Ilene Chaiken: We’re Proclaiming Ourselves on ‘The L Word.’ That’s a Huge Part of Our Struggle and Celebration
Ilene Chaiken, the co-creator of ‘The L Word,’ would ‘like to see them all, Trump and Pence, go away. And I’d like to see LGBT people continue our march towards true equality.’
In this special series, LGBT celebrities and public figures talk to Tim Teeman about the Stonewall Riots and their legacy—see more here.
Ilene Chaiken is co-creator, writer, and executive producer of The L Word and soon The L Word: Generation Q.
When and how did you first hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of them?
I don’t remember when I first heard. I feel like I’ve always known about the Stonewall Riots. I probably didn’t know anything about Stonewall until I came out as gay when I was 24. The education system was skewed throughout my youth and childhood. I would guess it wasn’t until I was studying gay history myself, and learned more over the years.
I knew that gay people had been oppressed and still were, and it began to comprise a history for me of our own civil rights struggle. We have our markers and battles we have fought that are every bit as iconic as the other great civil rights battles we did learn about at school.
What is their significance now for you?
It was a seminal moment in our civil rights history. When I first knew about the Stonewall Riots it felt like it was about gay men: It was a gay male bar, and gay men dominated the mythology of that history.
Since then, we learned women played a large role and trans people played a huge role in that struggle. That’s been significant to me, and it mirrors the whole way we think about our rights and community. At Stonewall we also see people of color, we see people who reflect the differences within our community, and we all fought for one another.
How far have we come since 1969?
Really far and not far enough. It is a world of difference since 1969. Many, if not most, of us are out in our lives. We have a sense of community, we continue to see some representations of ourselves in the popular entertainment media, but not enough. Children still go through internal struggles of rejection and fear. We still have huge problems with suicide and bullying. We’ve come far, but not far enough.
What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?
I would like to see them all, Trump and Pence, go away. And in all kinds of ways. And I’d like to see us continue our march towards true equality. Not just tolerance but equality.
Did the spirit of Stonewall influence the creation of The L Word?
Absolutely, both in what is depicted on screen and implicit in the very existence of the show. We’re proclaiming ourselves. That’s a huge, huge part of our struggle and celebration.
And The L Word reboot, what can you tell us?
It’s exciting, and I hope you love it. I think you will. It’s great and better in so many ways. I can say that because I’m godmothering it, not making it myself. I can talk about it without blowing my own horn.