15 of the Most Unforgettable LGBTQ+ TV Characters of All Time
When it comes to seeing LGBTQ+ representation on TV, we’ve come a long way since the days of Ellen. No longer do we see actors penalized for being, or playing, queer characters, and the scope of what it means to be an LGBTQ+ character has changed drastically. Queer characters nowadays can be brash, messy, loud—or the total opposite. They definitely no longer have to fit into a singular box.
And we believe these characters should be celebrated all year long, not just during Pride month. Below is our collection of the best LGBTQ+ characters of all time.
15. Arizona Robbins from Grey’s Anatomy
While Grey’s Anatomy has seen its fair share of queer characters, Arizona Robbins stands out above the rest due to her perky personality and optimism for both her career. Even when she lost her leg due to a plane crash, Arizona continued to work to nonstop to help small children become happy and healthy. Though she wasn’t perfect in any way, Arizona is an example of a queer character who tries to do their best despite being dealt a crappy hand in life.
14. Jack McFarland from Will & Grace
While it may seem a bit odd that I didn’t pick the titular Will to discuss at length, that’s because I personally believe that Jack is a better character due to his ability to live as his authentic self no matter what people say. One message that the LGBTQ+ community consistently reinforces is that it’s incredibly important to express your personal truth when it comes to who you are as a person and Jack constantly does that. During the course of Will & Grace’s 11 season, Jack is loud, expressive, blunt, and always knows what he wants and how to go for it. Though it’s a bit unrealistic to ask everyone to live their life out loud, at least we can all live vicariously through Jack.
13. Justin Suarez from Ugly Betty
Speaking of people who do nothing but live their authentic lives, Ugly Betty‘s resident gay teen was a reckoning for young queer people in the early 2000s. While good LGBTQ+ representation wasn’t really seen on TV at that time, Justin was a breath of fresh air as he was someone who knew who he was and loved it wholeheartedly. Justin really paved the way for the queer teen characters we see today and he deserves all of his flowers.
12. Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The tough, stoic detective from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rosa Diaz is not someone you want to mess with. She kept all of the details about her personal life a mystery from her co-workers, so it was a bit of a shock when, in Season 5, it was revealed that Rosa was bisexual and dating a woman. However, while her friends and co-workers took the news well, her parents didn’t and ended up being estranged from her for a good amount of episodes. It was incredibly heartbreaking to watch, but also important to show as that’s the reality of a lot of LGBTQ+ people. Coming out is not always sunshine and rainbows; it can be painful and exhausting as you lose the people who were supposed to love you unconditionally. But, in the words of Captain Raymond Holt, “every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.”
11. Garnet from Steven Universe
If LGBTQ+ representation was hardly seen for the vast majority of the history of live-action television, it was absolutely nonexistent when it came to children’s entertainment. However, with the introduction of the show Steven Universe in 2013, we were gifted with multiple queer storylines across its five seasons, the biggest of which was between two Gems known as Ruby and Sapphire. These two female Gems crashed landed on Earth after escaping certain death on their home planet, fell in love, and fused into the character known as Garnet. So, essentially, Garnet is the personification of Ruby and Sapphire’s love for one another, though she is her own person with a unique personality. I wish I could’ve seen this kind of character in the shows I watched growing up because it normalizes LGBTQ+ identities and relationships, and that’s incredibly important to teach kids—whether they’re queer or not.
10. Judy Hale from Dead to Me
Dead to Me has so many wonderfully colorful characters for audiences to love, but one who stands out from the bunch is the quirky and sweet Judy Hale. A woman struggling with a fatal mistake she’s made against her best friend and co-star Jen Harding, Judy is a complex character who tries to do the right thing whenever she can, but mostly fails at doing so because her actions are often misguided. Finding out that she’s bisexual in the show’s second season just adds another layer to her already rich and vibrant character. I think it’s beneficial to show that queer characters are just as messy and complicated as heterosexual characters. We’re brash, imperfect, and obnoxious just like everyone else.
9. Kurt Hummel from Glee
If Justin Suarez paved the way for queer teens, then Kurt Hummel cemented their place on television along with another Glee character who we’ll talk about later. From Season 1, Kurt was a fashionable and talented gay man who was relentlessly bullied because of his identity. However, though life at school was a constant nightmare, Kurt never changed his personality to fit in with his peers. He didn’t give into the peer pressure of conforming because his identity meant too much, which was such a positive message for other queer teens in similar positions to see. The world may try to beat you down, but keeping your head held high is how you win against bullies.
