Unburied and unbroken: The best lesbian TV relationships
It’s only recently that we’ve been seeing a greater uptick in LGBTQ+ representation on television. While some shows end with “burying your gays”, more creators are taking a conscious effort to make sure that those in the LGBTQ+ community have the representation sorely lacking for a long time.
We’ve talked about the greatest lesbian love scenes in film before. Now we turn to our sisters in the television landscape and their more heartfelt moments. There have been some pretty amazing lesbian relationships in the past 25 years of TV. It’s time that we pay tribute to the trailblazers of the past while cheering our faves in the present.
Carol & Susan (Friends)
Parts of Friends have not aged well since its premiere 25 years ago, especially in regards to the LGBTQ+ community. Even so, Carol (Jane Sibbett) and Susan (Jessica Hecht) deserve a place on the list. They were the first lesbian couple to have a wedding ceremony on TV.
Even though Carol & Susan had to deal with Ross (David Schwimmer) being The Worst, they still had a realistic relationship with the highs and lows of any married couple. They were also devoted parents to their son, Ben.
Alex Danvers & Maggie Sawyer, Alex Danvers & Kelly Olsen (Supergirl)
One of the best storylines in Supergirl’s second season is Alex Danvers’s (Chyler Leigh) realization of her sexuality. In part, this was due to the verisimilitude of the portrayal.
Sometimes, you don’t know your preferences until you really challenge yourself on them. With Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), Alex explores and loves a huge part of herself. While the beloved Sanvers didn’t work out, it was a moving, sweet relationship that allowed Alex to blossom.
We include Alex’s newest relationship with Kelly Olsen (Azie Tesfai) because it’s still relatively young. Even so, the duo have an incredibly mature romance. They talk to each other like adults about problems they are having with each other or within themselves. You don’t really see that type of open and honest communication on TV these days.
Nicole & Waverly (Wynonna Earp)
We’re going to put aside the season-four production troubles this cult-fave sci-fi series hit. Instead, we’re going all in on the beautiful story of Sheriff Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell) and Waverly Earp (Dominique Provost-Chalkley). Sure, there have been secrets and forces conspiring again these two. Like any good couple, they face things head on and on their own terms.
Waverly, like Alex Danvers, showcases the reckoning some people face in life when they realize that they may not be as straight as they previously thought. It’s a real and honest portrayal for the pair. Let’s hope that Wayhaught remains just as strong going forward.
Alex & Piper (Orange is the New Black)
Orange is the New Black had its issues in later seasons, but we still have to applaud for the romance between Alex (Laura Prepon) and Piper (Taylor Schilling). The chemistry between the two over the course of seven seasons just smolders. Whether their fires are stoked or cooled depends on the situation, but they’re still utterly drawn to each other.
Even though a lot of fans have their issues with Piper, you still have to give her props. When everyone tells her just to divorce Alex or forget about her, Piper plans a life and future with her, instead. That’s some serious devotion.
Cheryl & Toni (Riverdale)
Nothing says ride-or-die devotion like finding your girlfriend has been keeping her brother’s corpse like he’s still alive, and not running for the hills. Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) & Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) are utterly devoted to each other – ven though Cheryl Blossom is a gothic heroine in at 21st-century world.
Toni is devoted to her girlfriend, but also willing to call her out when the time’s right. Now if she can talk Cheryl into getting some therapy so they can rebury Jason’s corpse, we’ll be in business.
Clarke & Lexa (The 100)
This may be one of the more tragic relationships on the list, but it still needs to be on there. Where do you find love in a future, post-apocalyptic world? Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) found the answer over the course of The 100 seasons two & three.
Despite being a fan-favorite couple, Lexa was still killed off. This sparked a fierce debate over the “bury your gays” trope and led to ClexaCon, a fan convention that focuses on LGBTQ+ women and allies.
Even though Lexa didn’t believe in love herself (at first anyway), the relationship between her and Clarke inspired a whole lot of passion and support from fans.
Stef & Lena (The Fosters)
Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) Adams Foster have very hectic lives with drama at every turn. Yet, these matriarchs remain a solid and steady rock for their children. Even when their own worlds feel turned upside, the duo still shows respect and love with each other. They are wives and partners in every sense of the word, willing to tackle the challenges and chaos life throws at them.
Raising five children (biological, adopted, and fostered) can be really tough. These two clearly balance each other out in the way that all the best couples achieve a balance. It’s just another example of healthy adult relationships that we so sorely need on television.
Brittany & Santana (Glee)
Before Riverdale hit our airwaves, you would be hard-pressed to find a show more insane than Glee. While the plots may not have always made sense, the show’s romances were always worth tuning in for. The romance between cheerleaders Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris) and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) may have started off as a one-off joke, but it quickly grew into one of the sweetest romances of the series.
Brittany brought out Santana’s kinder and gentler side, giving her bravery to face the world as her authentic self. Santana accepted Brittany’s unique view of the world, allowing her to face the unknown and uncertain future. This was one happy ending that was earned after years of trials & tribulations along the way.
Shane & Carmen (The L Word)
The L Word may not have recieved the critical acclaim of Queer as Folk, but the show remains full of different and nuanced portrayals of lesbian relationships. Since one has to be picked, then it goes to Shane (Katherine Moennig) and Carmen (Sarah Shahi). Carmen & Shane were in an ever-present state of on and off again, but fans always hoped that things would work out for them in the end.
Carmen was left at the altar by Shane in the end, but we were right with them until then.
Willow & Tara (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
The romance between Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was downright revolutionary. Willow’s storyline reached out to LGBTQ+ teens in the 90s/00s and let them know that they were not alone. Hers and Tara’s relationship was incredibly sweet and deep, remaining one of the best in the franchise.
That made the tragedy of Tara’s death all the more heartbreaking. Even with that heartbreak, their story is one of the centerpieces of Buffy.