Thanks to ABC Family’s new series The Fosters for sponsoring this post. Click here to see more of the discussion. Also, watch the series premiere of The Fosters on Monday, June 3 at 9/8c only on ABC Family.
Finally. A television mom like me! I am so excited to see The Fosters hit primetime.
I’m from the television generation, weaned on M*A*S*H and Archie Bunker and The Jeffersons. We know intimately that the stories that are welcomed into our homes dually reflect and advance cultural trends, and that the TV friends we make are relationships that can last a lifetime. Right now, most of us could sing the Brady Bunch theme song, and also could explain what we learned about blended families from that show. When I was little, Mary Tyler Moore’s hat fling told me more about the advancements of the women’s movement than anything else, and it gave me the encouragement to dream of a career in journalism, just like Mary.
You’re gonna make it after all!
But I certainly didn’t have any lesbian mom role models to look to for encouragement back then. The Fosters is breaking ground in primetime television by bringing us our first sitcom featuring a lesbian-led family.
Finally, I’ll see myself. Sure, I’m a bit like other wonderful television mothers. I’m full of heart like Tami Taylor. I’ve got a little a little bit of Claire Huxtable swagger in me. I’m often a Lucy wreck. And on a good day I’m a bit like Alicia Florrick in that career, love and family, I want it all on my own terms and am not worried about being a good wife.
But all of these mothers are straight (despite desperate tweets to Juliana Margulies imploring her to consider switching teams).
I’ve waited a long, long time to see lesbian motherhood featured in a television series like we’re about to see in The Fosters. I can’t wait because it feels good for me to see my type of family represented on television. Social service-minded lesbians who have creatively created family constellations? Check and check! I know at least thirty. Make that eleventy hundred.
It also feels promising to know that homes across the world, people who might not know a lesbian couple raising children can safely experiment with bringing them into their homes, can use the show as a talking point with their kids. Straight families can see that lesbian moms are just like them.
Great gay characters have been so few and far between that I think I can name all of them off of the top of my head, even if you don’t bet me a Subaru. When LGBT characters appear, the queer community celebrates them like it’s Disco Ball Eve (see also: the GLAAD Awards).
Alas, there haven’t been many. So as an underrepresented group forced to make do with a small media closet, lesbian viewers have also creatively read between the lines or “queer” straight characters or shows. Watching television in the late 70s and early 80s, my media icons were girls who seemed to be this unnameable thing that I was, girls like Jo on the Facts of Life or like Kristy McNichol’s roles. Christine Cagney was a hero, just because she seemed possibly, maybe lesbian or something like it, something that felt familiar, and her professional partnership with Lacey felt serious and real, like a marriage. We took what we could get.
Eventually in ’98 my beloved Will & Grace celebrated the truth of found-families for many LGBT people and gave us all many cool gay and gay-friendly TV friends to treasure. This not only felt amazing and comforting to me as a lesbian, but was also instrumental in both reflecting and modeling gay acceptance by straight culture. One of my family members began talking to me specifically because of Will. Will was gay, yes, very, and also just a nice guy living his life. I love all of the characters on that show, and also admire how the writers made Will the most “normal” of the wacky bunch. Will and Jack were adored by Grace and Karen on our trusted television sets in our living rooms and bedrooms. This modeled acceptance for everyone in the simplest, I Love Lucy of ways.
Recently Modern Family and The New Normal have normalized gay fatherhood in groundbreaking ways. In primetime! Yay for that! We’ve also had lesbian mom characters emerge here and there, like the complicated Ann and Nora on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Showtime’s The L Word included an important Tina and Bette plotline about becoming parents, and I lapped up each motherhood episode like luscious lychee lollipops (did they ever use that for a title?), even though when it aired I was well past the gayby years in raising my own children.
But a full-on focus on lesbian motherhood in primetime? The Fosters is the first.
This is a huge moment, for all of us, a MTM hat-in-the-air moment. When my kids or other children of lesbians meet someone who has never met a family like ours, they’ll now have a mainstream context. “Oh, sort of like the moms on The Fosters.” Our children will see themselves portrayed with acceptance. Young women who know they are gay will see The Fosters and might be able to see themselves someday becoming parents. They might feel less excluded and maybe like anything is possible for them. When voters consider my family’s equal rights, they might feel less scared about gay marriages because they know and like The Fosters clan.
The Fosters is bringing voice to huge truths about lesbian families. We are creative in manifesting our families. As a demographic we are highly represented in the service professions. And day-in, day-out, we simply work hard and try to care for each other, and it’s comical and serious and banal and interesting, just like family life is for anyone else.
Lesbian moms like me on television? Finally! Hats in the air! We’re gonna make it after all!
Join me in watching the premiere of The Fosters on Monday, June 3 at 9/8c only on ABC Family.
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