I’ve gotta be one of the last lesbian-ish people to start watching the The L Word, despite having known about the show for years. I previously let the show lie in the ether because I wasn’t interested in unnecessary drama, especially infidelity. Why do most lesbian shows and films feature infidelity? Anyway, my concerns with The L Word were well-founded because by the second episode a main character named Jenny had already ensnared herself in a messy affair with another woman—Marina. Overall, however, I’ve appreciated the show for what it is, an often humorous look at fictitious wealthier, predominantly white lesbians and bisexual women in southern California. Predictably, I’m attracted to Shane, but I have been curious about Lisa, the lesbian-identified man Alice dates in season one, and troubled by Alice and the other characters’ reactions to Lisa’s identities.
Here are some questions I have:
Does Lisa identify herself as a woman or man? What are her/his pronouns? (S)he identifies as a lesbian, but does she also identify as a man, or is that an identity everyone else places on her?
Is Lisa trans?
Are Alice and the other characters transphobic towards Lisa? Regardless of the answer to this, is their treatment of Lisa’s identities problematic?
Consider Episode 7 of Season 1 in which Alice and Lisa have sex during a party on Harry’s boat. Lisa wants to use a strap-on, but Alice impatiently laughs at that and comments something along the lines, “You have the real thing. I want you to use it.” Lisa does not want to make love that way, but Alice still reaches for Lisa’s penis, coercing her into sexual intercourse without the strap-on. Afterwards, Lisa is upset and clearly feels Alice did not honor Lisa’s identities and preferences.
If Lisa identifies as a man rather than a woman, I don’t know what to make of her lesbian identity. Like Alicia, Bette, Tina, Dana, and the others, I’m stumped. But as gender and sexuality are infinitely complex with countless identities and experiences of different identities, shouldn’t Lisa’s preferences be honored?
It would be easy to laugh at a man calling himself a lesbian, but perhaps Lisa’s character on The L Word compels more critical thinking about gender, sexuality, and the ways in which we treat each other, regardless of whether we or our lovers identify with the genders we were assigned at birth.