite and then setting the VCR to record them. They were usually on in the middle of the night when no one else was watching TV, which helped.
    By the time Netflix was a thing I had already moved out of my parents house, but I still felt like I’d hit the jackpot. Finally, terrible lesbian films delivered right to my door!

  17. I love their Gay & lesbian selection :). They have such a great foreign films which i’ve never seen. When I noticed that they have But I’m a cheerleader made my life so much better

  18. Ho, boy, I wish we had Netflix when I was in high school. I had to record LGBT-themed movies off HBO or Cinemax in the middle of the night because that’s the only time they’d usually air them.

  19. Haha, what a modern story! I love it. Thanks for writing, and I’m glad that your coming out experience went well.

    Netflix usually seems to have a fairly decent selection of LGBTQ+ movies/shows. I know it’s been helpful to me…and I’m grateful for having my own account, as I’m still in the closet!

  20. I too am on the older end of the AS spectrum, and used to record tv series with any lesbian in it on vcr, I was caught sneakily watching one day and thus the spiral to coming out occurred. I noticed recently that on the xbox 360 version of UK Netflix the LGBT section seemed to have vanished at first I was angry and then I noticed all of the titles were integrated into other categories such as romance, documentary etc. Yes finding things might be harder but in a way it appears that UK Netflix has attempted equality…at least on my xbox, I can’t speak for Web or anything.

  21. Despite being out and having a really supportive family, I still feel super awkward about them finding queer movies in my recently watched section.

    • It’s the urge to proclaim “I’m watching it for the plot!” that makes it feel so seedy, I think.

  22. I am eternally grateful that Netflix added the Profile setting and that my parents have no idea how to use it.

  23. I just made an account so I could comment on this because almost the exact same thing happend to me last spring.
    I currently go to prepschool and board there, while sharing a netflix account with my mom. As soon as I started discovering the wonders of the “gay and lesbian” section, I had to find a way to cover my tracks, but then I had a stoke of genius; if I let my roommate (and best friend) use my account she will fill the “watch history” with gossip girl and greys anatomy, which would hopefully balance out my gay splurges. But unfortunately this plan backfired, because my roommate got as hooked on the L word as I had, and now twice the amount of gay media was being consumed on her account. Before we count find a solution for this problem I received a text from my mom regarding a vegan documentary I watched a few days ago. The text read, “are you thinking about becoming vegan? I know lots of vegans from college and it would be fine with that of you were.” Now I thought this was an awfully strange thing to say, so I checked my watch history and noticed the documentary was nestled between the L word and an obviously trashy lesbian movie (one that I didn’t even enjoy watching!). I almost died of embarrassment in that moment and was to terrified to text her back untill the next day, when I said, “Nope I’m not vegan” hoping that the “I’m clearly a raging homo though” would be implied. This was an odd relief because I was really uncomfortable with talking about my sexuality out loud except for a close group of friends (some of which were also gay) and let my mom know what was up without me having to talk about a part of myself I’m still working on accepting. I mean, I’m only 17 and still have a long way to go.

  24. Before I was out I was flipping through the Netflix thingie on my television (it hooks up to it) with my aunt and seriously…most of Recently Watched movies were from the Gay and Lesbian section.

    She did a slow side eye at me and we continued to scroll. She never mentioned it, haha.

  25. This is the exact reason I changed my password and told my little sister that Netflix didn’t allow users to be in different cities. I wasn’t out to myself, and I certainly wasn’t ready to deal with any questions. However, my first video -related indication involved me scouring my public library’s movie section for anything and everything gay related.

  26. I’m really thankful for the profiles thing they introduced. I’ve got Christopher and His Kind and some other LGBT movies saved to my list (though for some reason I haven’t found a lot of lesbian movies that interest me, guess I’m too picky with my film genres) and I would be mortified if my parents & brother saw that I’d watched some of the things I’ve watched.

