44 of the most groundbreaking LGBTQ characters and relationships on TV

K.C. Bailey/NetflixNetflix’s ‘Orange Is the New Black’ was groundbreaking for featuring a diverse cast of LGBTQ characters.
  • LGBTQ representation on TV has made huge strides in recent years.
  • More recent series like “Glee,” “Pose,” and “Orange Is the New Black” reflect the complex and many-varied experiences of queer people.
  • This was made possible by early shows like “Queer as Folk,” “The L Word,” and “Will & Grace,” which helped introduce audiences to inclusive storytelling.
  • Here are 44 of the most groundbreaking queer characters and relationships on TV.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

LGBTQ representation on TV has made huge strides in recent years, but it wasn’t too long ago when queerness onscreen was considered risky, controversial, or even career-ending.

Shows like “Queer as Folk,” “The L Word,” “Will & Grace,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” helped break down boundaries and introduce audiences to inclusive storytelling – allowing for non-straight characters to shine on more recent series like “Glee,” “Pose,” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

These shows don’t simply rely on stereotypical “gay best friends” or feature women kissing as a publicity stunt. They developed complex, unique, and beloved LGBTQ stories.

In honour of LGBTQ Pride, INSIDER rounded up 44 of the most groundbreaking queer characters and relationships on TV.


Callie Torres was openly bisexual on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty ImagesSara Ramirez as Calliope Torres on ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” has always featured prominent LGBTQ characters and story lines, but Callie Torres maintains a special place in many fans’ hearts.

When Callie realised she wasn’t straight on season four, she became one of the first prominent bisexual TV characters and, according to Vox, eventually became the longest-running queer series regular in TV history.


Ellen Morgan famously came out on “The Puppy Episode” of the sitcom “Ellen.”

ABCEllen DeGeneres as Ellen Morgan and Laura Dern as Susan on ‘Ellen.’

On a 1997 episode of her ABC sitcom “Ellen,” one week after her famous “Yep, I’m Gay” Time magazine cover, Ellen DeGeneres’ titular character came out onscreen.

In a now-famous scene, Ellen Morgan declared, “Susan, I’m gay,” while accidentally speaking into an airport’s P.A. microphone.

Though groundbreaking, the move was largely seen as too controversial by its 42 million viewers and condemned by advertisers. The network began to run a viewer discretion warning before each episode of “Ellen.”

“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” former President Barack Obama said when he awarded DeGeneres with the Medal of Freedom.


Mickey Milkovich’s relationship with Ian Gallagher on “Shameless” helped him grow and accept himself.

ShowtimeCameron Monaghan as Ian and Noel Fisher as Mickey on ‘Shameless.’

Mickey Milkovich’s coming out on Showtime’s “Shameless” was hailed as a moment that shattered gay stereotypes. And in his relationship with his out boyfriend, Ian Gallagher, Mickey was able to confront his own self-loathing and harmful conception of queerness.


Nicky Nichols is one of many iconic gay inmates on “Orange Is the New Black.”

NetflixNatasha Lyonne as Nicky Nichols on ‘Orange Is the New Black.’

From its very first episode, Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” featured a diverse array of queer characters – from Piper and Alex to Poussey, Lorna, and Big Boo – each of whom explored and expressed her sexuality in a different way. Nicky Nichols, however, is a fan favourite, thanks to her confidence, unapologetic attitude, and clear sense of self.


Sophia Burset on “Orange Is the New Black” shines a light on the treatment of trans women in prisons.

NetflixLaverne Cox as Sophia Burset on ‘Orange Is the New Black.’

For the LGBTQ community, Sophia Burset is a particularly important character on “Orange Is the New Black.” In her flashbacks, Sophia is seen grappling with the ripple effects of her transition. In the current timeline, Sophia often deals with insults and microaggressions, and she has struggled with discriminatory practices in the prison system – including inadequate hormone dosages and forced solitary confinement for her own “protection.”

While Sophia’s story may not be encouraging, it shines an important light on transphobia and the systemic challenges that trans women face on a regular basis – especially since she stays strong in spite of her trauma.


Ilana Wexler rejected narrow definitions of romance and sexuality on “Broad City.”

