17 Inspirational, Innovative, and Influential Lesbian Couples on TV

I think we can all agree that lesbians are awesome. I think we can also agree that when they’re featured on television it makes the show 1000% times better than it was before they had been featured. While not all of these couples and characters received the writing and endings they deserved, I still think they were still inspirational, innovative, and influential — just by being on our televisions. This list was curated with the help of the talented Trish McNeely and my knowledgeable fiancé Katy. How many lesbians does it take to think up 17 fictional lesbian couples? Apparently it takes three.

1. Carol and Susan (Friends)

You might be thinking to yourself: really? She started with Friends on a geek blog? Well I'm going in pseudo chronological order, so hear me out. I've included Carol and Susan because they were innovate despite how straight and white Friends was. In "The One With the Birth" (1995) Susan and Ross bicker while Carol is giving birth. Ross like the asshat that he is, wants everyone to know that he's the father, and Susan finally tells him that everyone knows he's the father, but doesn't have a space or definition for her. For the show, and for 1995, it was a candid discussion surrounding queer relationships and parenthood.

2. Neptune and Uranus (Sailor Moon)

To the general heterosexual public, lesbians can be scary. Lesbians on television can be especially terrifying. Lesbians on cartoons? What will the children think! In the manga, and in the original Japanese TV version, Neptune and Uranus are very obviously queer and very obviously a couple. What did 90s American TV do? Make them cousins, of course. Definitely less scary. Luckily for us, in the original series, and the new Japanese versions, this couple is very here and very queer. This powerful couple helped paved the way for more cartoon queer lady love to make appearances.

3. Willow and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

There were a plethora of things wrong with how Tara died. But I'm not going to talk about that. Unfortunately for me, if I discounted every television TV relationship that ended in death I would have a much smaller list. But while they were both on Buffy, Willow and Tara were the first recurring depiction of a lesbian couple on prime time network series television in the United States. That in itself is pretty extraordinary. Lesbians and vampires — you would think that this would have happened before on TV in the United States.

4. Bette and Tina (The L Word)

I'm going to be honest with you, I think I'’ve seen maybe 4 or 5 complete episodes of The L Word. I didn't know it existed when it first aired, and even if I did I probably wouldn't have watched it anyway. No, I'm just way too lazy to go back and watch it. But everyone tells me that Bette and Tina were the couple. At a time where not many queer ladies were on television, I think despite all of the show's ups and downs (that I’ve heard about), this show and this couple helped paved the way for other queer ladies on our TV.

5. Paige and Alex (Degrassi: Next Generation)

In 2005, Degrassi introduced this couple to the show. Canada knew what the people wanted. They wanted a continuation of a teen soap-drama that included queer women. This couple and show was groundbreaking for me. My preteen and teen years were, how do I say this nicely, sheltered and sexually repressive? My parents really didn't talk about sexuality because their parents didn't, and Catholic school wasn't exactly a hotbed of exploration of ideas. Degrassi was a game changer. This was the first show that I actively watched that featured queer characters in a positive light. Bless those Canadians and their teen dramas.

6. Madame Vestra and Jenny (Doctor Who)

"I'm a lizard woman from the dawn of time. And this is my wife." That line from Doctor Who gets Madame Vestra and Jenny on the list. Doctor Who has had a spattering of queer characters and couples, but I can't think of one before or after these two that have been featured in multiple episodes. What's even more awesome is that the show included them in more episodes because the Doctor Who fan base loved the characters so much. Queer ladies in any science fiction is great. Having queer lady couples in my science fiction is even better.

7. Santana and Brittany (Glee)

Ryan Murphy's depiction of queer women (and men) usually leave a lot to be desired. There were many times where Santana and Brittany's relationship made me cringe. However, while it was on, Glee reached a wide audience. These people got to see two women in love with each other who communicated well and sang Fleetwood Mac to each other. It doesn't get much better than that.

8. Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen (Adventure Time)

No, technically Bubbline is not canon on the main Adventure Time show. However, the Marceline "Stakes" mini series features a sequence where Marceline is imagining herself getting older with Princess Bubblegum at her side. The comics also have several instances that imply that the two of them are together. Do they ever say flat out that they're together? No, but a lot of cartoons rely on subtlety for its show. At a book signing for The Adventure Time Encyclopedia, Olivia Olsen (the voice of Marceline the Vampire Queen), said that the two were couple. Of course, I would like the show to explicitly state that Bubbline is canon, but I'm not really the show's intended audience. There are many times where shows feel some sort of restraint or pressure to not include overtly queer content. Adventure Time could definitely follow Steven Universe's #(13) lead, but the inclusion of this relationship in the comics is a step in the right direction.

