In the past, LGBTQ+ representation on TV was incredibly sparse. You were lucky if you even got an accurate representation of a lesbian character or a bisexual individual. Transgender characters were almost non-existent.
Most of the time, these characters were also put in to appease the masses demanding more representation or ten times out of ten, they would end up dead by the end of the season or unhappy at the least.
However, recently, LGBTQ+ representation on TV has made huge strides with shows like Sex Education, Orange Is the New Black and Brooklyn Nine Nine allowing LGBTQ+ characters to shine with many even getting the well-deserved happy endings we are all rooting for. We’ve gone from just two gay men most likely sexualised to accurate representation of asexuality and transgender. Being an ally of the community, it is incredibly important to see these characters reflected on screen, showing LGBTQ+ viewers that they do matter, they are valid and they can have happy endings. Here’s some of my favourite LGBTQ+ couples and non-couples across TV.
Mickey Milkovich and Ian Gallagher – Shameless
Otherwise known as Gallavich, this is most definitely one of my favourite couples on TV. Coming from the south side, being gay wasn’t something that was openly accepted in their community on the show nevermind the fact that Mickey had one of the biggest homophobic families going. This is a relationship that started violent, started chaotic and was definitely not healthy in the beginning but it turned into something beautiful. That scene where Mickey comes out in The Alibi, smashing all gay stereotypes? I was in tears. Gallavich are a couple where Mickey was able to confront his own self-loathing and harmful conceptions of queerness, growing to love himself and his boyfriend with a passion that was almost too much at times. After a few rough patches and rough seasons (where was Mickey for half the show?), the producers finally gave us what the couple deserved: their marriage.
When everything goes wrong for the Gallaghers and the Milkovich’s, Gallavich stay strong and that’s enough to make me cry into my cereal every morning.
Gallavich are the perfect representation of two gay men who help each other grow and learn so much together. Unlike all the other relationships in the show, Mickey and Ian support each other from the beginning to the end. Watch Shameless if you want the perfect representation of a careless guy who doesn’t give a shit about anyone else, that wouldn’t even kiss someone to developing into a loving partner, emotionally involved with Ian on a deeper level than any other relationship. When everything goes wrong for the Gallaghers and the Milkovich’s, Gallavich stay strong and that’s enough to make me cry into my cereal every morning.
Captain Raymond Holt – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
As a black police officer, Captain Raymond Holt is no stranger to discrimination. Being a gay black police officer is even harder. What’s refreshing to watch on this show is that despite all the humour, despite all the jokes, the show is grounded in its representation of Holt as a man who wants to achieve big but never compromising his identity. He’s an inspiration for all viewers who are struggling with their identity and their place in the world. His relationship with Kevin on the show is also one of the most precious things I’ve ever watched. Simple in the best way. The way that all LGBTQ+ relationships should be presented. Alongside Holt, Rosa Diaz’ character coming out as bisexual was possibly one of the best moments on the show for me. Played by Stephanie Beatriz who is openly bisexual, Diaz erases all the stereotypes associated with bisexuality, removing this prevailing discourse that bisexual characters just so happen to have slept with both men and women or that they’re villains. The thing that Brooklyn Nine-Nine does right is that the fact these characters are LGBTQ+ is not overdone. It’s not in your face. It’s natural, portraying the right message that being gay, being bisexual is also natural.
Kat Edison – The Bold Type
This show has been successful with its positive representation of fluid queerness from the start. What stood out to me though was its representation of Kat questioning her sexuality, the support from her friends and the beautifully done sensitive sex scene with Adena, a proud, Muslim, lesbian. After a lifetime of only being attracted to men, when Kat meets arsty Adena, there’s something more there and the representation of her confusion as she visits a sexologist is perfectly done. The bit where we see that Jane really does not give a shit about the gender identity of Kat’s love interest? It’s everything you want when you come out as LGBTQ+ and The Bold Type did it in a well-written and well-respected way. The Bold Type shows that it’s okay to question everything you’ve thought and felt for years and that it’s okay to take your time at coming to such a big decision, showing that support from your friends and family will always be there. I hope in the future this show will encourage others out there struggling with themselves to finally learn to accept what is right in front of them and believe in themselves.
Stef and Lena – The Fosters
Not only a biracial couple, this lesbian relationship has been through its ups and downs throughout the show. Struggling with not being able to have their own biological children, with the lack of intimacy in their relationship due to having to balance work and kids, The Fosters takes issues and natural developments that have typically been depicted in heterosexual relationships and works to show that this is also the case for lesbian relationships. Stef and Lena are two characters that are easy for audiences to identify with, regardless of their sexual orientation and their status as lesbian parents fades into the background as the show progresses, highlighting again this natural and simple representation of LGBTQ+ individuals.
One thing The Fosters does perfectly though is the struggle of acceptance from parents. At one point in the show, Stef confronts her father’s homophobia, depicting this woman who is in love with her wife and despite the lack of acceptance from her family, will not suppress who she is. The Fosters shows a stable, loving LGBTQ+ relationship, allowing young people to turn to these characters and see stories they can relate to. That, no matter your sexual orientation, Stef and Lena are an example of the hope that LGBTQ+ individuals can grow up, find love, create a family, get married and live happily despite previous representations that suggest this is not possible.
Nomi Marks and Amanita Caplan – Sense8
Netflix’s Sense8, much like Sex Education, was one of the biggest triumphs for the LGBTQ+ community. From non-straight main characters to a trans woman played by a trans actress, it does everything right. One of the best things about Nomi and Amanita is that as two of the main characters in the show, her focus is on her talent and determination rather than on the fact she is transgender. Their relationship is happy despite the danger Nomi faces with Amanita always by her side, always supporting her. Much like Gallavich, they get married in the final episode and Nomi’s parents (previously depicted as transphobic) finally call Nomi their daughter, not their son. Truth be told, this moment had me in tears. The acceptance from two of the most important people in Nomi’s life as she stands by the love of her life had me sobbing into multiple tissues. Sense8 gave us a main character who was both trans, in love with a woman and was happy. The couple were represented with respect, removing all the stereotypes associated with trans women and lesbians and despite the cancellation of the show, Sense8 will always remain one of the strongest representations of LGBTQ+ characters on TV.
An honourable mention is Oliver and Connor from How To Get Away With Murder and the important representation of a gay man being HIV positive
There’s so many more characters and couples I could have mentioned – Oliver and Connor from How To Get Away With Murder and the important representation of a gay man being HIV positive, Cosima and Delphine from Orphan Black, Eric as a proud, happy and flamboyant gay character in Sex Education. Let’s also not forget Magnus and Alec from Shadowhunters, another example of a stable, happy relationship that allows Alec to grow to love himself as a gay man and come out to a society that has traditionally been homophobic.
The list is endless and I could go on forever. Television has come leaps and bounds in the recent years and I hope in the future, shows can continue to include LGBTQ+ characters that have depth and emotion and couples that can be happy and strong, accepting their queerness for who they truly are.
Last modified: 14th March 2020