Comedy CentralIlana Glazer as Ilana Wexler on ‘Broad City.’

Ilana, half of the dynamic duo on Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” was a queer icon from the get-go. In a rare moment of definition, Ilana declares, “We are poly, we are bi,” while speaking to her long-term partner – but Ilana is best known for rejecting labels and focusing entirely on what feels right in the moment.

“She’s one of the few female characters on television who successfully engages in casual sexual relationships without guilt or emotional conflict,” Megan E. Sims wrote for The Harvard Crimson.


Will Truman and Jack McFarland, both gay men, on “Will & Grace.”

NBCEric McCormack as Will and Sean Hayes as Jack on ‘Will & Grace.’

NBC’s Will & Grace” was an unlikely anomaly when it first aired in 1998. It was just one year after Ellen Morgan became the first character to come out on TV – a move that subsequently tanked “Ellen’s” rankings and likely led to the show’s cancellation. But “Will & Grace,” a show that largely focused on two gay men, was so popular that it was revived 20 years later.

Debra Messing, who plays Grace, told TheWrap that she originally saw their gay lead (Eric McCormack’s Will) as the most “revolutionary” aspect of the show.

“When we came on, we knew that we were trying to do something risky. We didn’t know if it was going to be accepted or not,” she said. “I really felt like there was a very good chance that we would be pulled off the air after three episodes.”

Each of the four main actors would go on to win Emmy awards for their roles. Moreover, featuring two different gay men who were vastly different from one another helped challenge the stereotypes that still plague gay men to this day.


Omar Little on “The Wire” helped take away some of the stigma that surrounds openly gay black men.

HBOMichael K. Williams as Omar on ‘The Wire.’

HBO’s “The Wire” handled Omar’s sexuality in “a measured and matter-of-fact way,” Glen Weldon wrote for Decider, dubbing the notorious stick-up man “one of TV’s first gay superheroes.”

“That’s notable, of course, given ‘The Wire’s’ setting and subject matter,” Weldon wrote. “It was an essential part of Omar, and his world – it coloured his actions and those of the people around him, in small, practical ways.”


Despite the tragic end of Tara Maclay and Willow Rosenberg on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” their relationship is still celebrated.

The WB‎Amber Benson as Tara and Alyson Hannigan as Willow on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’

Despite Tara’s widely criticised death on The WB’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” her beloved romance with Willow revolutionised the way lesbian relationships were portrayed onscreen.


Kurt Hummel was the first openly gay character introduced on “Glee.”

FoxChris Colfer as Kurt Hummel on ‘Glee.’

Fox’s “Glee” was often praised as an LGBTQ haven, but Kurt – the show’s first openly gay character, who famously kickeda field goal for the football team while performing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” dance – had a particularly strong impact.

In one of his most memorable moments, Kurt shared a climactic kiss with Blaine that produced little to no outrage, a symbolic moment of progress for onscreen queer representation.

“What’s most impressive about the ‘Glee’ kiss,” The Atlantic wrote at the time, “was that it was not endlessly teased in promos, or publicized as a sweeps ratings stunt. The scene itself was simple and plot-serving, not built up with a sweeping score or episode-long anticipation. The audience reaction was decidedly not ‘I’m shocked!’ but ‘it’s about time.'”


Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce eventually got married on “Glee.”

FoxNaya Rivera as Santana Lopez and Heather Morris as Brittany Pierce on ‘Glee.’

As opposed to Kurt’s flamboyance, Santana and Brittany offered a more confusing, nuanced look at sexuality in high school. Neither felt the need to label themselves and each girl’s queerness slowly unfolded over the course of the show.

Long before the two characters defined their relationship and eventually got married, fans could see themselves in their fluidity.

“For me, Brittany and Santana represent a new mode of queer figure,” Lux Alptraum wrote for Jezebel in 2010, before “Glee’s” second season aired. “Fluidly sexual, comfortable with same sex contacts, and more interested in finding happiness than finding the right label. They may not fit into the rigid strictures of traditional sexual identities, but they’re comfortable enough with themselves not to care.”


