'Chrishell Stause is the femme queer representation mainstream TV has always needed'

chrishell stause selling sunset lgbtq representation
Why Chrishell's LGBTQ+ representation matters Artwork: Jaime Lee - Getty Images

“I know people think I’m having a mid-life crisis, but I’m having an awakening,” Chrishell Stause explains in the Selling Sunset season 6 trailer. She is of course referring to her whirlwind romance with non-binary Australian musician, Georgia “G-Flip” Flipo, whom she married last week. After just a year of dating, the couple tied the knot in a surprise Las Vegas ceremony and blew up Instagram with their sweet announcement.

But the news of Chrishell and G-Flip’s nuptials didn’t send social media into a flurry because of the brevity of their courtship. Nope, we’ve seen far shorter celeb betrothments (hi there, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.) It was more about the nature of their relationship. Chrishell’s love life has been the major talking point of several series of the hit Netflix reality show, with her divorce from actor Justin Hartley forming a big storyline in season three, and her relationship with co-star (and boss) Jason Oppenheim becoming a focus of season five. And now here she is, glowing onscreen in a jewelled minidress, sky-high heels, and a perfect blowdry; holding hands with G-Flip; and some people are somehow confused by that evolution, even in 2023.

Chrishell is boldly and gracefully defying people’s private expectations of what the LGBTQ+ community looks like, simply by celebrating her love. (Something that really riles up the tiny chorus of critics in her Instagram comments.) Audiences seeing her with G-Flip in their cool androgynous suits and rockstar tattoos, looking utterly happy and in love, is a total game-changer for television. And that’s exactly what plucks this story from the ranks of other reality TV relationships and elevates it to something quite different: it’s the feminine queer representation that mainstream TV has always needed.

I was practically screaming at my TV as I watched the moment Chrishell announced the relationship during the Selling Sunset season five reunion. “I recently have been spending a lot of time someone that’s very important to me. Their name is G-Flip, they’re non-binary, so they go by they/them,” she said, as surprise rippled around the room. (The camera operator deserves a raise, because they somehow managed to capture exactly what it’s like to “come out” to your friends, with all the happiness and shock and mixed initial reactions.)

It was a major moment for LGBTQ+ representation. The reach of the show is undeniable: Season 5 alone spent four weeks in Netflix’s Global Top 10 TV list across a whopping 48 different countries. That means viewers everywhere from Bahrain to Kenya, Serbia, and the UAE all tuned in to watch Chrishell’s announcement that she was now in a non-straight relationship.

G-Flip explained Chrishell’s impact perfectly on the People Everyday podcast, saying, “I feel like the [Selling Sunset] audience isn’t so much a queer space. And for [Chrishell] to come out and just be herself and tell her story and say that we’re seeing each other - to me I feel like it honestly changes the world. And it normalises same-sex relationships.” They’re right - it’s a relationship that is already opening the minds of lots of folks, especially those who don’t know many LGBTQ+ people yet.

While there are many openly queer stars in reality TV shows, this relationship marks a key and important difference. Because despite increasing understanding around LGBTQ+ identities, many people still don’t recognise women who are conventionally ‘feminine’ or ‘girly’ as those who could be in a relationship with anyone other than a man, perhaps due to the expectation of “comp-het,” or compulsory heterosexuality. Or perhaps because of tired style stereotypes, such as the idea that women who date women all must have hairy legs, short hair, and wear baggy clothes, therefore a woman in a dress couldn’t possibly do that. (Eye roll.) There is of course, nothing wrong with dressing and presenting yourself however you feel confident, but the point is that there isn’t one set way for the LGBTQ+ community to “look.” As Chrishell and G-Flip demonstrate, romantic possibilities can exist on a spectrum.

Chrishell opened up in an Instagram post, saying “For me, it is about the person. It is about their heart….I am attracted to masculine energy and I don’t really care what the physical form is.” I am also a feminine woman who is mainly attracted to energy, and nobody has ever assumed I might be going on a date with anyone other than a man. Not once. Maybe because I love a frilly dress, the colour pink, my balayage appointments, and a good manicure, and so why would they assume anything else? I typically wear makeup, and I’ll bust out a high heel for a special occasion. Sometimes I have to correct people about who I’m dating, and “OhI’mSoSorryIDidn’tKnowOhCool!” is a common awkward reaction. While I know no harm is intended and I’m mostly unbothered, it does confirm something deeper about our expectations.

That’s why Chrishell’s influence means so much. A feminine look on a woman (or a hyper-masculine look on a man) is often described as “straight-passing,” because those appearances do not play into dated stereotypes about what a queer person might look like. But aren’t we done with boxing people in, assuming there is just one prescribed “look” for anyone? While I appreciate the human desire to want to “sort” people into neat little categories to aid our understanding of the world, it’s time to move on from clichéd assumptions around love. Chrishell and G-Flip’s decision to share their love with a global audience sets fire to expectation - and it’s magical to watch the impact unfold.

Love and identity don’t have a prescribed style, and people seeing themselves represented on major streaming platforms has the power to make an enormous difference. As Chrishell said herself, she wants women to know that “it’s okay to keep evolving”, telling astrologer Chani Nicholas, “I like allowing those women to see my story, and they’re now able to explore if they feel like it, you know? And to each their own. If someone’s happy, be happy for them.”

I totally agree.

You can watch Selling Sunset Season 6 on Netflix from 19th May, and you can stream G-Flip’s latest songs or buy tickets for their upcoming US tour here.

Follow Maddy on Instagram.

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