There weren’t a lot of out and proud gay characters when I was growing up. Sure, there was Queer as Folk if your parents had a Showtime subscription and you could identify with doing poppers while getting rimmed. Gay characters from sitcoms were more like dolls. They were Ken dolls without love who showed up to say something funny with a head tilt and a finger snap. The characters that gave me inspiration were often the female leads.
Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Can you think of anyone more fabulous than Holly Golightly? Even the fabulous Audrey Hepburn was just a watered-down version from the Holly from the book. Here’s a woman who ran away from an abusive home in the middle of nowhere to chase her dreams in New York City. She was a survivor. The narrator, her best friend, is clearly gay and they hang out in a gay bar all the time. She’s a true ally. She talks openly and honestly about sex. When another character said it was unnatural for her to be so sex focused, she responded with, “It may not be normal, darling; but I’d rather be natural.” And isn’t that what every LGBT person wants to be?
Lady Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises
Lady Brett Ashley can’t even pretend to love the male lead because he lacks a penis. She rejects traditional femininity and gender roles by cutting her hair short and having several flings with various men. Brett even breaks up with a man she was seeing because he tried to make her more traditionally feminine. She looks and acts exactly as she wants and to hell with other people. She throws up her middle finger to gender norms.
Alice Ayres from Closer
Admittedly, I’ve only seen the movie and not the play. Alice can easily be anyone living in the closet. She leaves America to go to London, where she lies about everything to create a new life for herself. Her relationship ultimately ends due to her inability to tell the truth. She’s fiercely devoted to herself and her secrets, willing to sacrifice anything and everything to keep them.
Nancy Botwin from Weeds
Nancy Botwin is a single mother and starts a secret drug business to support her family. Though her secret is much more lucrative than being in the closet, I could identify with loving your family yet having this other life that you really wanted. You keep secrets to protect them and you can’t let your familial duty deny you happiness.