When I was asked to be a contestant on Love Connection's first lesbian episode, I said, "No. Hell, no."
I have a corporate job and a conservative family, and the thought of potentially embarrassing my family and my vulnerable self on national television wasn't appealing. But after I weighed my potential connection to the show against the many opinions of family and friends, I had a revelation: This was bigger than me and more important than any concern or criticism.
I was 23 when I realized I was gay. Many people say they knew they were queer long before they identified as such, but this was not the case for me. Sometimes I wonder, If I had been more exposed to different types of queer women at an earlier age, would it have been different for me?
The L Word is arguably the most successful lesbian-focused show ever aired (and it's coming back!) and set the bar high with its six-season run. I only wish that the show had been around sooner, so young women like me could have access to a world where there isn't a singular definition of a lesbian.
I am only one small piece of an enormous community. The LGBTQ demographic, like any other, is created by people of diverse ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds, with countless interpretations of beauty. Yet human nature encourages the impulse to seek out films and television shows that mirror what we look and act like. The media routinely mirrors heterosexual norms, which breeds ignorance and trivializes those who do not identify with the mainstream. Exposure to the LGBTQ community gives a tiny morsel of knowledge to those who don't experience out LGBTQ people in their everyday lives.
Commonalities are the ties that bind us. I am a kindhearted queer person who wants to love and be loved. How relatable is that? The Love Connection episode that focuses on single queer women lends the LGBTQ community a platform to be seen not as "other," but as relatable people -- just like a friendly neighbor.
Maybe a mom will see me and the other amazing women on the episode and realize we aren't any different from her daughter or herself. Perhaps she'll have her own revelation, seeing that the portrayals of lesbians in popular culture are skewed and inaccurate. Queer women are not going through "a phase." Lesbians are not bored heterosexuals. Maybe a parent who has an LGBTQ child -- who just came out or has yet to -- will now have a more informed and hopeful perspective. And they'll feel more at ease because they know there are other people out there like their child. A mom or dad will be comforted knowing their daughter or son is and will be OK. Maybe someone who is in the closet, struggling and suffering, will see this episode and no longer feel alone.
As I reflect on my hilarious experiences filming Love Connection, I feel nothing but gratitude to be on the first queer women episode of that show. A Fox prime-time dating show, based on one that produced over 2,100 heterosexual episodes, will have its first lesbian seeking love. It'is more important now than ever for television and the media at large to continue the normalization of all LGBTQ individuals. People relate to people, not labels.
LIZ BAXTER's Love Connection episode airs Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check out Baxter's blog here.