  27. One of the major events that helped me come out to myself was when I was housesitting for my next-door neighbors for a month the summer after my freshman year of college. They had Netflix on their TV, and I spent the whole month watching everything from the Gay & Lesbian category, because I wasn’t on my parents’ Netflix account and I figured my neighbors wouldn’t say anything. I probably watched My Summer of Love 3 times that month…

  28. As long as we’re comparing stories…

    This is how ancient I am: In college, I found an online VHS home rental service to rent these two movies I wanted to see that I couldn’t find at my local outlets. And I didn’t even blink at $10 a pop plus postage.

    This is how gay I am: The two movies were “Yo, la Peor de Todas” and “The Celluloid Closet.”

    This is how oblivious I am: It took me 16 more years to come out to myself.

    In my defense, if Netflix streaming had been a thing when I was in college, I would have figured it out a lot sooner.

  29. Same here, good article. I’m bi and out to my bf and my close friends. But my sister used my ipad and thus my Netflix and was like… “So you watched a lot of lezzy flicks.” and I was like “Surprise!”.

    It was actually a weight lifted. Thanks Netflix. Lol.

  30. I think this is literally happening to me right now.

    I look back now at the moment I said “Sure, Mom! You can use my Netflix account for the family television” with regret, but also I think it gives her a few hints. One day I will actually come out to her, but until then, I will let The L Word season 3 on my Recently Watched list to the work for me.

    ALSO CAN WE PLEASE GET SOME GOOD GAY FILMS UP IN MY LIST?! Why does it feel like every queer movie on Netflix is a Crouching Homo, Hidden Gay/Coming out plot??
    Le sigh.

  31. I ended up getting my own Netflix account because while I had been out for a while, I wasn’t prepared for my family to see the sheer volume of crappy lesbian romance movies I watch regularly.

  32. When I was coming to terms with my sexuality (pre-Netflix) I used to watch Sugar Rush, The L Word, and That One episode of Skins on a dodgy streaming site and then delete the history from the home computer. Was useless of course as my mum seemed to know I was a lesbian before I did. Can definitely relate to this story.

  33. I would have loved to have something like Netflix before I came out, especially when I was younger and living in a conservative small town. I’m sure it would have helped me feel a lot less alone.

    All hate-watching aside, watching The L Word as a college freshman was kind of revolutionary. I had already met my circle of queer friends and all of that, but seeing us represented in popular culture was a big thing.

  34. Dude! Yes.
    I cancelled my account awhile ago to save money and have been using the family’s Netflix.
    At first, when I re-watched an episode of The L Word out of temptation, knowing that it would appear on ‘Recently Watched,’ I was nervous my mom would confront me the next morning. She hasn’t confronted me to this day.
    But my little sister whom I’ve came out to usually watches Netflix the most, second to me, and she gives me a ‘Well what do we have here?’look whenever the list loads. She always gets mad at me because I’ve continually watched gay movies and left them to be discovered. She doesn’t want me making it awkward for my mom. But I’ve decided that I love the fact that Netflix has helped me come out and have utilized this precious discreet way of doing it. The family gets together to watch Netflix often, so I’m sure they’ve seen the group of naked women coddling on the screen more than once and the other movies…like’But I’m A Cheerleader,’ which I re-watched the other day as well. ;]

    I ain’t ashamed anymore! Look at what I’m watching on your account, Mom! I love girls! Mwuahahahahaha.

  35. This reminds me of furiously changing the background image of my laptop when my mom came to visit me in college! Goodbye L Word cast, hello stock photo of a waterfall.

  36. This would have been me if I hadn’t known that my mom and dad use Netflix nearly as much as me and my sister. I tried to hide my own L Word marathon by using obscure streaming sites.

    Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know how to delete my browser history… Yeah, good times.

  37. I can really relate to this. Not exactly with netflix, since it’s not available in my country but with lgbt-themed tv shows and movies. Actually, it was the tv show Queer as Folk that did the trick. Before that I was clueless.

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