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LGBTQ+ People on the Power of Watching ‘The L Word’ for the First Time

Katherine Moennig and Sarah Shahi in season three. ©Showtime Networks Inc./Courtesy Everett Collection

Caitlin Copple Masingill, 36, Boise, founder and president, Full Swing PR

The L Word was huge in my own coming-out process. I binge-watched the series in my apartment in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I worked as a cocktail waitress for a year. I watched it with my best friend, Amy, who was straight but very supportive of my coming out-process. Having also grown up in rural Idaho, she was pretty intrigued by the L.A. lesbian subculture of the day. I couldn’t find any lesbians to date in Idaho, so it was a rough year, but watching The L Word gave me hope that I’d find someone eventually and be able to explore my true sexual orientation. Sure enough, when I moved to Montana for graduate school, Missoula proved to be full of lesbians, and watch parties of The L Word ensued. I met my first girlfriend shortly after I moved there. I dated women pretty much exclusively for a decade but ended up getting back together with my uber-supportive college sweetheart, a dude named Jeff. I prefer to identify as queer and not bisexual. I feel like I’m 80% gay and 20% bi, and Jeff happens to fall in the 20%. We’ve been married since June 2017 and have a three-year-old, and we live in Boise. I was the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Missoula City Council in 2011, when I was 27.”

Kenny Screve, 24, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, LGBT+ advocate and social media influencer

“The first time I watched The L Word, I had recently came out of the closet. During that time, I was extremely afraid of not being accepted. Then I found the The L Word. I was extremely happy to watch something that supported the LGBT+ community. I thought it was so surreal and necessary. I enjoyed every minute of The L Word and really thought the world needed to see couples that aren’t heterosexual. The characters on the show were amazing and did a really good job showcasing what it’s like to be a lesbian. Meaning, their relationships aren’t much different from your typical heterosexual relationship. The show reminded me of Sex and the City, lesbian edition. The L Word also shows the struggle LGBT+ people have to go through on the daily. It really depicts the lives of some of my lesbian friends. I loved Tina and Bette as a couple. Ultimately, I just think it’s important for society to play shows like this because it gives us LGBT+ folk something to relate to. It can be really annoying to watch a show that you can’t relate to whatsoever. I watched it in my dorm room alone and sometimes with a group of friends. But mostly alone. When I’m really into a show, I don’t like to get distracted from all the tea, but I enjoy conversations with my friends about it. As a gay man, I totally related to some of the struggles faced by some of the L Word characters. Representation is super important. For society to move forward, it’s necessary.”

Mara Wilson, 32, Los Angeles, actor and writer

“As a teen, I was deeply closeted and thus conflicted about openly enjoying anything even rumored to be about women loving women. It was years before I admitted my love for the Spice Girls, let alone the Indigo Girls. Lesbians in pop culture were either the object of a joke or an object of male fantasy. So it was a relief when friends of mine started passing around DVDs of The L Word at boarding school. Yes, it was sensationalist and very of its time, but it was one of the first shows I saw that showed queer women as people. I remember being happy when I took a personality quiz and got Bette, and annoyed when I took another one and got Jenny. It was the first time I felt that I could identify fully with fictional queer women, maybe because all my friends, regardless of orientation, were doing it too.

”I definitely still had a long way to go, though: A few years later I saw a play in New York with my then boyfriend and said ‘Oh, my God!’ when I saw Kate Moenning’s name in the playbill. My boyfriend said, ‘What do you know that actress from?’ I said, ‘Oh, just from…stuff.’”

Melissa Kravitz is a writer based in New York City. Follow her at @melissabethk on both Instagram and Twitter.

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