Just exactly How Naya Rivera Became an Icon for the LGBTQ Community (Guest Column)

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Just exactly How Naya Rivera Became an Icon for the LGBTQ Community (Guest Column)

Naya Rivera will be recalled in headlines as a “former Glee celebrity, ” but to countless queer females she has been and will always be so much more like me across the globe. Her sudden tragic death, verified Monday, has delivered a revolution of profound sadness across the thing that was as soon as an exciting and vital fandom. And it is a reminder just how much it indicates once the individuals who portray LGBTQ figures become intense advocates for that extremely community that is same.

Rivera’s Glee character, Santana Lopez, had been always written become devastating — the smoking cheerleader that is hot the razor-sharp wit and bitch-with-pom-poms attitude. But during the period of the show’s six periods, she became a beacon to lesbian, bisexual and questioning fans, particularly young Latinx and Ebony fans, several of whom had been seeing themselves onscreen for the time that is first. Now her death devastates us once again.

Her character’s development regarding the show has also been evidence of the energy of fandom within the very early times of social networking. In reality, she might have never become this kind of queer icon without it. Make no error, us fans willed the onscreen relationship into presence between Rivera’s Santana and her friend that is best and fellow cheerleader Brittany S. Pierce (played by Heather Morris).

Whenever Glee premiered in ’09, the series that is musical a sensation out of the choir space. And — like most all-singing, all-dancing show choir worth its jazz fingers — it possessed a cast of characters made from effortlessly recognizable and simple to spot with archetypes: the sensitive and painful jock, the singing Tracy Flick, the bullied homosexual teenager, the rowdy bad child, the diva-in-training and much more.

While homosexual and bisexual male fans straight away discovered their champ in Kurt Hummel (played by Chris Colfer), queer feminine fans had been to start with just content to see Jane Lynch camp it as coach-from-Hell Sue Sylvester. Then again, when you look at the 13th bout of that very very first period, a throwaway line established a whole fandom. The episode, en titled “Sectionals, ” had Glee Club users conferring on a seminar call (this is before Instagram had been invented, so no body could slip into anybody’s DMs yet).

Kurt recommended Santana began a rumor because he thought she was dating anyone included. She responded with, “Intercourse just isn’t dating. ” Her constant friend Brittany concurred, “I could be dating. If it had been, Santana and” Then everyone else took a beat, three moments pass, and it’s really forgotten.

But also for queer fans associated with the show, that has been it. Ab muscles next episode, an additional throwaway line, Brittany informs Santana ” Do you understand that dolphins are simply homosexual sharks? ” therefore the remainder is internet history. Straight away, shippers dubbed Santana and Brittany “Brittana” and also the hashtag #gaysharks was created.

Each Brittana fans would breathlessly live tweet using the #gaysharks hashtag week. In the middle of the age that is golden of recapping, queer ladies’ news web web sites from Autostraddle to AfterEllen supplied weekly recaps regarding the show, concentrating on Santana and Brittany’s relationship and pressing to allow them to develop into a canon few.

However in Brittana, fans could just do more than want their faves would become genuine. They are able to, and did, need it from show creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan — mainly by bombarding them on Twitter. Moreover it aided that Rivera and Morris encouraged the partnership, publishing cryptic tweets and cheerleading that is later full-on the cheerleading couple’s relationship.


Ten months later on, four episodes to the show’s 2nd period, fans had been rewarded using the very first onscreen “sweet lady kisses” (well, sorts of nuzzles) amongst the two.

In performing this, Brittana became among the first massive, main-stream femslash fandoms for queer and women that are questioning we additionally surely got to begin to see the relationship noticed onscreen. Yes, there were other people before (Willow and Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena and Gabrielle on Xena Warrior Princess being the first pioneers). But this isnot only on a cult show, it was for a significant community show featured in the address of glossy activity mags.

In the future, fans obsessed over every sexier look, therefore much so that the show composed us to the plot, referencing the blogger that is”lesbian” among other recommendations. Team #gaysharks also did not keep back once they thought the Brittana relationship was presented with brief shrift or, when it comes to Santana’s being released (or even more accurately outing as a result of quarterback Finn Hudson — played by the belated Cory Monteith), disrespected.

Within the Brittana tale and fandom, queer viewers discovered not merely a sound but additionally energy. Those who work into the LGBTQ community have traditionally been familiar with dining table scraps with regards to representation in conventional tales. Yes, things have actually gotten progressively better within the years and a character exposing her, their or their sexuality isn’t any longer the stuff of extremely Special Episodes.

But through Twitter as well as other social networking, we discovered a tangible solution to petition for just what we would desired all along — completely understood relationships between two out female characters have been (within the parlance of fandom) endgame. While right partners have actually countless intimate pairings to choose from onscreen, queer ladies remained waiting around for their cheerfully ever afters. The onscreen set ultimately hitched in a joint wedding using the show’s queer male couple, Kurt and Blaine, into the final period.

Nevertheless, homosexual tales onscreen always pack more punch if the actors playing the figures help the LGBTQ community. Rivera never ever shied far from her female that is queer fandom Brittana’s onscreen relationship. Her embrace of her lesbian, bisexual and queer people ended up being never ever at issue. She attended (and hosted) the GLAAD Media Awards and spoke call at interviews.

While her depiction of Santana has been simply your standard girl that is mean she provided it layers and nuance. Fans could see by themselves inside her initial protective cruelty, that has been actually masking a key about by by by herself. Latinx audiences felt her heartbreak whenever her abuela rejects her after being released.

Her journey from closeted to out-and-proud mattered at the same time whenever had been desperately fighting for many of the very most LGBTQ that is basic legal rights. Glee arrived regarding the atmosphere before wedding equality had been legislation regarding the land, and went from the atmosphere months prior to the Supreme Court affirmed it in Obergefell v. Hodges. And merely this year, LGBTQ individuals finally won the ability to not be fired for just being whom we’re.

It is not hyperbole to express Rivera’s depiction of Santana Lopez spared everyday lives. It surely changed everyday lives. The greater amount of people in marginalized communities see by by by themselves completely reflected onscreen, the less alone we feel additionally the richer the global globe becomes because of it.

Therefore now many of us are devastated by her loss. The sadness we feel settles slowly, just like a fog since it has constantly done an individual whom when designed a great deal to us is abruptly gone. The following is a skilled, compassionate woman that has a lot more to give. But still, in her own reported act that is last this planet of raising her 4-year-old son in to the safety associated with the boat — this woman is nevertheless saving everyday lives. And also as brand brand new generations of queer ladies find Santana Lopez through the full years, she’ll carry on changing the planet for the higher.

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