When I was questioning and coming to terms with my sexuality, I started seeking out every queer female character I could find in mainstream media. It was challenging to find shows that I felt accurately represented me and the way I felt, especially because I was Questioning and no one ever really talks about or shows people in the process of questioning their sexuality. I eventually found bits and pieces of media that I connected with though and ate up any representation I came across.
Recently I was compiling a list for a questioning friend of my favorite tv shows, movies, and books that have good queer female-identifying characters, and I thought I’d share it. Please keep in mind that these are limited examples of what I have found, and they certainly do not represent the entirety of queer female representation in mainstream media.
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
I went into this movie knowing it had good actors (Emma Stone and Steve Carell) and that it looked potentially interesting considering the feminist subject-matter. I wasn’t sure about the whole tennis subject-matter because I honestly don’t know much or care much about tennis, but I thought I’d give it a chance. The whole premise of the movie, based on real events, is that World number one tennis player Billie Jean King (Stone) is going to compete against ex-champ Bobby Riggs (Carell) to show that women tennis players are just as good as male tennis players, if not better, and deserve equal pay in prize money. Because I didn’t know much about the movie or the real-life events, I didn’t know that Billie Jean King is gay. It was a pleasant surprise, then, when the story followed King’s personal life leading up to the big match. I don’t want to say too much in fear of giving anything away, so I’ll just say don’t let the tennis subject-matter turn you off from this movie. There’s way more to it than you think, and it’s so powerful, heartwarming, and invigorating.
Ellen Page got to be gay in this movie! Remember when she came out in 2014 in this video? She plays a young-ish woman in this movie who falls for Julianne Moore’s older character, Laurel Hester, a police lieutenant. But when Laurel gets diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, the story becomes about their fight for equal rights in their “domestic partnership.” It’s a very emotional, moving film, again based on real events. I highly recommend it if you love Ellen Page as much as I do. Julianne Moore is also great, and Steve Carell also happens to be in this one.
Rough Night (2017)
This movie is a lot more fun and carefree. It’s hard to summarize in an eloquent manner, but I’ll say that 1. It’s got Kate McKinnon. Need I say more? And 2. There are a couple of main characters who are gay/bi and it’s really nice seeing them treated like normal human beings who have their ups and downs in relationships. The whole friend group in this movie is great. I am a bit sad that Kate McKinnon isn’t the queer character in this one, but at least she’s in it and at least there are two other queer characters. If you’re looking to laugh and find representation in a typical girls-night-out comedy, Rough Night might be for you.
The Bold Type (2017)
This feminist, diverse, empowering show challenged all the negative stereotypes of women bosses and female friendship. It made me hopeful that one day I will work somewhere as empowering at Scarlet, the fictional global women’s magazine in the show, supposedly based off of Cosmopolitan. The Bold Type follows three young women who work for Scarlet and tackles all sorts of important topics including finding identity, managing friendships, questioning sexuality, and developing and maintaining relationships. Aisha Dee’s portrayal of Kat Edison is down-to-earth and honest, and you are bound to be hooked in the first episode when she meets Adena. This was by far my favorite tv show of the year, and I will continue to recommend it to everyone I know.
Supergirl (2015 – present)
I started watching this series because a friend told me there was a cute gay relationship in it — I was that desperate to find representation. But I’m so glad I started it! It takes a little while to get to the queer stuff, but once it’s there—oh my goodness is it adorable! And the show does a really good job in portraying a character questioning her sexuality in a real, relatable way. It was the first time I felt truly recognized, that I could say, Yes! That is exactly how I was feeling and what I was thinking. It was so validating and gratifying. The show in general is pretty fun and has some good characters in it. It is very superhero-y, which took me a little while to adjust to since I don’t usually watch those shows, but it’s worth it once you start watching it to keep going.
Black Mirror (2011 – present)
If you’re not feeling ready to commit to watching an entire show to see some queer representation, then Black Mirror might be perfect for you. I have only watched one episode of it, and I don’t currently plan on watching any others. Season 3, Episode 4, “San Junipero” is the episode to watch. It is a standalone episode, and feels like an entire movie filled with gayness. IMDb’s synopsis of the episode is probably all that I should give away: “In a seaside town in 1987, a shy young woman and an outgoing party girl strike up a powerful bond that seems to defy the laws of space and time.” If that isn’t enough to entice you, please just trust my glowing recommendation.
Easy (2016 – present)
Another single-episode-suggestion: Season 1, Episode 2 of Easy. The series follows different characters in each episode, all from intertwined friend groups in Chicago. Every episode is a new story and point of view on love and relationships. This one, “Vegan Cinderella” is a cute realistic portrayal of two women who meet at a concert and start a relationship, and it follows their ups and downs, compromises, realizations, and all the other things that come with being in a relationship. It’s a refreshing portrayal of a gay couple as real human beings, living their normal lives.
Here is simply a list of some of the books with gay female-identifying characters I have read, in order from favorite to least favorite (but still good).
You Know Me Well, by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Everything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour
We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour (can you tell I love Nina LaCour?)
Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, by Misa Sugiura
Our Own Private Universe, by Robin Talley
The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith (this got turned into the movie Carol, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which I have yet to see)
One amazing book that’s not YA Fiction is Hannah Hart’s Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded. Hannah Hart is a popular YouTuber, and this is her memoir. It is incredibly well written and details her unique life growing up with a schizophrenic mother and Jehovah’s Witness father.
There you have it! A basic list of some of my favorite movies, tv shows, and books with queer female characters represented positively. There are more pieces of media out there with good queer characters, and I will continue to search for and curate a better list of solid representation. I don’t think I’ll ever stop looking. But this list is a pretty good start for any teenage girl who’s looking to connect with fictional characters like herself. Enjoy!