When Ani Solomon, the residence hall director of University Village, and her wife Starr Solomon entered the AfterEllen Love Wins contest she didn’t think much of it.
“One lazy Sunday morning, my wife was scrolling through Facebook and came across the Love Wins contest on AfterEllen, a website we both enjoy,” Solomon said. “She was interested and told me that we should enter. I figured, ‘why not?’ and took a few minutes to post a picture of the two of us and a short paragraph about how we met and how we made it through the harder parts of our relationship. We were long distance for a while in the beginning of our relationship and moving to Nebraska from Ohio was a challenge. I hit submit, and didn’t think about it again for a few weeks.”
Two weeks before the couples’ wedding day they received a call from AfterEllen. Of the hundreds of contest applicants, Ani and Starr were finalists.
“AfterEllen flew a staff member to Nebraska to interview us at the Hilton [Hilton was a sponsor of the contest],” Solomon said. “We had a photo shoot with a wonderful local photographer, and then we just had to wait for the contest winners to be announced. It was awesome to see all our friends and family get excited for us!”
AfterEllen is one of the largest websites dedicated to the representation of lesbian/bi-sexual women in popular media. The #LoveWinsContest asked couples to share the heartache and happiness of their relationship. Solomon discussed the challenges she and Starr faced in their long-distance relationship with her in Ohio and Starr in Boston.
Solomon started working as a Residence Hall Director in 2014 and said it is a “perfect fit” for her and Starr, who is working on her Doctoral Degree.
“When I was offered the position, I told our director that I had a partner who would be living with me,” Solomon said. “He didn’t hesitate to welcome us both in and to include us in all of the social things that our department does together…In my experience, knowing that there is a professional staff member who identifies as a member of the LGBT community allows some of our residents to feel more welcomed on our campus, and gives them someone to go to if they have questions or concerns about their own experiences.”
Solomon said that she thinks the representation of lesbian couples in media is a complicated topic.
“I can tell you that from my own experience, seeing lesbians in movies or television was incredibly important when I was in high school and first began to put words to my identity,” Solomon said. “Knowing that there were other women like me, even if they were fictional, helped me feel less alone.”
Solomon also said that too often lesbian characters meet a tragic end in their stories.
“I can look back and understand how damaging it could have been that my first glimpse of lesbians, girls like me, ended in suicide,” Ani said. “I worry about our young folks who see these characters and identify with them, and then watch as the media finds ways to remove them from the story lines or use them as background characters.”
Solomon hopes to change the stigma that lesbian couples struggle to lead happy, healthy lives and experience loving relationships.
“That’s why it is so important for our young people to have adults that they can look to and see what their futures may actually hold,” Solomon said. “It’s why I am always open to talking with my residents about my relationship and experiences.”