With June being PRIDE month, I wanted to take a moment to showcase some of my favorite series that feature LGBTQIA+ characters. Media is finally beginning to show more than the standard cis-hetero relationships. It is vital for people to see different facets of the LGBTQIA+ experience. The worst part of stereotypical content is the damage that it causes in real life. All gay or trans people are not the same. Here’s a watch list that includes some of the best shows and characters in honor of Pride. Obviously, there are a lot more shows and movies that I did not mention in this list. These are simply my favorites.
Pose just concluded its final season to critical acclaim. It is a series about gay and trans people in the 80’s and 90’s ballroom culture. Ballroom culture, which originated in New York City, is an event in which competitors model various fashions, vogue, dance, and catwalk for trophies. Ballrooms became a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people that may have been shunned from their homes. Usually, a participant in the ball is from a “house” that consists of “parents” or older members who have taken the younger ones under their wing. The main characters in Pose are predominately Black and Brown which is what drew me in. The best part of the series is that even though most of them have significant hardships in their lives, the ballroom competitions are the bright side of it all. They forget about life’s dramas and just enjoy friendly (and some not so friendly) competition.
Schitt’s Creek follows the Rose family as they learn to cope in their new home of Schitt’s Creek after they lose all of their wealth. The son, David, is played by Dan Levy who also happens to be the creator of the show. David is pansexual which means he does not have a dating preference in regards to gender identity. While David is one of the primary characters, a lot of the ensemble characters are also LGBTQIA+. For example, Patrick is a gay male that appears starting in the third season. Also, Ronnie is a lesbian character that is featured from the beginning of the series. Schitt’s Creek, simply put, is fun. It is a hilarious show about family and friendship. The best part about Schitt’s Creek is that there is no homophobia. A perfect case study on creating content about a minority group that doesn’t prioritize hardship or trauma.
RENT is one of the original LGBTQIA+ stories. Set in 1990’s New York City, the musical centers around a group of Bohemians during the AIDS epidemic. RENT features a lesbian couple, a gay male couple, and a transgender woman named Angel. She’s one of the first trans characters that wasn’t the butt of a joke. Angel’s character paved the way for shows like Pose and RuPaul’s Drag Race to exist. RENT is the epitome of friends becoming family and the complexities of navigating relationships while living with HIV/AIDS. I appreciate the movie for making the story of RENT accessible to everyone. However, if you have the opportunity to see the play, I recommend that over the film version. This is due to some of the subject matter that I believe is vital to the storyline is omitted from the film in order for it to maintain a PG-13 rating.
Shameless is a gritty comedy about a poor, dysfunctional family from Chicago. The middle son of six kids, Ian, is gay. Throughout the series we see him go from an innocent preteen attempting to navigate through the ghetto as a gay boy, to an adult that continues to have many missteps. Shameless is a great example of meaning well but not having the proper moral compass to be a good person. Ian, like the rest of the family, has to do whatever it takes to get by. However, sometimes that puts him in ever more danger than everyone else because he’s gay. His relationship with Mickey is complicated but earnest. During the show’s 11 season run, there is also a trans character and a throuple. The writing may have gotten lackluster as the show progressed, the first 7 seasons are extremely entertaining. At a minimum, give the early episodes a shot.
RuPaul’s Drag Race
I was very late to the Drag Race. I only discovered it during quarantine after growing tired of shows about race and social justice. Drag Race mixes drama, music, fashion, and shade making it the perfect reality show. It’s a competition show where drag queens compete for a chance to win $100,000 among other prizes. I love that the show features queens of all colors, shapes, and sizes. There are also both gay and transgender queens. RuPaul has been an icon for decades so it is so refreshing to have him usher in the new era of drag queens. If you’re ever looking for something fun and lighthearted to watch, RuPaul’s drag race is the perfect series. A lot of the queens have also segued into TV roles and Youtube series post Drag Race. My favorite is UNHhhh on Youtube that stars Katya and Trixie Mattel from season 7.
Euphoria was a hit right out of the gate. Starring Disney Channel alum Zendaya, Euphoria showcases life for high school students amid sex, drugs, and violence. Euphoria has a trans main character, Jules, played by real-life trans actor Hunter Schafer. The first season creatively tackled toxic relationships. Specifically, how trauma impacts the victim and the people around them. The only issue I have with the series is that the subject matter would have been better suited to college-age young adults. The situations the characters find themselves in are unrealistic for high schoolers. The series has created a viral makeup trend as well as Tik Tok anthems from the soundtrack that play throughout videos. Overall, Euphoria is bingeable on a weekend. The second season was paused due to COVID. Luckily, the show’s creator was able to create two interim episodes to tide fans over until season 2 is ready.
Halston is a Netflix series that just released last month. Created just in time for the upcoming American Fashion-themed Met Gala. Halston follows the tumultuous life and legacy of fashion designer Roy Halston. Only 5 episodes, Halston is captivating. A mesmerizing series for any fashion lover. Halston’s story is full of luxury, heartbreak, and drama. The series shows the impact of spreading yourself too thin both personally and professionally. It also gives an inside look at the rise and fall of Halston as a brand. As a head’s up, the titular character is not particularly likable. However, that’s definitely part of the series’ charm. There’s a lot of LGBTQIA+ representation in Halston. Also, who doesn’t love a Studio 54 recap? There are many fashion stories that need to be told. I’m glad they started with him. If you enjoy Halston, definitely check out American Crime Story: Versace as well.
Umbrella Academy is about a family of superheroes. Having been forced to be heroes since they were children, the family begins to grow apart. In the series, Klaus is nonbinary and pansexual. Aside from that, his outrageous personality allows him to be the comedic timing the show needs. Unfortunately, his character is also extremely troubled. As a result, his character is one of the highlights of the series. The actor that plays Vanya, Elliot Page, recently came out as trans. The cast put immense support behind him following the announcement. Netflix and the Umbrella Academy creators also took swift action to correct his name across the platform. I am very excited to see how or if they expand on Vanya’s character. A third season has been confirmed but was halted due to COVID restrictions. Which means now is a perfect time to get caught up on the series, if interested.
Another superhero series, Black Lightning is about a vigilante getting back into the game after hanging up his suit to raise his family. Black Lightning arrived at the perfect time. Media was beginning to pay more attention to Black stories and characters. The series also shows its breadth by making one of Black Lightning’s daughters gay. Anissa Pierce, played by Nafeesa Williams, is a complete badass. She’s intelligent, she’s an activist, and she’s fearless. Black Lightning may be the titular character, but Anissa quickly becomes the one to watch. Black Lightning is relatable for Black teens and young adults. It shows all facets of Black life, including the pitfalls of gang life. Even the supervillains are Black which I think is an added bonus. When we ask for characters that are not monolithic, this series is the perfect example. The highlight is the dark-skinned Black women representation throughout the show.
House of Lies
House of Lies is a Showtime series that ran from 2012 – 2016 starring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. The plot of the show is the antics of Cheadle’s Marty Kaan and his team of management consultants. However, the true star of the series is Kaan’s son Roscoe. Roscoe steals every scene. Roscoe is the definition of androgyny. He isn’t afraid to be himself. Unapologetically wearing makeup, effortlessly expressing his style via men’s and women’s clothing. He’s also openly pansexual. Roscoe is an important character for many reasons. For starters, he’s an example of people knowing their gender identity and sexuality at a young age, he was barely a preteen when the show began. Also, Roscoe is a Black character whose Black grandfather proudly accepts and encourages him, even when Marty doesn’t quite understand. It is so rare to see images of Black fatherhood that aren’t caked in misogyny and homophobia.