AfterEllen staff picks: Who’s the best lesbian/bi TV character?

On Friday, we asked you to vote for the best lesbian/bi character on TV right now (right this second!), and we asked our writers to weigh in on the question too. We asked who and we asked why. Why are these characters the best? Is it because they have the most social impact (Stef Foster!), because they’re the most complex and intriguing (Piper Chapman!), because their hair gets licked into place by magical unicorns each morning (Emily Fields!)? Our AfterEllen staff has lots of (awesome!) opinions, as always. Check out our answers below.


Dana Piccoli: OK, hear me out. My vote is for Piper Chapman (Orange is the New Black). Now, I didn’t say that she was the best “person” but she’s a hell of a character. Piper gets to be the kind of protagonist that straight, male characters have been for years. Deeply flawed and yet, someone to root for. She’s messy, conflicted, lost and I think that’s totally relateable.


Jill Guccini: Caroline on Last Tango in Halifax. I feel it’s rare to get a later-in-life lesbian portrayed so beautifully and non-sterotypically. She can be gloriously snotty, but she also doesn’t take any shit from anyone, including her mother. And all this toughness makes her moments of vulnerability a million times more swoon-worthy.

I was also going to give a heeeeey-o to pretty much the entire cast of OITNB, so. Because I feel like even the straight ones are kinda gay. Seriously though, if I had to choose one it’d be Crazy Eyes. Heart of gold, misunderstood, solitary, resilient. A dreamboat, basically.


Kim Hoffman: I think I have to go with Crazy Eyes. I can’t wait to see how her character is developed even more in the second season of OITNB. Her “swirl” scene is classic. Every time I see dandelions now, I think of her. When she began to question why people call her Crazy Eyes, I felt deeply for her. Inside Crazy Eyes is a prison convict, and inside that prison convict is a lesbian with emotional issues, and inside that lesbian with emotional issues is any one of us. True story.


Lucy Hallowell: I’m picking Stef Foster from The Fosters. Stef and Lena have the Coach and Tami Taylor dynamic down. For a minute there it looked like Stef was going to be the stern disciplinarian type to Lena’s “I shall call him Squishy and he will be mine and he will be my Squishy” style of parenting. But then an amazing thing happened, we met Stef’s dad and it opened a million little windows into who she is and how she ended up married to Mike and what gave her all those scars on her tough little heart.

Stef, in many ways, reminds me of a grown up McCullers. If Paige grows up twenty years earlier with her asshole, religious wingnut, homophobe of a dad, maybe she ends up married to Sean (or whatever other guy) and maybe it takes her a lot longer to come out. These are the characters I love. Ones who fuck up regularly and have to head dip their way out of the doghouse. The ones who get it wrong at least as much as they get it right but who are so full of heart you can’t help cut root for them. For some people we didn’t get to be awesome at 18 and date the prettiest girl on the entire planet. Some of us are still tripping over out own feet and asking for forgiveness all the time even as we raise kids and pretend we have a clue. Stef’s one of us, and that’s why I love her best.


Ali Davis: I’m a huge Crazy Eyes fan, but I’d like to submit Morello (OITNB) as a flip-side to the Crazy Eyes coin.

Morello also started out as a one-note character and then started revealing layers.But while the Crazy Eyes revealed wisdom, sensitivity, and some impressive Shakespeare skills, Morello started out sweet and revealed layers that were troubling. She’s petulant, her casual racism ranges from frustrating to shocking — and set off a meal-hall wide riff on stereotypes — and she’s downright delusional when it comes to her fiancé. She breaks a heart we care about because she won’t deal with reality.

In other words, she’s probably got the same flaws as someone you’ve met, even if the issue that someone is refusing to deal with may not be quite so huge. She’s simple and complex, goodhearted yet destructive. I want to cut her slack, and I want her to do better. She’s frustrating.

And she’s one of the characters I’m most interested in catching up with when the new season starts.


Valerie Anne: My first instinct was to go with someone from Lost Girl, because that show is so excellent about sexuality being a non-issue. But I have to officially pick Emily Fields. Pretty Little Liars is a show with a HUGE fanbase, and their equal treatment of queer characters and straight characters is so important for such a large audience, especially since most of them are on the younger side. Emily’s sexuality wasn’t a non-issue, it was an issue. For her, mostly, then for her mother for a while. But it didn’t stay an issue. We went with her on her journey of coming out, on her mother’s journey to acceptance. And once she was so far out of the closet she couldn’t see it anymore, we even got to see her guide someone else through the process. (Sort of.) Now Emily is out and proud, but her sexuality isn’t a storyline. Her relationships are, just as much as the other girls’. She’s comfortable in her own skin, though it took her a while to get there, and it has been a beautiful thing to watch.


Karman Kregloe: I’m an unashamed Orphan Black addict, particularly amazed by the ability of star Tatiana Maslany to embody each of her clone characters with such individuality. But my favorite of the clones is Cosima, the brilliant grad student who plays a key role in uncovering the mystery of the clones’ origins. When Cosima’s heart was smashed into tiny evolutionary particles by the beautiful but duplicitous Delphine, I was sad. But when Cosima started hacking up blood, revealing the presence of a possibly fatal respiratory illness, I yelled at my TV set. And when I met the co-creator of the show at a television conference this summer, I shamelessly begged him not to kill Cosima because she’s easily my favorite queer TV character.


Trish Bendix: If you would have asked me two seasons ago, I would have said Kalinda, but the Good Wife writers have dropped the ball in a bad way. I would love to pick Leslie Shay, too, but the whole pregnancy thing makes me pause. I think if I’m going to to go with who is making an impact in a more subtle but completely progressive way it’s Adriana Perez from The Bridge. A Latina lesbian who repeatedly has to come out to her family and validate her sexuality in a community that isn’t accepting, she’s also a kick ass reporter with a portrait of professionalism and integrity in a show that has so much good vs. evil. She’s never going to be as sexy a character as some of the others that will inevitably top the list, but Emily Rios is killing it.

What do you think? Are we on the right track? There’s still time for you to vote for your favorites!