Representation matters from The L Word to Vacation People

Join author Cheri Ritz for an exploration of queer representationand make sure to pick up her novel Vacation People which is currently on sale on BellaBooks.com

When I came out in my forties I was asked a lot of questions, but the one that was asked of me over and over was: Have you watched The L Word?

I hadn’t. The series had aired and was over and done by that time. I thought, A TV show? I’m trying to process so many things right now. What difference will a television show make?

Growing up in the Eighties there wasn’t the kind of media representation for LGBTQ+ people that there is today. Every once and a blue moon a gay character would pop up on a show. Usually it was a man. Sometimes the occasion would be labeled as “A Very Special Episode.” Often that character would be dead by the end of the program. But when I came out, woman after woman uttered the phrase The L Word to me with such reverence. There had to be something to it. So I cued up the Netflix, cozied up on the couch, and watched.

I finally got it. There we were on television.

I was a woman who was attracted to women and at that time of discovery for me, seeing these Sapphic sisters on The L Word—talking, laughing, loving, breathing…well, you know—it was a lifeline to me.

Admittedly, I was not a lot of things these women were. I was not a professional athlete, nor the director of a prestigious art center. I was not a rags-to-riches hairstylist/model/Lothario. Part of me could picture: You’re looking very Shane Cheri today!

Regardless, I felt like I was there among them. I was a woman who was attracted to women and at that time of discovery for me, seeing these Sapphic sisters on the screen—talking, laughing, loving, breathing…well, you know—it was a lifeline to me. The L Word was not a perfect match to my life, but it was a hell of a lot closer than anything else I’d seen on my television.

And I was not alone. All around me women were seeing themselves onscreen for the first time and it felt like I was finally part of something I had missed the first time around. Watching episode after episode, I found out in a very real way that representation matters.

When I started planning and writing my romance series I made representation matters my North Star. I wanted to write about a circle of friends who women loving women could relate to. I set it in Las Vegas and planned for each book to tell the story of a different friend in the circle finding romance.

Representation matters in the Vacation People

In my mind I referred to the series as “Lez Vegas,” a nod to The L Word’s Lez Girls, because it was important to me to bring these stories to women who needed to see a happy ending for characters they could see themselves in. I wanted to embrace representation in Vacation People and signed a contract to have the first book in the series published well before the rumors of a reboot of The L Word were even being whispered.

Since then The L Word: Generation Q has made its way onto televisions and tablets everywhere. I’m overjoyed that a new wave of individuals might be able to see themselves represented on screen in ways they might not have before, because representation really does matter. It’s my hope that in a similar way my books will give people that experience on page and bring the sense of happily ever after that we all deserve. Creating that representation is one of the highest callings I can imagine, and I’m so proud to be able to do it.

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