EastEnders: Walford’s Low Visibility of Female LBGTQ Characters

Yet, in spite of adding more members to Albert Square’s LBGTQ community, the show has fallen short in one important area: strong storylines for their female LBGTQ characters.

T.Lanette Pollard

It has been one year since EastEnders held their first Pride Celebration in Albert Square. The show has come a long way since Syed and Christian’s romance:

  • Kathy Beale (Gillian Tayforth) opened The Prince Albert, Walford’s first LBGTQ restaurant;
  • Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden) and Halfway Highway (Tony Clay) have become the show’s second male homosexual couple. They have been featured almost daily on the show since Ben sniffed out that Halfway was “queer”;
  • Bernie Taylor (Clair Norris) came out during the Pride episode with the help and encouragement of her family and Tina Carter (Luisa Bradshaw-White);
  • Finally, Ash Panesar (Gurlaine Kaur Garcha) recently said “I love you” to Iqra Ahmed (Priya Davdra) making a commitment to their relationship.

Yet, in spite of adding more members to Albert Square’s LBGTQ community, the show has fallen short in one important area: strong storylines for their female LBGTQ characters.

It is disheartening to see one couple receive all of the visibility and support while the other LBGTQ female characters are left behind.

T.Lanette Pollard

When you compare the screen time and visibility of Ben & Halfway, on average we have seen Tina, Ash, Iqra, and Bernie 4 or fewer times a month prior to and during COVID19. Ben & Halfway have appeared in at 2 out of four episodes per week on average. My LBGTQ Ladies have been limited to background and/or supporting characters or occasional reminders of secondary storylines.

When you look at how these ladies are represented in Walford, EastEnders has not advanced in its goal to add LBGTQ diversity. Diversity is not about having the characters appear occasionally. It is about those characters having visible strong storylines and relationships that occur at the same time as other LBGTQ relationships.

Maybe the show needs more female LBGTQ writers to help bring their stories to the screen.

T.Lanette Pollard

Ben & Halfway and Ash & Iqra’s storylines should be happening during the same week of episodes not just when the men are taking a break. Bernie should be meeting girls her age in the square or working at one of Walford’s establishments. Tina works at the Prince Albert. Why isn’t she going on dates? It is disheartening to see one couple receive all of the visibility and support while the other LBGTQ female characters are left behind.

I am hoping that when EastEnders returns in September, they will make the effort to provide the LBGTQ Ladies of Albert Square with the same strong storylines and visibility as they do for Ben and Halfway. Maybe the show needs more female LBGTQ writers to help bring their stories to the screen. As a heterosexual female, I could not begin to tell the stories of gay and queer women and make it authentic.

It might also help if the Ladies of Walford received just as much soap press as Ben and Halfway. Soap press generates “buzz” and excitement for their storylines. You cannot talk about Pride Month and have most of your focus be on the male LBGTQ characters. True diversity should include all LBGTQ character storylines regardless of fandom popularity.

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