The First Queer Characters I Ever Saw

Happy Pride Month! June is important in the queer community because this is when we often throw pride parades. It’s great to celebrate Pride for how far we’ve come, but also band together for strength so we can continue to fight for equality. It’s both party and protest. Here’s me at San Francisco Pride a few years ago:

I was a rainbow pirate fairy for Pride.

One of my author friends, Jimena Novaro, recently shared an article about the first gay relationship she ever read and how that gradually changed her outlook on gay people. It made me think back to when I was younger and looking desperately for LGBTQIA+ representation.

I came out in 1999 when there was much less visibility for the queer community. Ellen DeGeneres had come out and her career suffered for it. There weren’t a lot of other celebrities out at the time. When I was struggling to accept myself, I searched everywhere for queer women who could be a positive role model. There weren’t many in pop culture and zero people that I knew personally. It was very hard for me. (I’ve written about the need for diverse books and characters before.)

When I did find books like Annie On My Mind, it went a long way to help me accept myself and feel less alone. But the biggest influence on me was Sailor Moon.

Sailor Moon on American television at the time was heavily edited. We only had two seasons from DiC. Then I found fansubs of the original Japanese anime. (Back then, we traded them on VHS tapes. I had dozens of tapes copied from second and third-hand sources. The quality was low but I loved watching them.)

The third season introduced me to Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, aka Haruka and Michiru. Two girls in love, willing to die for each other, stronger together. No one told them their love was wrong. I can’t emphasize enough how important this was for me. It helped me accept myself, pulled me out of my depression, and inspired my first foray into cosplay. (I even referenced the characters during the first time I confessed my feelings to a girl–I think that just made things more awkward!)

Of course, if you watched the second English dub of Sailor Moon by VIZ a few years later, their relationship was censored in official American releases. Haruka and Michiru (their names changed to Amara and Michelle) became cousins, and romantic scenes that showed them kissing were heavily edited. If that had been the version I’d seen first, it would have had a very different impact on me. Thankfully, uncensored subs and dubs of Sailor Moon have become officially available in the US since then, so new generations can see the characters in their original gay glory!

Today, there are a lot more happy lesbian couples on TV, in movies, and in literature. I love many of them, but Haruka and Michiru hold a special place in my heart because they were the first I ever saw.

Kristen

I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.
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