I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV! In the spirit of Pride (and my one year anniversary of writing for Awards Circuit), I’m taking a look back at my very first post, a Top Ten list of LGBTQIA+ characters on TV. Several new shows have premiered in recent months with an LGBTQIA+ majority cast, along with some true standout heroes who continue to rep queer and trans power in 2018. So, here it is, dear readers: the top ten LGBTQIA+ characters (or casts) on TV right now.
(list in no particular order, ranking LGBTQIA+ heroes is impossible)
Anissa Pierce (Thunder), “Black Lightning”
Anissa Pierce (played by Nafessa Williams) is Black Girl Magic personified in the CW’s “Black Lightning,” where the med student moonlights as the crime-fighting Thunder. Anissa, a super-strong bulletproof metahuman who can make the earth shake with a single stomp, is the older daughter of Jefferson Pierce (aka, Black Lightning) and sister to Jennifer (Lightning). She’s also a proud, out lesbian. The importance of a seeing a black, lesbian superhero on TV in 2018 isn’t lost on Williams, who told EW, “My hope is that when you watch Anissa, a young lesbian is inspired to walk boldly as who she is and to love herself and to love herself exactly how she looks.”
Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” made history before it even aired, assembling the largest cast of trans actors ever on a scripted TV series, along with an impressive cohort of trans talent to write, direct, produce and more. “Pose,” a mix of “FAME” and “Paris is Burning,” boasts a fierce selection of LGBTQIA+ characters determined to live life to the fullest amidst the AIDS epidemic and the Reagan administration. The Houses of Abundance and Evangelista are here to slay, and I’m already predicting a very happy awards season for the cast and crew. Emmys, anyone?
Elena Alvarez, “One Day At A Time”
She’s a nerdy, feminist, Latinx gayby here to save the world in “One Day At A Time,” a Cuban American sitcom that takes on current issues without getting too after-school special. Elena Alvarez, the elder child of the Alvarez family, is still trying to find her place in the world after coming out in Season 1. Elena’s sexuality is part of her story without eclipsing it, sliding Elena’s first girlfriend into Season 2 alongside discussions of racism, mental health and U.S. politics. The teenager, played by Isabella Gomez, eventually confronts her homophobic father in a heartbreaking scene that will hopefully land Gomez an Emmy nod. Watch it below.
“Sense8” may be over, but its finale cemented the cast’s place in queer TV history with a love letter to solidarity, friendship, and polyamory. Nomi and Amanita tied the knot at the Eiffel Tower with some tearjerking vows, while Wolfgang, Kala and Rajan solved their romantic problems with some great sex and open minds. The sci-fi series is one of very few to portray queer polyamorous love in a positive light, ignoring stereotypes (nobody buries their gays) and showcasing sexuality as a fluid idea and monogamy as one of several paths, not a forgone conclusion.
Karolina Dean, “Marvel’s Runaways”
She’s an alien from space with secret, glowing rainbow powers. She’s also a girl who likes girls. Meet Karolina Dean, a member of “Marvel’s Runaways” who’s struggling with her sexuality and controlling her powers on the teen superhero series. Several of the show’s romances hinge on Karolina, whose friendship/relationship with her ex-boyfriend Chase pushes her towards a sexuality revelation, eventually dating resident goth girl Nico. Y’all. She glows like the aurora borealis. She’s a gay girl with the gayest powers ever. It’s so beautiful.
Pearl, “Steven Universe”
“Steven Universe” is a little hard to explain, but here’s the gist: Steven Universe, a young kid who’s half human, half Gem, lives with the Crystal Gems, a group of magical humanoid aliens who protect Earth from their own kind. “Steven Universe” is generally known for its quirky storylines and for shattering gender boundaries, creating a kids show that glides right over gender norms.
Many LGBTQIA+ fans who have read the show along queer lines were also overjoyed by the confirmation of Pearl’s sexuality, one of the Crystal Gems who finds love with a mysterious pink-haired girl at a rock concert. The casual appearance of a queer character on an animated kids series is the type of progress I’m here for. Watch Pearl’s first time flirting with the mystery girl below.
Fab 5, “Queer Eye”
OK, “Queer Eye” is an unscripted series, but the new Fab 5 are too iconic to ignore. The group of makeover maestros– Karamo, Antoni, Tan, Bobby and Jonathan– travel to conservative corners of America and make over some homes, hearts, and minds. Their goal? Not just tolerance, but acceptance of queer people. They also do the world a solid by ridding it of neckbeards and terrible wardrobes, but hey, there can be more than one goal.
The Netflix series, a reboot of the popular “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” has also updated for 2018, boasting a more inclusive range of subjects including gay men, trans people, women, and people of color. Yaaas queens!
Petra Andel, “Jane the Virgin”
While “Jane the Virgin” has several fantastic LGBTQIA+ characters, Petra Andel (played by Yael Grobglas), has really soared this past season. Petra, whose previous relationships with men have been tumultuous at best, were often dictated by power moves on Petra’s part. But this time, she’s pursuing love for love’s sake with JR (Rosario Dawson), revealing a more vulnerable side to Petra. “Jane the Virgin” focuses on Petra’s development as a person rather than some voyeuristic girl-on-girl action, treating queer romance with respect while giving viewers all the feels.
Todd Chavez, “BoJack Horseman”
“BoJack Horseman,” an oddball animated Netflix series with a loyal following, made headlines last year when BoJack’s friend Todd Chavez (voiced by Aaron Paul) came out as asexual. The coming-out episode, aptly named “Hooray! Todd Episode!,” was a landmark moment rivaling Ellen Degeneres’ “Puppy Episode,” giving Todd the space to tell his story and find acceptance. Todd is one of the first ace characters to make it to the small screen, and his journey has helped create one of the only discussions about asexuality in pop culture.
Nomi Segal, “grown-ish”
Nomi Segal, a member of Zoey’s friend group in the “black-ish” spinoff, is a jaded bisexual in a sea of straight people. Her character (played by Emily Arlook) often calls out problematic behavior, reading the bicurious Ana for trying to make her her “gay experience” and telling a date to “respect the letter, b****” after she calls her sexuality a ” bi phase”. But Nomi has some not-so-shining moments as well, pointing out gendered double-standards about bi people and leaving Nomi with egg on her face. Nomi is, as Bustle calls her, a “perfectly imperfect example of LGBTQ representation,” acknowledging that LGBTQIA+ characters still have their own biases to work through.
Have I forgotten any rising LGBTQIA+ stars? Who would you put on this list? Let me know in the comments below.