Titus Andromedon is a beloved gay character on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

NetflixTituss Burgess on ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’

Titus Andromedon was a fan-favourite character on Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” from the get-go thanks to his humour, confidence, and charming ridiculousness. But he was also a femme gay man who subverts the “gay best friend” stereotype.

Titus was granted almost exactly as much screen time as the show’s titular character and enjoyed his own complex subplots. He wasn’t merely a side character, designed to elevate the straight female lead, but rather an essential aspect of the story.


Kat Edison’s realisation that she’s not straight on “The Bold Type” was perfectly executed.

FreeformAisha Dee as Kat and Nikohl Boosheri as Adena on ‘The Bold Type.’

Audiences celebrated Freeform’s “The Bold Type” for treating one of its primary characters, Kat Edison, with respect and understanding as she questioned her own sexuality. The show has triumphed with its positive representation of fluid queerness, from Kat’s supportive friends to a surprisingly sensitive sex scene with her girlfriend, Adena, a “proud, Muslim, lesbian” artist.


Angel Evangelista exudes confidence and elegance as a trans woman on “Pose.”

FXIndya Moore as Angel on ‘Pose.’

Indya Moore’s striking performance as Angel on FX’s “Pose” – an honest and comprehensive look at New York’s LGBTQ black and Latinx ballroom community in the ’80s – landed her on Time’s list of 100 most influential people.

Moore has repeatedly praised the show for representing a strong, realistic trans woman and treating her story with respect.

“Angel has a very genuine relationship to her own identity. She doesn’t have a concept of hiding who she is or feeling like she has to be secretive about it,” Moore told Variety. “So she told Patty why she was at the ball and says, ‘I’m a transsexual.’ I think that was also a really incredible moment because Angel said it so nonchalantly and so boldly and so. ‘This is who I am and that’s just what it is.'”


Jude Foster and Connor Stevens on “The Fosters” shared the youngest-ever same-sex kiss on network TV.

FreeformGavin MacIntosh as Connor and Hayden Byerly as Jude on ‘The Fosters.’

When Freeform’s “The Fosters” featured a kiss between 13-year-olds Jude and Connor, the show apparently logged the youngest same-sex kiss in the history of US television.

But beyond that one moment, the show’s tender, innocent depiction of first love struck a chord with many LGBTQ fans – who rarely see onscreen representations of their own school-age experiences, despite heterosexual crushes and young relationships cropping up everywhere from “The Little Rascals” to “Stranger Things.”


Brian Kinney had the most interesting story line on “Queer as Folk.”

ShowtimeGale Harold as Brian on ‘Queer as Folk.’

As Owen Jones once wrote for The Guardian, “Queer as Folk” felt like “coming up for air” for many LGBTQ viewers. The Showtime show, adapted from the original British version on Channel 4, followed a group of gay men navigating discrimination, the AIDS crisis, same-sex marriage, and love.

As the title suggests, the show features a number of beloved queer characters. But the evolution of Brian Kinney remains one of the most complex and relatable gay story lines on TV.


As an openly gay, black police officer, Captain Raymond Holt fought his way through discrimination on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

FoxAndre Braugher as Raymond Holt on ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’

As fans of NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are aware, Raymond Holt came out as gay in the ’80s. He struggled with discrimination and homophobia as a member of the NYPD, but eventually achieved his dream of being promoted to captain and never compromised his sense of self.


Rosa Diaz is a bisexual detective on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

NBCStephanie Beatriz as Rosa on ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’

Rosa Diaz’s coming out on NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – which was explored and dissected over the course of two thoughtful episodes – felt even more genuine played by Stephanie Beatriz, who’s openly bisexual and advocated for her character’s queerness.

“There were multiple rewrites, but the main thing for me was that the character said ‘bisexual’ and that she said it so many times,” Beatriz told Vulture. “She names her sexuality, versus many bisexual characters that you see in television in the past that have just happened to date men and women, and they’re just fluid and sexy, and sometimes they’re a f—ing villain.”


“Adventure Time” finally confirmed Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s romantic relationship after 10 seasons.

Cartoon NetworkPrincess Bubblegum and Marceline are voiced by Hynden Walch and Olivia Olson.

