Teenage Lesbian Characters On TV

An ode to the rise in teenage lez/bi characters on the small screen…

Being the over-indulgent Netflix subscriber that I am, I don’t believe in the masochistic practice of one-episode-a-day, which means I’m pretty well-versed in Netflix Originals.

Something I’ve noticed through my binge-watching is the wonderful upsurge of teenage lesbian and bisexual characters, much like the ones I wish I had when I was 13 and in denial.

Representation aside, these innocent and very life-like portrayals of queer puppy love normalise feelings between young girls. When I was a young girl, the hyper-sexualisation of lesbians in film made me feel dirty, like my sexuality was nothing but something for young boys to masturbate too.

Anyway, here they are in all their glory — the fictional teenagers that are actually what young, queer experiences should be about.

Elena Maria Alvarez Riera Calderón Leyte-Vidal Inclán

One Day At A Time spoke to my heart enough as it was. The Cuban-American family comedy deconstructs the harmful stereotypes of latinos that exist in modern day America as well as Latin American, patriarchal ideals of women.

The story centres around Penelope, an army nurse veteran, and her family, including her first generation Cuban mother and her two children. Elena, her 15-year-old daughter, confirmed she was gay very much like I did — by watching lesbian porn.

Not so much a realisation as a confirmation, she comes out of the closet to many mixed reactions (and don’t we all?) In season two Elena navigates the trials and tribulations of teenage love when she falls for Syd, a non-binary friend.

They go from splitting a cookie to sharing their first kiss. The innocence of it all, the way it was presented as natural as it would’ve been if she was straight, made my confused, 13-year-old heart very warm.

Watch on Apple TV

Casey Gardner 

Atypical won a gold star from me even before they introduced the bisexuals. Sam, an 18-year-old boy on the spectrum navigating life, is the main character. His younger sister Casey beings to develop feelings for a friend in season two, after losing her virginity to her boyfriend.

Casey and Izzie bond over the same things: they both feel like the parent to their siblings, find it difficult to navigate working-class life amongst upper middle class school friends, and feel like they’re drifting from their boyfriends.

The first time they nearly kiss they’re in Casey’s bedroom, and they both try to go back to being “just friends”, but we all know it just doesn’t work that way. Season two wraps when Casey tells Izzie that sometimes, “a thing just feels so right” and reaches for her hand.

The deliciously queer cliff-hanger is not as overtly gay as Elena and Syd’s first kiss — but the simple interaction, the bisexuality of it all, normalises what I once felt. Attracted to my boyfriend but also to that pretty girl in school. Confusing but normal, too.

Watch on Apple TV

Kate Mesner

Everything Sucks is a bit like a modern day Freaks And Geeks, but less grunge and a lot more small-town.

Kate Mesner, a sophomore in high school, hesitantly starts a guy friend. Soon after she realises she’s developing feelings for Emaline, who’s a year older.

After she breaks up with her boyfriend and a somewhat rocky start to her relationship with Emaline, Kate realises she is very gay.

I revel in the moments they share together, from sitting next to each other on the bus to kissing for the first time in the school theatre. Its not overtly sexual or overdone, its just a first kiss.

Now don’t get me wrong, twenty year old me lives for the overtly sexual. But these are the characters 15-year-old me needed, not the overblown, artificial representation of queerness that porn “taught” me.

Alas, what’s done is done — and I hope there’s a 13-year-old girl out there that learns from these girls that she’s not just there for the male gaze, but that where there’s lesbians, there’s love too.

Watch on Apple TV