Some great LGBT shows to watch (or re-watch) this year
For many years, the representation of LGBT people in popular media lagged far behind. TV shows, films, and other forms of media tended to portray members of the LGBT community in various stereotypical and flat depictions, contributing to a culture where prejudice against us was still prevalent. Recently though, this trend has been shifting, with more and more LGBT shows finally starting to appear on our screens.
The rise of LGBT shows on television can probably be attributed to a number of factors. For one thing, we have become increasingly aware as a society of the issues faced by members of the LGBT community and are now more willing to actually see them represented in mainstream media. On top of this, changes in social attitudes towards sexuality have also made it easier for LGBT stories to be told without being told from a negative perspective or being inappropriately sensationalised.
In any case, whatever the reason may be behind this important shift in representation, it is clear that queer visibility on TV is only going to continue growing in the years ahead. And we can’t wait to see it.
It’s a Sin is a 5 part mini series about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. One of the best British LGBT shows, it follows a group of gay men who move to London in 1981. They form friendships as they navigate love, heartbreak, and the devastating effects of the disease. It’s a Sin is an important show for a few reasons.
First, it brings LGBT stories to the forefront. Too often, queer people are invisible in the media, and It’s a Sin helps to change that. Second, the show handles the subject matter with care and respect. The show doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of AIDS, but it also doesn’t fall into the trap of portraying queer people as victims. Instead, the characters are fully fleshed-out individuals with hopes, dreams, and fears. It’s a Sin is an important step forward for LGBT representation on television, and it’s sure to be cherished by viewers for years to come.
It’s received many positive reviews by critics and individual viewers. The Guardian review praised it by writing “Humour and humanity are at the heart of this sublime series about London’s gay community in the 1980s” and even called it a “poignant masterpiece”. We watch the characters live through the entire decade, as the story becomes darker and more upsetting, the show manages to maintain it’s humour and allows us to enjoy it while opening our eyes to the experiences people like these characters had during that time.
Despite HIV affecting people of all genders and sexual orientations, it has had very minimal representation in mainstream television. This is likely because HIV is most commonly associated with the LGBTQ+ community, and LGBT shows are not as widely distributed. As a result, many people are not exposed to information about HIV, and this lack of awareness can increase the already devastating discrimination and stigma against those who are positive.
By increasing representation of HIV in television, we can help to break down these barriers and create a more informed and tolerant society. This is especially important at the moment, since treatment for people who are HIV positive has come a very long way, with PrEP and PEP treatment allowing people to even prevent the virus from spreading in their system to begin with. It is time to finally normalise being HIV positive, and show that people can have perfectly happy, healthy lives while living with the virus.
But first, it’s important to learn the history of the illness and the community it has affected the most, and that’s why It’s a Sin is an important part of LGBT shows and representation. It has already inspired other creatives, such as this short film, as the creator states in his description.
This Cartoon Network series is definitely one of the most underrated LGBT shows. Many may think it’s just for kids, but this show deals with issues and experiences we can all relate to. From mourning a loved one, to dealing with guilt, anxiety and trauma, everything is expressed beautifully through music, sweet stories and lovable, yet complex characters with a lot of depth.
The show is set in a fictional area called ‘Beach City’ where the Crystal Gems, ageless warriors from outer space, destined to protect Earth, have made their home in a temple on the beach. Despite not being gendered beings, they project female forms. This is the first way that the show depicts queer identities right from the start, they are all female characters who form romantic relationships, and even ‘fuse’, merging their bodies to create a new, more powerful being.
One of the main characters is actually a permanent fusion of two gems, who decided to live together as a couple. Spoiler Alert: there is even a wedding episode! A same sex (even if they aren’t human) wedding is an incredibly significant moment for children’s television, especially since they don’t have any directly LGBT shows to watch yet.
The main protagonist is a young, half gem, half human boy named Steven. He is the son of a Crystal Gem, who gave up her physical form to create him after falling in love with Steven’s human dad Greg. He lives in the temple with the Gems who protect him and help him discover his magical powers as he grows older and deals with all the usual dramas of adolescent, while trying to protect the Earth. Steven defies all gender stereotypes and expectations. He is emotionally expressive, sensitive, comfortable wearing skirts and ‘girly’ colours and has no motivation to appear traditionally masculine.
The series also features non-binary characters and shows the fluidity of human sexuality, which are not often depicted, even in many LGBT shows. All around it is a wonderful, empowering and comforting LGBT show for all ages and demographics. I could not recommend it more highly. For more details about the LGBT representation in Steven Universe, you can visit this article.
One of the newer LGBT shows to join Netflix, Heartstopper follows the story of two British teenagers, Charlie and Nick. Charlie is high-strung, overthinking and openly gay, while Nick is a sweet, cheerful rugby player. They form a friendship which turns into romantic feelings for Charlie, who does not believe he has a chance with the popular boy. Nick however shows a lot of interest and love for Charlie, creating a heartwarming series.
The show combines many smaller stories that the two boys experience together to create something bigger and make the audience invested in the protagonists’ young lives. The show addresses topics such as love, loyalty, friendship and even mental illness. Mental health in particular is still rarely represented accurately in TV, and since the LGBT community has such high rates of depression, suicide and anxiety, it is extremely important for LGBT shows to address this.
The series has been adapted from the graphic novel with the same name, written by Alice Oseman and makes fun nods to its origin with moments of animation, especially during emotional moments. It has been described in a Guardian review as “Possibly the loveliest show on TV”. This description does not surprise me at all, just the other night all I could hear coming from my living room was loud ‘Awww’ sounds, which turned out to be my flatmates watching this show for the first time and finding everything absolutely adorable. It’s been said to leave you feeling like you’ve just received a big, warm hug.
