The Show That Proves Sexual Discovery Doesn't End After Your 20s

Filmmaker Mia Lidofsky's new series Strangers, produced in conjunction with Refinery29, follows one woman's journey toward discovering the wonderful truth about her sexuality. The series begins when Isobel, played by Zoe Chao, decides to AirBnb out a room in her house, welcoming awkward encounters, new friends, and, most importantly, queer love into her life.
We spoke with Lidofsky about coming out later in life, the purpose of labels, and the importance of finding yourself.
How much of the show is inspired by your own life?
"Strangers is loosely inspired by my life. It’s an amalgamation of me and my closest friends, and a lot of women I’ve met, cared about, or wondered about in the last decade."
Do you have a personal definition of sexual fluidity that you choose to follow? Does it differ from what you've heard from others?
"I believe deeply that there’s a real spectrum of sexuality. It’s all about finding what’s right for you, what feels good and honest. And that can’t and shouldn’t be decided by societal expectations, limitations, or shame — which, at times, can be a really hard thing to fight against.
"I myself am a lesbian, have been out for over a decade, and [am] very proud to be gay, though I haven’t always been so proud or comfortable. It’s taken a while to get to that place.
"I think there’s often a stigma about labels, and there are a lot of conversations about wanting to be label-less and beyond definition, and in many ways I admire that way of thinking. But I also think that labels can help create identity and community, and there can be something very powerful and positive in being in something together, in knowing that perhaps you are not alone in your feelings and thoughts and experiences. I don’t want my gayness alone to define me, but it is a huge part of who I am and how I operate in the world.
"Isobel is more on the spectrum, sexually speaking. She isn't meant to represent an entire queer community. Strangers is about one woman’s journey through her sexual explorations. Sexuality is a spectrum and people fall all across the spectrum. It’s truly about finding a label or word that's right for you — what fits, what feels comfortable, and what feels emotionally and physically honest."
Isobel only starts this period of sexual exploration after hitting her 30s. Why was it important to tell a coming out story at this point in an adult's life?
"There’s something exciting about meeting women or men who come out later on in life, because it means we can always be discovering and redefining ourselves. There’s this expectation that you have a sense of yourself by the time you’re in your 30s: You know the path you’re on, you know who you are, and who you love. But, what happens when you discover something extraordinary about yourself at those later stages?
"I have people in my life who came out in their 30s and I know that there’s a lot of pain and shame that came from not discovering that major piece of themselves until later in life. It can take a great deal of courage to come out in general, and the bravery required to come out later in life, especially when that involves changing key parts of how you’ve always seen yourself or been seen, is something to be celebrated."
How do you hope Strangers adds to — or changes — the larger conversation around sexuality?
"My goal is to make the spectrum of sexuality more 'normal' and show that it doesn’t have to be such a binary. The show really is about the fact that love is ever-changing. It’s about finding yourself and your truth then staying truthful to that, no matter what. I would love to continue portraying a plethora of sexualities in people onscreen. Season 1 was just the beginning of that exploration.
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