The tragic lesbians: why representation needs to include more HEAs

Representation matters, right? We all agree with that. We all want to see more LGBTA+ in our fiction because it’s important for those voices to be heard. It’s important for people to see themselves in stories, because when they don’t, they become invisible.

The other part of the representation matters argument is this: the type of representation matters. I’m not going to gatekeeper and say that only certain types of representation should exist, but I do think it’s important to think about how we’re portraying people in our writing and question the choices we make.

Go and read this beautiful piece about the problems of the tragic lesbian trope.

Are you back? Right. Good.

When I was growing up and trying to figure out who and what I was, one of the confusing and painful parts was that every time I saw a girl falling for another girl, it ended badly. One of them died. In every story I saw or read, one of them died. Women who love women–lesbian or bisexual–never get their happily every after. Their lives are angst-filled and painful, and then they die. If they’re lucky, they get to kiss the woman they loved, but they always die. It’s why the Tragic Lesbian Trope (TM) became so well-known and hated, and it’s still happening all the time. Just look at The 100 fandom last week.

Visibility is important, but positive visibility is even more important, in my opinion. The hard stories need to exist, obviously, but so do the happy stories. We need to write the stories where women get to live. Where lesbians and bisexual women get their happily ever after with the woman they love. Where coming out isn’t the worst thing that ever happened to them. Where meeting the love of their life isn’t the first step towards their death or their lifetime of loneliness.

We need to see the women who have been together for thirty years and are still deeply in love with each other. We need to see the women who propose and get married without losing their families over it, because that’s legal now and I’m still furious about Jenny’s Wedding. We need to see the girl asking her best friend to be her prom date and actually going to the prom as a beautiful couple, instead of being rejected and ridiculed. We need the lesbian romcoms with happy endings.

For the young women trying to figure out who and what they are, we need to let them see that falling in love with another woman is not the end. It’s not going to end in tragedy. Bisexual women don’t have to push down that side of them and pin all their hopes on meeting the right man to be happy. Lesbians don’t need to feel condemned to sadness and loneliness.

When it comes to representation, the happily ever afters matter.


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