Dating shows have been around since the 80’s, one of the most iconic being “Love Connection.” Since then there have been too many dating shows to even count—from the “Bachelorette” to “Date My Mom” and “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” However, it wasn’t until recently that these shows started to include LGBTQ contestants. Since marriage equality has become the law of the land, mainstream media seems more apt to include us in their plethora of dating show options.
The latest of those being “Love Connection,” which is making a history comeback with Andy Cohen as the host. With the shows history of over 1,000 episodes, this marks the first time they will ever have a gay and lesbian episode. As an out member of the LGBTQ community, Cohen was the person who first proposed the episode idea to Fox executives, who responded enthusiastically “Of course!”
When the opportunity to be a contestant on “Love Connection” came to Liz Baxter’s attention, at first she was turned off by the idea. However, in her desire to spread awareness about LGBTQ people and how we want love in the same way any straight person does, she couldn’t say no. Coming from rural Indiana, Baxter has faced her own set of struggles in navigating her lesbian identity. Through those struggles she’s found an awareness she wants to share with the world–and of course, she was looking for love. Tune into Fox on July 27, 2017 to see if Liz find love! Until then, check out our interview with her.
GO: Why do you feel it’s important to have LGBTQ visibility in mainstream media?
Liza Baxter: I think it’s important because no one person can represent the entire community. It’s key to have multiple people out and visible because there are so many different types of lesbians the public is never exposed to. The more we expose how vast and beautiful our community is, the more understanding and relatability non-LGBTQ people will feel.
GO: Did you ever think you’d go on national television and be the first lesbian featured on a dating show?
LB: No and neither did my family. It’s so funny because when this opportunity came my way, I was like no way. I have a corporate job and my family is pretty conservative. I had seen the old show and was a little worried that I’d make a fool of myself on national television. But once I learned more about the project and that there have been over 1,000 episodes with no LGBTQ women—I was in.
Diverse television is so important and there’s going to be a lot of people watching who won’t expect to see lesbians at all. Maybe they had thought certain things and now this will help them get more exposure. I figured it was such a cool opportunity. Because this show is network TV and not geared specifically towards LGBTQ people, I think that people will find LGBTQ people to be more relatable than they thought. I hope maybe it can change some opinions. Being gay in Indiana was definitely not as easy as it has been in California, I believe that the more my family and people in Indiana see LGBTQ community in mainstream media, the more normalized it becomes and the easier it will be for young rural LGBTQ kids to come out.
GO: What are the ways in which you’ve been active in the LGBTQ community since moving to LA?
LB: Anytime there’s a women’s event—I’m there supporting. Unfortunately, there’s no lesbian bar left in LA. I also never miss a Pride and I’m participating in an upcoming glitter run. Recently, I was inspired to start a blog called “Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbian,” I’ve been so inspired by this whole situation to continue my activism. I’ve been blogging about my experiences in moving to California and being out in the corporate world.
So many of my friends and family have been supportive and I wasn’t sure if they would be but they’re making an effort to learn. It’s been fun to be a part of that learning process of getting people exposed and to be more tolerant. I look forward to becoming more active in the LA community!
GO: What was your coming out experience like? Do you feel like coming out in a middle-America impacted your experience?
LB: Absolutely! I’m so lucky because my immediate family has been so supportive. At first, they were so surprised I think because they didn’t see me as what they knew lesbians to present like. It was tough at first because society in Indiana is so different and there’s less of a community feel. I didn’t even know there was an LGBTQ community when I first came out.
There ware always people in my life who don’t know I’m gay because they don’t look at me and assume I’m a lesbian. But I think that means I can change stereotypes once people get to know me. If you’re going to accept me, then you have to accept all LGBTQ people. It was tough but honestly I think we’re our own harshest critic. I was so fearful of rejection and that fear was a lot worse than the experience of coming out itself. Once I was out completely, I maybe lost a friend or two and I feel so lucky. So many LGBTQ friends in Indiana had estranged families.
Moving to California though has been a completely different mindset. It’s easier to get involved and feel like you’re not a minority. It was definitely a second coming out, but an easier one because everyone I’ve met in Cali just knows me as who I am. I got to start over and just be gay. It’s been fun.
GO: What advice would you give to young lesbians out there struggling to find love?
LB: I think sometimes people get stuck and don’t look outside of their immediate community. For me, meeting people in different ways has made all the difference. It’s actually so easy to meet people online or show up to an event you want to go to and make friends there! The community is so supportive of single people. When I moved to LA, I didn’t know a soul. But I’ve met so many supportive and amazing people. Don’t sit at home and be afraid. Do one thing different because you don’t know what door it’s going to open for you.
GO: What was your experience in working in the entertainment industry for the first time?
LB: I’ve never had any experience in the industry and I was surprised by how fun the whole process was. I was worries it was going to be too cheesy but everyone was there for the right reasons and excited to be a part of this new episode and meet each other. I felt like we had a unique experience, as the LGBTQ contestants, there was more a community feel to our connection. And we’re all still in touch!
GO: Can you give us any teaser to whether or not you’ve found love on the show?
LB: I met three amazing women. The girl I picked was incredible, it was a match, a happy ending. That’s all I can say!