The romantic relationship between Marceline and Bubblegum on Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” was expertly developed throughout the show’s 10-season run. And when they finally kissed on the series finale, it didn’t feel like unauthentic pandering.

As Polygon’s Allegra Frank wrote, diverse sexual orientations shouldn’t be seen as new or noteworthy, since they’re “a part of the reality we all live in.”

Still, she added: “It just feels hard to argue against that feeling of elation at seeing two of your favourite women kiss on a kids’ cartoon. Think of all the kids who will grow up with every type of pairing normalized; us former kids should certainly wish we had the chance to do so.”


Maxxie Oliver rose above homophobia on “Skins.”

E4Mitch Hewer as Maxxie on ‘Skins.’

The British series “Skins” on E4 was known for pushing the envelope, especially in its unabashed depictions of teenage sexuality. The realism of “Skins” demanded that young adults on TV be taken seriously as they navigate sex and identity.

As the show’s first out gay character, Maxxie helped open the door for elevated queer story lines in teen dramas, especially ones that didn’t just revolve around coming out. Maxxie always knew who he was, and he didn’t let bigotry or misunderstanding water him down – even when it came from his best friend.


Emily Fitch and Naomi Campbell helped each other come to terms with their sexualities on “Skins.”

E4Kathryn Prescott as Emily and Lily Loveless as Naomi on ‘Skins.’

When series three of “Skins” aired in 2009, Emily was introduced as a shy pushover. Naomi was a cynical outsider. But by the series four finale, they had become one of the most beloved examples of true love on TV.

Many of the show’s teenage viewers had only seen straight relationships treated with such reverence and given such depth onscreen. As individuals and as a couple, Emily and Naomi had both love and issues in abundance – but their love was always most important.


Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker are very different but very in love on “Modern Family.”

ABCJesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell and Eric Stonestreet as Cam on ‘Modern Family.’

Mitch and Cam’s loving marriage was baked into the very fabric of ABC’s “Modern Family.”

Over the course of 10 seasons, viewers saw them squabble, adopt children, and shamelessly express total unconditional love. Especially in the context of a family-oriented comedy, Mitch and Cam helped normalize gay relationships on TV – especially since the show premiered in 2009, four years before the Defence of Marriage Act was overturned.


Taylor Mason is a gender non-binary CEO on “Billions.”

ShowtimeAsia Kate Dillon as Taylor Mason on ‘Billions.’

Not only does Asia Kate Dillion portray one of the most powerful and visible non-binary characters of all time – the cunning, financially savvy Taylor Mason on Showtime’s “Billions” – they’re also the first non-binary actor with a starring role on American TV.

“I would have never wanted to play Taylor if it had been a one-off episode and in that episode it would have been all about their gender identity,” Dillon told NBC News. “If it hadn’t been a fully fleshed-out character, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it, because that representation is old hat, frankly, and not interesting. Non-binary people are multi-dimensional human beings.”


Cyrus Beene was the first openly gay vice president in the “Scandal” universe — and otherwise.

Richard Cartwright/ABCJeff Perry as Cyrus Beene on ‘Scandal.’

Like many people in the “Scandal” universe on ABC, Cyrus Beene may be a terrible person. But in a world where the Vice President of the United States actively supports homophobic policies, an openly gay and influential politician – even on TV – feels like a relief.


Elena Alvarez struggled with her father’s homophobia on “One Day at a Time.”

NetflixIsabella Gomez as Elena Alvarez on ‘One Day at a Time.’

As a Latina teen, Elena Alvarez’s coming out on Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” was a rare and important story to tell – especially given how sensitively the show handled the fallout of her father’s negative reaction.

“There were quite a few LGBTQ people that were working with us that were really touched by it and really could relate to it, and they were emotional,” Gomez told USA Today of filming the “rough” scene. “It was a lot of tears on that set.”


Yorkie and Kelly defied stereotypes and expectations on the “San Junipero” episode of “Black Mirror.”

NetflixMackenzie Davis as Yorkie and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Kelly on ‘Black Mirror.’

The “San Junipero” episode rejected the show’s pessimistic formula – as well as the cliché of tragic lesbian love.