8. Nia Nal from Supergirl
Supergirl made history by debuting the first transgender superhero on TV in the form of Nia Nal, the ancestor of DC Comics character Nura Nal, a.k.a. Dream Girl. Working alongside Supergirl as both a hero and junior reporter, Nia’s identity as a trans woman ties into her powers and storyline as a whole as her powers are passed down from her mother to her daughter which Nia now is due to her transition. Seeing a trans superhero on TV shows that trans people can be more than characters with tragic backstories. They can be powerful, strong individuals who try to make the world a better place, not just for the trans community, but the world as a whole.
7. Titus Andromedon from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
While he might not be the main character of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus Andromendon is definitely the star of the show. Whether he’s recreating Beyoncé’s break-up album Lemonade or singing about black penises, Titus is not afraid to march to the beat of his own drum. Like a lot of characters on this list, Titus’ best trait is his authenticity and ability to stand by his outrageous personality no matter what the world thinks. If you’re ever in doubt, just be more in Titus.
6. David Rose from Schitt’s Creek
Oh my gawd, David! As part of the hilarious cast of Schitt’s Creek, David is extremely self-centered, snarky, intelligent, and blunt. He says what he means and doesn’t apologize if it hurts your feelings. But, at the same time, he has a big heart which is shown through his connections with his family, friends, and eventual boyfriend. David’s character is one of the few in LGBTQ+ media that has such a supportive system around him who loves him for who he is, flaws in all. Though it may not come from our blood family, being supported as a queer person is incredibly important.
5. Jules Vaughn from Euphoria
While not the only complicated teenager on the hit show Euphoria, Jules Vaughn‘s status as a trans woman puts her in very different, and often dangerous, situations than her peers. When we first meet Jules, she’s fully transitioned and is engaging with men from a dating app for sex. However, we later learn that a lot of these men are older, married, violent, or a horrifying combination of the three. Jules’ high-risk behavior is not uncommon amongst teens, both queer and straight, but it’s not a conversation we often get to have. Jules is an example of how far queer teen representation has come on TV; she’s not as polished as Justin or Kurt, but that just makes her more real.
4. Eric Effiong from Sex Education
As a queer POC myself, I always cherish the opportunity to see that kind of representation in media. Sex Education’s Eric Effiong is an outgoing, fashionable, and incredibly sweet character who loves his friends and family. Though he is bullied for being openly and flamboyantly gay, Eric never shies away from living his truth out loud. There’s a beautiful moment in Season 1 where Eric’s dad asks him to take off his more outlandish outfit before going to a school dance because he’s afraid Eric will be tormented. However, in an act of sheer bravery, Eric stands up to his dad and reinforces the notion that he likes who he is and won’t give in to fear. It’s gorgeous to see such representation that Gen Z and younger can take to heart as they grow up.
3. Todd Chavez from BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman is known for tackling many tough subjects such as addiction, mental health struggles, etc, so it wasn’t too shocking when the show developed a storyline around the sexuality of its main characters, Todd Chavez. During Season 3, Todd dates a woman named Yolanda who he struggles to have any sexual relations with, though he doesn’t know why. In the season finale, he finally admits that he “might be nothing,” with the show going on to explore his asexuality in the following seasons. Asexual representation is not often seen on TV, so it was endearing to see a realistic asexual experience as Todd comes to terms with his identity and how it affects the relationships around him. Asexuality is incredibly valid and we need to see more ace characters on TV.
2. Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista from Pose
Though it was difficult to choose one of the many, many phenomenal characters in Pose, Blanca is the true highlight, not just because she’s basically the main character, but because her arc was one of the most compelling. After being tossed from her ballroom house, Blanca decides to create a new house where she can be the mother who raises another generation of queer POC youths. It’s her determination, passion, and strength that makes her such a standout in a show that’s packed to the brim with wonderfully complicated characters. She’s truly the glue that keeps not only her house together, but most of the ballroom community in the show. Even while dealing with racism, HIV/AIDS, and the dangers of being trans in the 1980s, Blanca still has room in her heart to love the people around her unconditionally.
1. Santana Lopez from Glee
While there is another Glee cast member on this list, he doesn’t hold a candle to the absolute powerhouse that is Santana Lopez. Rude, arrogant, talented, empathetic, and complex, Santana is the epitome of what a queer character should be. Though she recognized her feelings for girls early on in the show, Santana’s fear held her back from being her true self and that caused her to lash out at the people around her. Of course, this isn’t an excuse for some of her more egregious actions, but it does give the audience more of a nuance reason why she is the way she is. Santana Lopez is the ultimate queer character, one we’ll remember for decades to come due to how layered and rich her character is. If there’s any reason to watch Glee for the first time or start your umpteenth rewatch, it’s to see Santana shine.
Who’s your favorite LGBTQIA television character? Share in the comments!
(featured image: Cartoon Network/Fox/Pop TV)
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