Hands down one of the best LGBT shows on Netflix, Sex Education does not shy away from any topic and has been called “One of the queerest teen shows ever”, which is absolutely true. The series unapologetically and directly covers so many topics that others, even other LGBT shows, have not depicted before. Although the show primarily focuses on cis, heterosexual teenage protagonist, Otis, they give plentiful time to other characters’ storylines, as they all experience the dramas, romances, sexual experiences and difficulties of being in high school and trying to figure out who you are.
The first representation of the LGBT community is instant, with Otis’ best friend Eric being an openly and fearlessly gay boy. Despite dealing with constant bullying and harassment, he continues to express himself and his sexual orientation the way he wants. This takes a dark, yet painfully realistic turn, when he is physically assaulted while in drag. His character begins to seclude himself, changing the way he speaks, dresses and acts. We watch closely as he gets back to his real self and stands up against his main bully Adam.
Adam’s character goes on to get an unexpected, empowering and heartwarming character arc in the show. The whole story arc of ‘tough, high school bully turns out to be queer’ has been done before, in LGBT shows like Glee, but this one had a bit of depth to it. We watch as the character questions his sexuality and tries to understand it while also working on himself, his education, his anger issues and ultimately the cause of many of these, his relationship with his strict and emotionally unavailable father.
While we’re on the topic of male sexuality, we can’t not mention the brief but important character of Rahim, who owns his gay identity so confidently and inspiringly, and even teaches their entire class about gay male sex, when the sex ed teacher is failing to do so. Another queer relationship that ended up being many people’s favourite couple, is Ola and Lily, who both discover their sexualities together after first forming a sweet friendship. Thankfully the show gives their relationship a lot of screen time, where we can fan girl over their love and how happy they make each other, while still experiencing realistic problems to overcome.
The discussion of gender identity is still new to mainstream representation in film and TV, even in LGBT shows, and Sex Education made sure to address it. Specifically non-binary identities which we rarely, if ever, see on our TV screens. Cal is the cool, new kid at school, who instantly catches the eye of popular head boy, Jackson. Cal openly identifies as non-binary, making the people around them adjust to their pronouns and encouraging them to rethink their perceptions of gender. When Jackson enters a romantic relationship with them, he has to question his entire definition of sexuality, since he is attracted to someone who is not a women, but also not a man.
Cal also helps Layla, a brief side character and the only other openly non-binary student in the show, by teaching them how to safely bind their breasts. This scene depicts the dangers of unsafe binding and the injuries it can cause. An incredibly important moment in television which surely educated many and encouraged non-binary and trans teens to seek advice and safe practices. A shout out to Florence as well, another brief yet important character who discovers her asexuality in the show!
This award winning series by Dan and Eugene Levy addresses many topics with both a comedic and a serious approach and is one of my favourite LGBT shows. When a ridiculously wealthy family suddenly loses all their money, they are forced to leave their luxurious life behind and stay in their only remaining asset, a small town called ‘Schitt’s Creek’, which is unlike any place they’ve ever been, and had bought it as a joke.
Despite dealing with topics like family, money, mental health and success, all while making the audience laugh out loud, it also belongs in any list of great LGBT shows. David, the son of the family, portrayed by Dan Levy himself, identifies as a pansexual, an identity we rarely, if ever, see in mainstream media. We see him form romantic connections with people of different genders, before falling for Patrick, a gay man who has just become open about his sexual identity.
What is unique about this relationship, is that nobody questions it, they are immediately accepted by the people of this old fashioned town. Most TV series would represent a same sex relationship, as a cause for drama, isolation and turbulence in the characters’ lives. Of course, these things do often happen in reality, so it is important to show them in the media, but I think all of us were craving a light hearted, happy same sex couple on our screens. This way the show can focus on their love, their everyday experience, quarrels and stepping stones, without other people interfering with their homophobia.
Dan Levy has addressed the lack of homophobia in the show by saying “I have no patience for homophobia, as a result, it’s been amazing to take that into the show. We show love and tolerance. If you put something like that out of the equation, you’re saying that doesn’t exist and shouldn’t exist.” The show has had a real impact on the world, with the creators receiving letter from people “who realised their beliefs were biased or homophobic or bigoted”, few comedy shows have been so powerful.
Many have also pointed out that in shows where the entire premise isn’t about being queer, LGBT couples are often seen as a ‘side couple’, whereas in this show they are a main storyline and the audience excitedly follows their relationship through many seasons. They aren’t just ‘the gay couple’ they are the couple we root for and want the best for.
Special shout of to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which may not often be in lists of LGBT shows, as the protagonist only engages in heterosexual relationships, but one of the main characters breaks down all stereotypes of bisexual characters, especially bisexual men. Darryl’s coming out episode is iconic, due to his song ‘I’m getting bi’. Bisexual identities are often represented as promiscuity, indecisiveness or denial. In the cases of men they are often perceived as ‘gay men in denial’ and women are simply seen as an object for the male gaze.
Darryl, portrayed by Pete Gardner, shows the reality of bisexuality, which is that anyone could be attracted to anyone without it saying anything else about them. He is a lawyer, he is a father, he only likes to be with people he is in love with, and he also happens to be bi. I can’t speak for all bisexuals, but this song made my day when I first saw the episode.
I’ve focused on LGBT shows that I have watched and know well enough to write about, but there are many many more great TV shows which represent the queer community accurately and positively. To see more examples of binge-worthy shows check out this article by Queer in the World.
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We hope you enjoyed our list of great LGBT shows. For more articles about everything TV, Film and Media industry, check back regularly on the Nostairway website.