The show presents Yorkie and Kelly’s mutual attraction as natural, almost incidental, and even weaves in a poignant plot that celebrates same-sex marriage. As Mo Johnson noted for Bust, it’s a “refreshingly hopeful” story that resists the trope of fetishizing two women in love.


Moira refused to be demonized for her sexuality on “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Elly Dassas/HuluSamira Wiley as Moira on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, chronicles a dystopian society that punishes LGBTQ people, who are dubbed “gender traitors.” Lesbianism is especially criminalized, and fertile lesbian women are forced to become incubators for powerful men.

The protagonist’s best friend, Moira, is known as a hero amongst the Handmaids. She maintained her strength, conviction, and even her humour in the face of crushing, seemingly insurmountable odds.


Read more:


‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ star Samira Wiley says she was originally ‘concerned about being typecast’


Emily sacrificed herself for her wife and son on “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

HuluAlexis Bledel as Emily on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’

Like Moira, Emily was criminalized for being a lesbian and enslaved as a Handmaid. Unlike Moira, Emily was forced to say goodbye to her wife and son at the Canadian border and stay behind.

Emily is a symbol of resistance and endurance on the show. She is thrown into a variety of horrific circumstances, tortured, and abused – but always insists on fighting back.


Carol and Susan getting married on “Friends” was somewhat scandalous at the time.

NBCJane Sibbett as Carol, David Schwimmer as Ross, and Jessica Hecht as Susan on ‘Friends.’

“Friends” has been criticised for using homosexuality as a punchline, but for its time, “The One With the Lesbian Wedding” was almost radical.

“It was important to us, and the producers, that we showed a couple that was in love,” Jane Sibbert, who played Carol,told The Guardian. “But certain affiliates wouldn’t air the episode with our wedding. They completely blocked it out.”

Moreover, Carol and Ross raising their son alongside Carol’s wife was something like an early “Modern Family” dynamic. There was no judgment in Ross’ group of close friends, and Ben’s family structure – though certainly seen as unconventional at the time – was embraced as his norm.


Alex Kelly became a bisexual icon for fans of “The O.C.”

FoxOlivia Wilde as Alex Kelly on ‘The O.C.’

Alex Kelly wasn’t a major character on Fox’s hit show “The O.C.,” but her story line remains a memorable, pivotal moment for many LGBTQ fans. She definitely deserved more, but she also boosted the visibility of bisexuality on TV.

“I’m so happy to see how far we’ve come as a society when I think about how sensational it was to play a queer woman on TV back then,” Olivia Wilde shared on social media in January. “Now it seems almost quaint and young people are rejecting labels altogether and that is why they shall rule the earth and save us all.”


Lily Hoshikawa opened up about being trans on the Japanese anime series “Zombieland Saga.”

MappaMinami Tanaka voices Lily on ‘Zombieland Saga.’

Cygames’ anime series “Zombie Land Saga,” which follows a group of Japanese zombies, features a loveable, late child actress named Lily.

On the series’ eighth episode, Lily revealed that she was assigned male at birth. She died from sheer anguish and embarrassment after noticing facial hair beginning to grow on her chin.

While this seems like a tragic story, Lily’s is actually one of self-acceptance and unconventional optimism. Since she died at just 12 years old, Lily will never have to go through puberty and has found freedom in her new life as a zombie.


Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand represented a fluid, progressive approach to sexuality on “Game of Thrones.”

HBOPedro Pascal as Oberyn and Indira Varma as Ellaria on ‘Game of Thrones.’

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is hardly known for progressive depictions of sex or gender. But the characters from Dorne represent a refreshing fluidity and openness, which exist in short supply throughout most of Westeros.

In particular, Oberyn Martell is treasured by LGBTQ fans. Jezebel’s C.A. Pinkham called him “the most important male bisexual character in TV history.”

The so-called Red Viper and his longtime partner, Ellaria Sand, treat the ideas of gender preference and sexual monogamy as laughably absurd. They confront prejudice head-on, completely free from guilt or shame.

As Pinkham points out, it’s worth noting that Oberyn’s sexuality is never defined in the books. The showrunners made an active decision to make this heroic, fan-favourite character explicitly bisexual – and, by extension, to validate bisexuality on the most culturally relevant show of our time.


