LGBTQ+ characters on TV are not as common as they should be, but we’re starting to make progress when it comes to silver screen representation. There are some truly amazing shows that you can stream right now that feature absolutely kick-ass LGBTQ+ characters.
For the record, this list is by no means exhaustive. I haven’t seen all the TV shows, I’m working on it though. I included all of my favorites, but hopefully, there are many more wonderful LGBTQ+ characters to come.
The whole premise of Sex Education is a realistic and sex-positive portrayal of teenage life. This includes accurate representations of what it’s like to be in high school and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Eric is full stop, one of my favorite characters on all of television. He is gay and struggles with his identity in a small town with a family that isn’t always completely on board. Eric is impossible not to fall in love with. He is so kind, and so authentically himself, and even when things get difficult, he perseveres. Eric is strong and has such a good head on his shoulders, while also being a delightfully fun character. I am rooting for him so hard. Yes, I know he is fictional, but I hope he gets everything he deserves from life.
Look, Riverdale is kind of a dumpster fire of a show. As the seasons go on, the plot gets more convoluted and ridiculous. Vanessa Morgan spoke out this week about how she is the only Black series regular on the show, and she gets paid the least. This is, obviously, not good.
Despite the flaming trash heap that is Riverdale, the light that shines through is Morgan’s character Toni Topaz. She is just so freaking cool, and her relationship with Cheryl Blossom is teenage tv relationship goals. Toni is fiercely loyal, fights for what she believes in, and is always a source of support for her friends and girlfriend. She is really the only reason this show is worth watching if it still is. Can we just have a Toni and Cheryl spinoff? Where they both are appropriately paid?
Shameless unabashedly tackles plenty of serious issues amidst its funny shenanigans, one of which is the struggles of homosexual teenagers living far below the poverty line. Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich start out as wayward teens trying to find themselves and figure out their sexualities amid a whole myriad of other problems. As the seasons go on, they eventually morphed into one of the cutest, albeit maybe not the most functional, couples on TV.
The two boys handle completely different family relationships, especially when it comes to their family’s reactions to their sexuality. They grapple with coming out in very different ways, and it demonstrates how varied the LGBTQ+ experience can be. No two stories are the same, and that is mirrored in how Mickey and Ian handled their gayness. Once you get to know them, you just want these two to be happy.
If you don’t love Rosa Diaz, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re probably reading the wrong list. Rosa Diaz is a bisexual police officer, played by a bisexual woman. She is tough as nails, incredibly cool, and secretly loves puppies. While I am actually much more like Amy Santiago, I want to be like Rosa Diaz.
The cast of Brooklyn 99 is also led by Chief Holt, the gay chief of police. Both of these characters were huge for representation on TV, especially in sitcoms. The show itself is so comforting and uplifting. Everything about the team is fun to watch. It’s a modern sitcom for a modern audience, and it’s a truly beautiful thing.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This is your typical teenage sci-fi style show. It has a little bit of the same unbelievable vibe that Riverdale does like it takes place in some strange parallel universe where reality meets pure suspension of disbelief. However, one of the things that the show does really well is its LGBTQ+ representation.
The show features Ambrose Spellman, a pansexual warlock. Although he is somehow cursed to remain inside the Spellman home for most of the first season, he somehow manages to make his sexuality completely clear with his constant flirty remarks. The show also features Theo Putnam, played by non-binary actor Lachlan Watson. Theo is a transgender boy and one of Sabrina’s closest friends who recurs throughout the series. Although this show isn’t my favorite of the ones on this list, the teen representation is admirable, and if you’re into the whole teenage magic thing you’ll probably love it.
Anyone who knows me at all knows that Bones is my favorite TV show of all time. I could not in good conscience make this list without including the first bisexual character I ever saw on television, Angela Montenegro. Her bisexuality is not a defining trait for her, she just is who she is, and she expects everyone to be on board. She is a notorious free spirit with a big heart, and she cares deeply about everyone around her, although she sometimes has to fight a reputation for being promiscuous.
Angela is the human factor on the show, and the way the show handles her bisexuality is done exceptionally well, especially for the time. Admittedly, Angela’s sexuality is not a huge talking point for the rest of the characters, and it’s not that significant in the show as a whole, but it’s there, and it’s handled well in the episodes where it does come up.
Euphoria took the TV world by storm, and with good reason, when it dropped on HBO last year. It’s HBO’s first really foray into the land of teen drama, and in true HBO form, they did not hold back in the creation of this show and its characters.
Dark and sometimes painful, Euphoria primarily follows the journey of Rue, a teenager semi-recovering from a drug problem. Rue meets Jules, a new-to-town trans girl, and falls into a romantic friendship almost immediately. Their relationship is far from perfect, but that’s part of what makes it feel so real. The most special thing about Jules and Rue is that they embody a kind of representation we haven’t seen much of before. Rue’s sexuality is undefined, but her romantic feelings for Jules are clear, and Jules is navigating the difficult realities of being a young trans woman. These two young women are such engaging characters that elicit such empathy from the audience. Also, the makeup looks are really really cool.
So, pretty much the entire cast of Pose is badass LGBTQ+ characters. The basis of the show is to portray the African-American and Latino ball culture of the late 80s’, and as a result, the vast majority of its characters are part of the community. This show is groundbreaking in a variety of ways, in no small part because of its phenomenal efforts at having LGBTQ+ actors play LGBTQ+ characters.
The show deals with themes authentic both to the time period in which it is set and the community that it represents, including HIV/AIDS, homophobia, sex, and violence. It’s also just a beautifully done artistic spectacle that has Billy Porter in it. What more could you ask for in a show?
Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, whose husbands leave them late in life, for each other. Their husbands, Sol and Robert, come out and proceed to move in together and get married after living a lie for so long. Laid-back hippieish Sol is played by the amazing Sam Waterston, and he’s the perfect foil to buttoned-up Robert, played by Martin Sheen. Their ex-wives mostly steal the focus of the show, but these two and their relationship is a huge draw.
The show is super funny, and it’s unique in that it portrays LGBTQ+ themes amongst older people. So many of the shows on this list are all about teens sorting out their sexuality, there’s something refreshing about watching two men in their 70’s experience those same struggles in such a different landscape. The acting in this show is also unbeatable.
Haunting of Hill House
This show is about a family’s grief and trauma explored through a supernatural lens. Part of what I like about this show is that it includes Thea, a lesbian woman, without making her entire storyline about her sexuality. Her sexuality is open and out there and part of her, but it’s just part of her character, not the entire focus. The show is not about LGBTQ+ characters and themes. However, it is able to appropriately incorporate a realistic lesbian character without glazing over her sexuality or making it the only interesting thing about her.
Note: I have never seen a TV show with an openly asexual character. If anyone reads this and has any recommendations let me know! I’d love to see some ace representation on my Netflix list.