(Possible spoiler alerts ahead)
If you are anything like me, at the end of a long day you enjoy curling up with a glass of wine (or any other type of beverage) and turning on one of many streaming platforms to watch some TV. With millions of hours of television available, it can sometimes be challenging to decide what to watch, but if you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, you may be partial to shows with queer representation.
In the last ten years, the amount of queer characters on TV has grown exponentially, and not just the quantity of characters, but the quality. While queer shows have been prone to cancellation despite their popularity (RIP First Kill, Everything Sucks and The Wilds), it seems as though some producers have started to catch on that the queer audience is a massive demographic that deserves to be represented.
While many envision queer television as reality shows such as Queer Eye and RuPaul’s Drag Race, (which I also love) the scripted series have had noticeable improvements and have built characters around more than just their sexualities and their coming-out stories. The representation that was present before, while revolutionary at the time, often played into stereotypes of the queer community, such as effeminate men and women who are tomboys or happen to fall in love with their best friend. The beautiful thing about modern queer representation is that they are flushed out as people and not used as plot devices or tokenism. Here are some of my recommendations for shows that do queer characters correctly and gracefully.
Netflix’s Sex Education handles queer characters with such dignity and defies so many stereotypes when (spoiler alert) macho bad boy Adam discovers that he is bisexual. The love story between Adam and Eric really resonates with watchers and allows Adam to apologize for how he treated Eric prior to his coming out.
Otis and Maeve, who run the sex clinic, also have absolutely no qualms with helping same sex couples, and are even willing to educate themselves in order to give better advice. The show also features non-binary and asexual characters and educates viewers in a digestible and, frankly, necessary manner.
Another important genre in queer television is the lesbian period piece. These shows give insight into how the queer community lived and the challenges that they faced before the community was widely tolerated. Dickinson, on Apple TV, follows Emily Dickinson (who was widely believed to be gay) and her love affair with her best friend Sue. In more recent history, we have Amazon Prime’s A League of Her Own and Netflix’s Call the Midwife, which features queer female characters navigating relationships in the 1950s and 60s. These characters have allowed older members of the community to feel seen and younger members to realize how far society has come.
Finally, shows aimed at children and young adults have a history of being extremely censored when it comes to topics such as the LGBTQ+ community. The first time a character on a Disney show had ever uttered the words “I’m gay” was Cyrus of Disney’s Andi Mack in 2019. But since then, Disney has come a long way.
The Disney+ original, High School Musical: The Musical The Series, features a whopping five queer characters as of season 3. A moment that stands out in the series is when the character Ashlyn realizes that she likes women and is overwhelmed with joy. This is a massive departure from queer characters being afraid to come out. This also paints the picture of beauty and joy in the community and not something to be dreaded. It was also encouraging to see the automatic acceptance of the rest of the characters gave.
As a whole, there is still a long way to go in accurate representation of all corners of the LGBTQ+ community. With the negative connotations that plagued many queer characters in the 2010s, such as promiscuity, indecisiveness and the dreaded “bury your gays” trope, it is refreshing to see queer characters as leaders, caregivers and genuine lights of the shows they are in.
Some other recommendations: Feel Good (Netflix), Pose (Disney+), Gentlemen Jack (Apple TV), Heartstopper (Netflix), One Day at a Time (Netflix), Wynonna Earp (Crave).