Now that we’ve got our own all-gay, all-the-time soap operas, it’s amazing that anyone’s even interested in rumours of queer characters in regular soaps. With Queer Eye, Queer As, The L Word, Oz (see gratuitous prison-wrestling photo, above) and Bad Girls running almost totally gay content, it’s pretty easy to overlook the traditional soapie side-parts. Still, when it’s a lesbian on Neighbours, it’s a milestone. Rumours began circulating in online television lesbian geek communities about a new lezzo neighbour moving into Ramsey Street. She’s the first dyke, apparently, although not the first same-sex-attracted character on Australia’s favourite soap. There was a gay sports teacher, Andrew Mackenzie, back in 1996 -“ the same year the tacky-as-hell Pacific Drive was daring to deal with lesbian relationships, kisses and queer love triangles.
Australian television soaps have never been shy about homosexuality. In the 30th episode of Number 96 Don Finlayson came out, making him (according to some sources) the first fictional gay character in a recurring television role in the world. By the end of the 1970s lesbians were also on TV, in the jail soap Prisoner. Not many people will remember, but a lesbian character had already been murdered by the 1980s, in Skyways. For the rest of the 80s, the ABC doctor series GP did the most work in attempting to deal with gay and lesbian issues.
By now, there aren’t too many Australian soaps that haven’t dipped a toe into the gay and lesbian acting pool. Our own hospital drama All Saints has taken a Sapphic leaf out of its American cousin ER by featuring a lady-loving-lady story. Before The Secret Life Of Us died in the arse, it had not one but two queer characters, one lesbian and one gay.
But, as was seen in the memorable Pacific Drive, and the legendary Prisoner, lesbian characters in mainstream soaps generally have a few identity problems. They are likely to go mad and/or have short, dangerous relationships (often with straight or bisexual women). Although it could be argued this is a great representation of some parts of the lesbian community, there are other more common stories. Lesbian couples that happily hang out at home watching lesbians on television, for example.
Anyway, here’s cheers to Neighbours, and we will all welcome its first dyke with open arms. Hopefully, she won’t go too bonkers too quickly.