The real L word aired on Showtime from 2010 to 2012. It was one of the first reality television series to follow the lives of a group of lesbian and bisexual women living in Los Angeles. The original cast starred me, Jill Goldstein who was my fiancé at the time, Tracy Ryerson, Rose Garcia, Whitney Mixter, and Mikey Koffman.
With a successful career behind the lens in entertainment, I’m often asked why Jill and I chose to put our lives on camera. The answer is simple: seeing relatable stories and experiences on television can be validating and empowering.
Because our story in the series was about wedding planning (which was legally unrecognized and illegal in California in 2010), we told our story to be seen and heard, to be visible outside our community, to share our love for each other like no other to normalize. different from a traditional union between a man and a woman. When I asked Jill’s father for permission to marry Jill in 2009, prior to our inclusion in the series, he was shocked. He told me, “This is not the dream I had for my daughter.”
It was then that Jill and I made the decision to participate The real L word. We hoped our story would touch a parent struggling to accept their child’s sexuality or struggling to accept themselves. Jill’s dad became our biggest supporter when he realized how truly happy she was, while putting aside his fear of what others thought. Our mission was then to selflessly use our little platform for good and provide a source of inspiration and empowerment for the community.
The real L word has undeniably played a role in advancing LGBTQIA+ representation and sparking important conversations inside and outside the community. I hope the series has contributed to the continued progress towards greater visibility, acceptance and understanding. While the show received its fair share of criticism — such as a lack of diversity in the cast, stereotyped portrayals, and lack of authenticity — our relationship wasn’t without controversy either. We were considered “too straight” by our own lesbian community. Our community also wondered if we were just cast for TV. Lesbians criticized Jill’s devotion to me as she explored her sexual fluidity, vowing that she would eventually date men again. Well, I’m happy to report that we’re still together, 15 years and two kids later. And in lesbian years, that’s more like 35. Take those naysayers!
We recently reunited with The real L word cast, the first time in over 10 years we were all in the same room together. We came together for Stand Up To Cancer, in honor of Rose Garcia, who is battling ovarian cancer. In 2013 I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. After treatment I still have no signs of illness so it was very emotional to be able to support my fellow sister through her own cancer journey.
Over lunch, we all discussed how far both society and Hollywood have moved the needle of acceptance and inclusion since our show aired 13 years ago. But, we asked, is it enough?
Over there to have been big steps. Marriage is now legal at the federal and state levels (Jill and I were legally married in 2013) and over 30 countries have legalized same-sex marriage. We also have growing support in allies through various organizations as many public figures begin to come out.
As more people accept or learn about our issues and stand up for our rights, we must fight against fear-mongering legislation such as deeming drag shows dangerous and destructive or laws that seek to limit or ban discussion of LGBTQIA+ issues in schools . And don’t get me started on women’s reproductive problems dating back to the 1960s. That’s a whole different opinion piece.
The truth is, we need Hollywood to take a bigger engagement and advocate for accurate and positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ people on TV and in film. How can The L Word (2004–2008) — the scripted Showtime series created by Ilene Chaiken that inspired our doc series The real L word – still be one of the few major shows in TV history to focus on the lives of lesbian women? The spinoff The L word generation Q tried to pick up where it left off many years later, but it didn’t quite catch on and was recently canceled. I’m sure you’ve heard the lesbian cries from all over the world.
Hollywood needs to get behind diverse stories that reflect our realities, experiences, and current landscape, breaking stereotypes. These stories need to be told by writers and showrunners within the LGBTQIA+ community, because when you write from what you know, there’s an authenticity that can’t be denied. And buyers, please don’t tell a creator in a pitch that you already have a “gay” show in development and can’t move forward with another series that portrays these “kind of characters.” What does that even mean? There are countless procedural dramas about hospitals, countless shows about police forces, a legion of shows about lawyers and murderers and wealthy families… I could go on and on.
Visibility is important in front of and behind the lens. It plays a vital role in driving social and political change. When we speak out, we put pressure on society and policymakers to address issues such as equality, discrimination and human rights, leading to legislative changes, policy reforms and societal shifts towards greater acceptance and inclusion.
We’ve come a long way since our series aired in 2010, but let’s face it (no pun intended), we still have a lot of work to do.
Finally, Hi Sunshine, if you’re reading this, give me a call. Let’s take a look at that pitch again.
Nikki Weiss-Goldstein, the founder of Nikki Weiss & Co., is an agent and strategic contact for feature film, episodic and commercial directors. She marries brands and advertising agencies with her creative selection of top-level film talent. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife Jill, sons Adler and Grey, and puppy Remington.