Television and the Quest for Queerness
I came to the realization that I am a queer girl slowly over the course of my life. Coming into my gayhood was a slow and soft realization, never jolting, but often shit my pants scary. I had little baby ‘aha-moments’ over the course of my life, although I never really noticed the sexiness of a woman. I was never attracted to a lady’s boobs or butt or curves. I just felt drawn to the softness of a woman. Women had a divine feminine spark that the majority of men I knew lacked. It wasn’t until I was older and met girls who “looked queer” that I felt something. Soon those feelings turned into desire.
The television and I are best friends. As a child I consisted on a diet of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Roswell, and The X-Files. I had and still have a fascination with the creepy and the queer. Buffy was the epitome of girl power, starring lesbian icon Willow Rosenberg. Roswell had aliens, no lesbians, but I love aliens, and The X-Files starred a ton of queer side characters and, of course, aliens. The characters were never in your face gay, but it was hinted. EVERYBODY KNEW IT, at least I did. I still remember sneaking glimpses of The X-Files from my grandmother’s bedroom the hall across from mine as a navy blue glow filled her room. It was like she was being abducted herself. I would lay in my bed exhilarated with fear and undiscovered gayness.
My love affair with television continued after that, even though I never grew up with cable. I could binge watch all the shows at my dad’s house or my grandmother’s place absorbing everything the world had to offer through a big square black box with bunny ears. Soon my cable addiction grew into a Netflix obsession and I was able to revisit all of my childhood television shows and more.
The only interaction I had with other queer folk as a child was through movies and television shows. I had always felt a connection to other LGBTQ characters and developed a taste for queer theory at a young age. I remember my mother bringing Bend It Like Beckham home from Blockbuster and I understood that Jules and Jess were more than just friends. I couldn’t tell you what they were, but they were definitely more than friends. Even though I never had a crush on a girl on a deeper level I knew I was like the two girls on the tiny screen, even if I wasn’t sporty, British, or Indian.
I first accepted my gayness while watching television, because television is my life. I have a shrine of the sacred black box inside of my closet filled with flowers and tiny moldy food offerings. The show was Adventure Time and I was the ripe old age of twenty. It was an episode featuring Marceline the Vampire Queen and Princess Bubblegum. Sitting on my itchy green couch I realized that they were both giant gaymos, Bubblegum probably being the gayest. Bubblegum never had a relationship with a man just because she knew what she wanted. Men were not a part of the equation.
Marceline is a biracial bisexual who likes men, a literal biracial (demon and human), but never went down that road because of her shyness. Just like me. I let my queer imagination run wilder than wild. It dawned upon me while watching the two interact, this is the type of relationship I want to have. This is what I’ve been searching for. After the episode I googled and searched for everything and anything that could confirm if my hypothesis was correct. That yes indeed these two women were queer for each other.
I finally acknowledged that I wanted to be with a girl after watching Adventure Time.
Marceline the Vampire Queen is my second mixed queer girl inspiration.
But even before this I was introduced to the idea that I could be gay by Jasika Nicole. She was the only Woman of Color on the show Fringe so I became a little obsessed. I googled her and realized that she loved to craft. Just like me! She’s from the south; I spent a good part of my formative years and am currently still stuck in the south. She even went to college a couple of hours away from where I live. I searched through her website and read her comic Closetalkers. I felt a close connection to the characters, especially one of the protagonists who is unhappy in her hetero relationship and very close to her queer friend, but she just doesn’t know what’s wrong with her straight relationship. Queer vibes much?
As a queer stifled mixed little brown girl, slightly confused about her sexuality I was never introduced to the idea that there could be another queer little brown girl running around. Especially one in a happy successful relationship. I was hidden so deep in the closet that I thought the panic attacks I was having about possibly being gay was a normal part of my anxiety. I wasn’t queer I just had A LOT of anxiety. I had never seen someone like me be queer. Until I had come across Jasika. In her interviews she describes her realization of liking women as casual. She had to navigate being gay and the realization, but her life wasn’t shook and the world didn’t end.
As a mixed girl living in the south I have always lived in the in between. The in between of being not black and not Puerta Rican but a mix of both. Everything about me has been in the in between. I’m living in the south, but I am from the north. I went to an all-white school and never saw myself in anybody. I was one of the few people who were mixed, I might have been the only one and all of the queer girls were cool white femme girls. I never felt a connection and I kept on thinking about boys.
I am the brown sauce in your mixed veggies and tofu. You’re never sure what’s in it, it’ll always keep you guessing, and it’s delicious. Being mixed race people would and still always assume what I am. I was never black enough and I was never Puerta Rican enough. My hair wasn’t even the right mix of curly. I was never enough. This translated over into my sexuality. I never “looked” gay. I didn’t “act” gay. I am a brown femme and never saw anyone represent me on the tiny screen or in real life until Jasika Nicole. She is the real life version of what I could become.
Although I was still deeply closeted through my television-real life evolution, Jasika Nicole gave me life and inspiration. I could stay in my room and watch movies like Jenny’s Wedding without repercussion and questioning from family members. But knowing there was a woman like Jasika Nicole turned my Pinocchio self into a real girl. There ARE people like me.
In High School being queer felt like a club I wasn’t allowed to try out. All the gay people I knew have always known they were gay. They never liked being with guys and were all white. I never had a problem with the opposite sex. I never found men attractive or a turnoff. My first crush was on Luke Skywalker in Kindergarten and John Smith in Pocahontas as I got older. But as guys wanted to date me something always felt off. There was a block I couldn’t get through, something was always missing.
I never knew being gay was an option because I was surrounded by a specific type of queer girl. White feminist, yet somehow slightly racist. I was undervalued because I was a brown girl and the white girls at school exoticised me. There were comments made about my body, hair, and ethnicity everything. It’s hard being stuck in the middle ethnically, but being brown and queer was even harder. I still don’t know how to navigate this world. But Jasika Nicole made it okay for me to exist because someone else like me existed. Marceline and Princess Bubblegum showed me what a loving relationship could be. Television was a safe way to experience being gay through different incarnations.
I started writing this essay a year ago. I wasn’t sure of who I was or what I wanted. Again I thought there was only one option: LESBIAN. Inbetween writing and experiencing life I have been attracted to almost every gender on the spectrum. My fantasies have included cuddling, kissing, and things that round all the bases with all genders. Again I was living in the inbetween. I could only be one or the other, when in fact I could be anything I wanted because my identity is fluid.
Television allowed me to experience myself in many incarnations, but the screen with flashing pictures couldn’t live my life for me. Television could only wet my pallet and introduce me to the diversity that was alien in the world I resided in. It is not the instrument that is flawed; it is how the human starseed inbetween queer femme being interacts with it.