9. Cosima and Delphine (Orphan Black)

I'm going to be honest with you. I love Orphan Black and I love Cosima, but I'm not the biggest fan of Delphine and their relationship. I included them on this list because in the culture of burying gays, they have not sunk to that level. Delphine's fate hung in the balance of the last season, but without seeing her definitively die, it seemed obvious (to me) that she was still alive after being shot. It shouldn't be a miracle that a queer woman on TV could survive a non-fatal gunshot wound, but there are a couple of women on this list that would make it seem like any gunshot wound is automatically a death sentence for a queer woman on TV.

10. Korra and Asami (The Legend of the Korra)

What’s great about Korra and Asami is that their relationship evolves gracefully and naturally without the feel of an agenda or a "look how progressive we are" pat on the back. The writers of the show were unable to show them kissing as they held hands at the end of the season but have made it clear that these ladies are together. Nickelodeon made it impossible to fully show this relationship, but this couple paved the way for our other queer cartoon ladies.

11. Lauren and Bo (Lost Girl)

What's great about Lauren and Bo and Lost Girl in general is the sex-positive that surrounds the characters. It doesn't matter where you get support from or who you call family. It didn't matter what or who you were into, but you protect your chosen community. We need more queer lady relationships in fantasy television.

12. Steph and Lena (The Fosters)

Steph and Lena have a great, complicated, and beautiful relationship. Whoever writes the dialogue between the two of them is realistic and pretty much entirely on point. They talk things out. They struggle and disagree. They flirt and smack each other's butts. It's a graceful and natural depiction of a lesbian married couple with children. Steph and Lena are multi-dimensional with lots of character depth and development. One of them had cancer and didn't die from it. It's amazing!

13. Garnet: Ruby and Sapphire (Steven Universe)

Everything about Stephen Universe is fantastically queer. These badass ladies have relationships with whomever and it's never ever questioned. The fact that it is on Cartoon Network and that they continue the push the envelope further makes my queer little heart soar. I would pick all of the characters on this show, but I would have to say that my favorite relationship on the show is most definitely Garnet, AKA the fusion of Ruby and Sapphire. Ruby and Sapphire are their own individuals, but choose to be Garnet. It's all very unabashedly and unapologetically queer. Stephen Universe is making it obvious that shows without in-depth characters with complex relationships are just being lazy.

14. Clarke and Lexa (The 100)

This pairing was exciting. Another show with a lesbian couple where no one commented on their sexuality. No one doubted Lexa 'cause she was into ladies. No one was shaming Clarke for having a giant crush on Lexa. It was beautiful, until it wasn't. Unfortunately for Lexa and The 100 in general, the writers “never heard of” the bury your gays trope. Lexa got a stray bullet in the stomach (sound familiar?) while they waited around for her to die. The lesbian fan base of this show had been previously supporting this show for patting itself on the back for being so gosh darn progressive. Then an avalanche of lazy writing fell on us. If this is where the story ended, I might not have included them in this list. But the people of the internet were able to expose this trope for the garbage that it is. They were also able to raise over $135,000 for the Trevor Project. The lesbian community was hurting and was able to turn it into something positive. It was truly inspirational.

15. Jeri and Wendy Ross/Pam (Jessica Jones)

I can hear it now: "Why would you include Jeri? She's morally ambiguous at best, evil at the worst. How is that inspirational?” I wouldn't call it that either. But the fact that this character was changed from a man in the comics into a lesbian who is in a relationship on the Netflix series makes it revolutionary unto itself. I also like that her moral compass is completely twisted. We need more twisted and complicated lesbians on my television. Queer ladies aren't always walking inspirational billboards and what we watch should reflect that.

16. Nomi and Amanita (Sense8)

Netflix doesn't have to follow the rules and restrictions of network television, and I'm eternally grateful. Sense8 goes above and beyond in representation, but I'm going to focus on Nomi and Amanita. Nomi is a trans woman hacktivist and blogger living in San Francisco with her biethnic girlfriend Amanita. The best part about this? Nomi, a trans lesbian, is played by a trans actor. When most shows cast cis actors for trans roles, this casting is unfortunately much more revolutionary that it should be.

17. Waverly and Nicole (Wynonna Earp)

Waverly and Nicole on Wynonna Earp are my new favorite lesbian pairing. Nicole is a very attractive cop, while Waverly is part of a cursed family. These two can’t possibly both stay live, right? Wrong! Both of them even got shot at! A bullet graze and bullet proof vest saved these characters from a trope-tastic fate. The writer of Wynonna Earp has publicly criticized The 100 over the death of its queer character, so it wasn't entirely a surprise that these two made it the second season. Let's hope these two can survive Purgatory. Now that would be groundbreaking.

Did I leave a couple off of the list? Did I include one that was totally wrong? Let me know!

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Amanda M.'s picture
on August 11, 2016

writer, @geeksout and @hellogiggles contributor, humanitarian, lesbian, lego curator