February 1, 2024

The Only Gay Actress on The L Word

On January 18, 2004, Showtime made history with the premiere of The L Word, a spaghetti-strapped melodrama about twiggy lesbians living (and loving, fighting, fucking, crying) against a golden-filtered backdrop of Los Angeles. The groundbreaking series helped to change the landscape of queer television. But while the show had a large and vocal fanbase, it was not without its critics. One major complaint was that the show only explored the lives of white, cisgender lesbians, with very little consideration for trans women. It did have one recurring trans character, the sweet and unassuming Max Sweeney (played by Daniel Sea), who had a difficult story arc that saw him ostracized by his friends, misgendered, and prone to rages caused by testosterone, but that was about it.

Leisha Hailey, who played Alice Pieszecki, a peppy talk show host, was the only openly gay actress on the series at its premiere in 2004 and was thus an icon for the LGBTQ community. She's since gone on to act, write, and record music, and has also dated such notable personalities as kd lang and Camila Grey.

Other cast members of the original The L Word—Jennifer Beals as Bette Tibbetts, Mia Kirshner as Jenny Schecter, and Rachel Shelley as Helena Peabody—are also out and have a number of other projects up their sleeves. And the reboot, which just finished its second season on Showtime, is bringing new faces to the table. Many of the cast members have recently come together to join co-creator Ilene Chaiken at a White House press briefing on Lesbian Visibility Week to condemn the more than 465 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year.


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