Remember when LGBTQIA+ characters were the sidekicks? The stereotypical white gay who popped up in a recurring capacity for comedic effect? Or if they were the central character, their sexuality would be downplayed and scenes of intimacy would be non-existent? Yeah, we’ll admit: we don’t really miss those days. No shade to some of these characters of course, because a lot of them paved the way for the positive queer representation we see today. As of the past few years, representation for the LGBTQIA+ community in series has never been better.
Over the past few years, various streaming services have built a reputation as one of the most inclusive sources for content, whether it’s originals such as ‘Orange is the New Black’, ‘Dear White People’ or ‘Hollywood’, to network classics like ‘American Horror Story’, ‘Pose’ or ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’. Netflix boasts a plethora of entertain(t)ing LGBTQIA+ comedies, dramas and thrillers.
We’ve rounded up 8 of the best that you can stream right now:
1. Atypical (2017 – present)
Focusing on the life of 18-year-old Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), who has autism spectrum disorder, ‘Atypical’ has won rave reviews throughout its three-season run for the story of its groundbreaking lead character. The most recent season also introduced one of the most shipped couples on air right now with Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Izzie (Fivel Stewart), whose relationship finally transcended friendship. It was about time!
Unfortunately, the dramedy will come to an end with its fourth season. Robia Rashid, creator and executive producer of the series, said: “It’s my hope that the legacy of Atypical is that more unheard voices continue to be heard and that even after this series ends, we keep telling funny, emotional stories from underrepresented points of view. Thank you for being so open to Sam’s voice and stories, and those of the entire Gardner family.”
2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013 – present)
Police procedural comedy ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘ follows a team of detectives in the fictional 99th Precinct of the New York City Police Department in Brooklyn. The series has received highly positive reviews throughout its run, particularly for its portrayal of LGBTQIA+ characters - Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) and Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), winning the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. The eighth season is set to premiere in 2021.
3. The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)
The follow-up to the critically-acclaimed horror series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, Bly Manor tells the story of Dani (Victoria Pedretti), a young au-pair who is hired to look after two children in an eerie country house. Upon her arrival, she begins to see hostile apparitions that proceed to haunt the premises.
Unlike its spine-chillingly scary predecessor, Bly Manor was, as its core, a love story. The relationship between Dani and Jamie (Amelia Eve) was met with praise from critics, who applauded the show’s refreshing representation of LGBTQIA+ women. You’ll never listen to Sheryl Crow’s ‘I Shall Believe‘ the same way again.
4. Orange is the New Black (2013 – 2019)
‘Orange is the New Black’ has been Netflix’s most watched original series since its debut. The critically-acclaimed drama follows several l characters in a women's prison and is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name.
Lead character Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex’s (Laura Prepon) relationship is at the forefront of several storylines, and the show has many other supporting queer characters, most notably Laverne Cox’s portrayal of trans inmate Sophia Bursett. Her performance resulted in the actress being nominated for an Emmy, making her the first transgender person to be nominated for such an award.
5. Sex Education (2019 – present)
Netflix original coming-of-age dramedy ‘Sex Education’ follows a sexually awkward teenager, Otis (Asa Butterfield) living with his sex therapist mother, and his friendship with Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) who is gay. It received high acclaim from fans and critics for the cast’s performances, for tackling sensitive subjects and its diverse representation of the LGBTQIA+ community. The show throws light on several sexual orientations and is actually educative. I learnt about asexuality from this show.
The streaming service later announced that the series received over 40 million streams within its first month of release, becoming one of Netflix’s most successful shows in history. ‘Sex Education’ will return for a third season later this year.
6. Friends (1994-2004)
‘Friends’ didn’t feature the first same-sex marriage on network television, but it did have the first lesbian one. Yes, before Carol and Susan said, “I do!” on a 1996 episode of ‘Friends’, no one had ever seen two women tie the knot on a show. It was the first lesbian wedding to ever be shown on TV, and they blocked it out in some affiliates, but they actually won awards for that storyline. Awards, and an important slot in LGBTQIA+ history.
7. Euphoria (2019)
Sam Levinson’s provocative teen-drama-for-adults was one of HBO’s biggest hits, and its compelling cast of fluid characters is the main reason the series struck such a chord. Zendaya leads the series as cool tomboy protagonist Rue, who is hopelessly in love with Jules (the magnetic Hunter Schafer in a breakout role).
Emanating a manic pixie trans girl energy unlike anything seen on screen before, Jules floats magically through every frame in which she appears. Whether she’s biking giddily through an orchard or reciting Shakespeare in a pool without smudging her killer eye make-up, it’s hard not to fall in love with her. By the end of its debut season, their friendship-turned-romance is either headed toward mutual self-destruction or ignorant bliss. Rue and Jules are Romeo and Juliet for a new generation, even sharing the same initials as the star-crossed lovers in an upside down world.
8. Grey's Anatomy (2005- present)
Shonda Rimes’ medical drama tells the story of several surgical interns, residents, and attending physicians at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital. Since its debut, the show has been commended for its diversity. Over the course of 16 seasons, we’ve been introduced to characters who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, so pretty much the entire LGBTQIA+ acronym, which many shows have failed to do.
After 239 episodes over 11 seasons, fan-favourite character Callie (Sara Ramirez) became the longest running queer character in television history.
9. Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020)
This Canadian sitcom was groundbreaking in so many ways. Not only did it show what a Canadian comedy could be like, the show created a world where homophobia did not exist at all. As we follow the Roses’ journey in the town of Schitt’s Creek, we come to know that Daniel Levy’s character, David is actually pansexual. Daniel is also the creator of the show and has always said that he didn’t want to preach to people through this show, instead he created a world so beautiful to show people how it can be for all of us if only things like homophobia didn’t exist.
The show, in no way, tells about the hardships or struggles of someone whose sexual orientation is non-conventional, it doesn’t play with our emotions and makes us feel bad. Such a beautiful and necessary representation created a safe space for so many people that they came out and embraced their natural selves.