Bette Porter was seen as the lesbian matriarch on “The L Word.”

Paul Michaud/ShowtimeJennifer Beals as Bette on ‘The L Word.’

Any of the six lesbian and bisexual women who starred on “The L Word” could be included in this list. When it premiered on Showtime in 2004, it was arguably the most refreshing and unapologetic depiction of queer women on TV, ever.

But as Ryley Rubin Pogensky wrote for Huffpost, one “L Word” character was particularly influential: “Bette was The power dyke. Educated, strong willed, cultured, independent, fiercely loyal, and wealthy. In many ways she was a total inspiration, and someone not only to look up to, but aspire to be.”


Tasha Williams on “The L Word” rose awareness about discriminatory practices in the military.

ShowtimeRose Rollins as Tasha on ‘The L Word.’

Tasha served in Iraq before the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was overturned. Thusly, her superior officer ordered her to keep quiet about her sexual orientation.

As a character, Tasha offered valuable insight into the harmful policy and its lasting effects.

“Even though it is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ people still know,” Rose Rollins said of her character in a 2007 interview. “People still judge; people still don’t want to see it; people still want to try to undermine. There’s someone who tries to undermine my position because he found out I was gay, so he was actually gunning for my job. It just touches on all of the responsibilities that come with it. It’s not as easy as just ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”


Ryan, a gay man with cerebral palsy, stars on “Special.”

NetflixRyan O’Connell on ‘Special.’

Netflix’s “Special” tells the story of a gay man with cerebral palsy, giving voice to an extremely underrepresented identity – and starring someone who understands it first-hand, as a gay man with cerebral palsy.

Ryan O’Connell, who wrote the memoir the show is based on,told GQ that it was “really hard” to sell the show to networks.

“It took four years so it took a lot of people saying no and it took a lot of people saying, ‘F— no.’ It took one person saying, ‘OK, sure, why not,” he said, adding that even 2015 was “a very, very different time.”

The show has also been celebrated for its realistic, relatable depictions of gay sex.

“It’s time to show gay sex for what it is, and if people have a problem with that, then too bad, they need to unpack that with their therapist,” O’Connell told GQ. “I don’t make stuff to placate straight people.”


“Wynonna Earp” portrays a refreshingly healthy lesbian relationship between Nicole Haught and Waverly Earp.

SyfyKatherine Barrell as Nicole and Dominique Provost-Chalkley as Waverly.

Fans were delighted when Nicole and Waverly finally solidified their relationship on Syfy’s “Wynonna Earp.”

“It wasn’t a dream sequence or some toothless, chaste scene. It was hot. It felt earned, with a slow burning set up that gave us a pay off that was well worth the wait,” Megan Logan wrote for Inverse.

“‘Wynonna Earp’ gives us the representation we deserve with Waverly and Nicole,” she continued, “who are both fully-realised characters that are integral to the plot and have a real part the story outside of their sexualities and outside of each other.”


Lafayette Reynolds is the only character who’s both gay and human on “True Blood.”

HBONelsan Ellis as Lafayette and Kevin Alejandro as Jesús on ‘True Blood.’

It has been widely and convincingly argued that HBO’s “True Blood” is, in essence, a loose allegory for the fight for gay rights. The show is dedicated to themes of acceptance, the nuances of assimilation, and diversity within defined groups.

The actual gay characters are most essential on a show that explores these ideas. Lafayette – the only main character who is both gay and human – is particularly adored. His first full-fledged sex scene on the seventh season was roundly celebrated, and his relationships with James and Jesús both provide tender moments.


Bo Dennis is the bisexual succubus at the center of “Lost Girl.”

SyfyAnna Silk as Bo on ‘Lost Girl.’

Syfy’s “Lost Girl” follows a powerful species called “fae.” For the main character, a succubus named Bo, sex is at the very center of her power.

As Annalee Newitz wrote for Gizmodo, the combination of Bo’s strong moral compass and sex-positive attitude makes for the kind of interesting, progressive character rarely seen on TV.

“Bo’s got to have sex to live, and she does it with everybody – male, female, human and fae,” Newitz wrote. “It’s hot and sweet, and the show often gives us little PSAs about how slut-shaming is bad and all sex is good as long as it’s consensual.”


