I’ve been thinking a lot today, on International Women’s Day, about the women in my life who are and have been role-models.
While I’m sometimes cynical about the value of role-models, in part that’s because I’m a man who has often felt as alienated by masculinity as I am bound by it. Role-models have always felt like something else to fail to live up to. But, where I have allowed myself to feel hope, to feel inspired, those role-models have been women.
Gay men my age and older often talk about a lack of gay male role-models growing up. When I was coming out there were a few, but I could never find myself—or even an idealised self—in the fantasies of Queer As Folk or Will and Grace. Maybe that was in part about internalised homophobia; perhaps no out gay man on television would have been an acceptable mirror.
So, like many young gay men, I found role-models in the women I read in books and saw on screen. Fortunately, too, the 1990s were a golden age for strong women on TV—everything from Xena to Buffy gave me women to admire and aspire to.
It clearly helps that I was and continue to be a big nerd. A few years back I re-watched all of Star Trek: Voyager, and was struck recalling how important a role model the series lead was for me, Captain Kathryn Janeway (played by the amazing Kate Mulgrew).
Star Trek in general was a huge influence on me as a kid, and having one of the shows star a woman who was both incredibly capable and led with compassion meant I could connect my own experience with this thing that I loved. In Captain Janeway, I could find hope outside a masculine paradigm that for me portended failure and ostracism.
So, with this silly love letter to a fictional character in a sci-fi TV show, thank you to all of the women in my life, real and imagined. I am who I am because of all of you.