Rickie Vasquez on “My So-Called Life” was the first character to come out as gay on a network TV series.

ABCWilson Cruz as Rickie on ‘My So-Called Life.’

Putting a gay, Latino character at the forefront of ABC’s “My So-Called Life,” a teen show that aired in the ’90s, was the definition of “groundbreaking.”

On the beautiful 1994 episode “So-Called Angels,” Rickie Vasquez became the first character to come out as gay on a network TV series – but his legacy is more than just one moment. As an androgynous teenager, Rickie dealt with real discrimination and harassment, long before “Ellen” or “Will & Grace” tackled similar issues with adult characters.

Played by gay actor Wilson Cruz, Rickie was richly developed throughout the show and transcended stereotypes.

“I knew that people’s stories and voices were important, and that there needed to be [a role model] especially for LGBT youth,” Cruz told Elle in 2016. “Here was my opportunity, and I felt like if I didn’t step up, I would regret it. And I’ve never regretted it, never.”


Nomi Marks is a trans woman who’s in love with a queer cis woman, Amanita Caplan, on “Sense8.”

NetflixJamie Clayton as Nomi and Freema Andrews as Amanita on ‘Sense8.’

As a whole, Netflix’s “Sense8” is a triumph for the LGBTQ community. The cast includes a number of non-straight main characters and was co-created by the Wachowski sisters, both of whom are transgender.

Arguably the most exciting story on the show is that of Nomi Marks, a trans woman who’s played by a trans actress, Jamie Clayton. Nomi and her partner, Amanita, are the type of couple that deserves but is rarely given significant screen time.

“I had never seen a couple like this [on TV] before so I knew that we were doing something special,” Clayton told the Daily Beast.


Bill Potts was the first openly gay companion on “Doctor Who.”

BBCPearl Mackie as Bill on ‘Doctor Who.’

The wildly popular, long-running BBC series “Doctor Who” has featured a variety of “companions,” which is the title given to each character who travels alongside each incarnation of the Doctor.

The show finally introduced its first gay companion in 2017: Bill Potts, whose sexuality was made explicit right off the bat.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time, isn’t it?” Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill, told the BBC. “That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show.”


Ruby and Sapphire embody the celebration of queer love on “Steven Universe.”

Cartoon NetworkRuby and Sapphire are voiced by Charlyne Yi and Erica Luttrell.

Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe” is one of the most emphatically queer shows on TV. The show largely ignores gender norms, and there’s no “default” sexuality.

These themes are most clearly communicated through Ruby and Sapphire, who present as a lesbian couple. The two Crystal Gems reject their so-called “designs” and “purposes” in favour of their relationship. They even blend their bodies and minds to form an entirely unique entity, Garnet, a personification of their love.

“The underlying message imbued in Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship, the argument that love is a thing worth fighting for, even when your culture ostracizes you for pursuing it, offers a rallying cry that queers from all backgrounds can unite behind,” Lux Alptraum wrote for Polygon.


William Hill on “This Is Us” gave us a rare depiction of an elderly, bisexual, black man.

Paul Drinkwater/NBC/Getty ImagesRon Cephas Jones as William on ‘This Is Us.’

Although William Hill was a short-lived character on NBC’s family drama “This Is Us,” he made a huge impact as an elderly, bisexual, black man. The show addressed his sexuality in a realistic yet sensitive, thoughtful way, and his legacy lives on in the open-mindedness of his son.


Jules is a trans teen on “Euphoria.”

HBOHunter Schafer as Jules on ‘Euphoria.’

Hunter Schafer, a transfeminine model and activist, stars as Jules on HBO’s new teen drama “Euphoria.” The character’s trans identity is explored with both grit and grace, particularly on an episode told entirely from Jules’ point of view.

Schafer told W magazine that the best part about playing Jules is “revisiting psychological landscapes I was in as a high schooler in order to fill her storyline with the correct motives.”

“It’s been therapeutic to readdress that part of my life, using Jules as a pathway,” she explained. “While Jules and I have some similar experiences, my life is not completely parallel to hers. What I do identify with is the driving force behind her decision-making throughout much of the show.”

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