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These 8 TV Shows Are Paving the Way in Queer Representation

Supergirl, Black Lightning, Legends of Tomorrow, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Charmed, Jane the Virgin and Riverdale are probably some of the series that come to mind when you think about queer representation on television. Believe it or not, all of these shows are on the same network. The CW is doing queer characters so right, sometimes it feels like it’s the only network that’s creating TV shows with LGBTQ representation — which is more than just sticking in a background character who dresses androgynously and flirts with characters of the same gender.

Quality representation is fair screen time, relationships with depth and story arcs that go beyond sexual orientation. The CW might seem like it’s churning out queer characters like no one else because it features so many shows with LGBTQ characters, but other networks are putting in the work, too. Here are eight different shows from seven different networks and streaming services that are helping pave the way in queer representation on the small screen.

Pose (FX)

By American Horror Story and Glee creator Ryan Murphy, Pose, now in its second season, made TV history in 2018 when it debuted with the largest-ever cast of transgender actors. The drama, which includes five transgender actors in its lead roles and many more behind the scenes, is set in 1987 New York in the ball culture world. The show follows several transgender characters as they deal with love, discrimination, homelessness and family.

Wynonna Earp (SyFy)

This SyFy original series has frequently been compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and with good reason. I would argue, though, that Wynonna has picked up Buffy’s torch, poured Jim Beam on it and charged ahead down a path Buffy might not dare follow. Unlike Buffy, which had to kill off its one queer character when it wanted to bring in another, Wynonna Earp has made room for two LGBTQ romances in just three short seasons. Waverly Earp, Wynonna’s sister and demon-killing sidekick, has been paired up with local cop Nicole Haught since early in the series. In the third season, which wrapped up in September, we see a fan-favorite male character also find love. The first two seasons of the show are available on Netflix, so you can work on catching up before it returns this summer.

The Bold Type (Freeform)

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The Bold Type is the show my fashion-obsessed queer self always wanted The Devil Wears Prada to be. An unrealistic yet addictive look at a career at a high-profile fashion magazine? Check. Cut-throat, powerhouse yet brilliant and occasionally vulnerable boss? Check. Gorgeous clothes that just always happen to be available to borrow in your size? You know it. Queer woman of color with a nuanced, timely struggle with her sexual identity? Yep. The Bold Type manages to be candy-coated and deep at the same time, approaching sticky subjects and heavy topics with confidence and positivity. It’s the feel-good show we need, and Kat Edison is the queer icon I wish I had in my 20s. Sooner or later, women will be asking one another if they’re a Kat, a Sutton or a Jane instead of a Carrie, Samantha, Miranda or Charlotte. 

Madam Secretary (CBS)

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Callie Torres will always hold the most special place in our hearts as TV’s longest-running bisexual character on Grey’s Anatomy. But Sara Ramirez’s newest bi character has more than won over our affections. Madam Secretary’s androgynous advisor, Kat Sandoval, had a pivotal and poignant coming-out scene last April during the episode “Refuge,” and her presence on screen is a gift that keeps on giving. Whether you’re into political dramas or just want to see some fierce women make tough decisions, this show has a lot to offer. Madam Secretary is in the middle of its fifth season, but I started when Kat arrived and managed to catch up fairly quickly, so don’t avoid this one just because of the daunting binge-watch.  

How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

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The bad news is that if you haven’t been watching How to Get Away With Murder, you have quite bit to catch up on, as it’s nearly impossible to jump into the show and not be hopelessly lost. The good news is that the binge is completely worth it. You probably already know that HTGAWM is a Shonda Rhimes show featuring the incomparable Viola Davis. What you might now know is that the show features several queer characters and actually gives them nuanced, layered character arcs to boot. Connor Walsh begins the series as a playboy but evolves into a man in a committed relationship who risks it all to make it work. Davis’s Annalise Keating is a bisexual beacon of light, showing us that love is love and sex is sex, regardless of gender. Most of the past seasons are available to watch on Netflix, and season five is airing new episodes now.

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

You might have noticed this reimagination of Shirley Jackson’s book completely taking over the internet during the month of October. So many of us spent the Halloween season being spooked by the horrors the Crain family faced, and we loved every minute of it. This adaptation takes a character from Jackson’s novel whose sexuality was originally solely subtextual and turns her into a powerhouse lesbian protagonist. Theo’s queerness is established in the first episode, and while her story arc doesn’t lean on her sexuality as a plot device, it’s never buried, either. Speaking of buried: Another piece of good news is that (spoiler alert!), contrary to the fate of countless on-screen lesbians, Theo actually survives the horrors of Hill House.

The Bisexual (Hulu)

As the newest show on our radar, The Bisexual doesn’t need a second or third season to ease its viewers into the acceptance of a queer character. As you see by the title, The Bisexual is one of the few series on TV that features an LGBTQ protagonist. The Bisexual just dropped on Hulu in October, with six episodes currently available to watch. The show was created by and stars Desiree Akhavan as Leila, a woman who leaves her female partner to explore relationships with men. As a departure from the traditional bisexual storyline, The Bisexual aims to break down stereotypes attached to those who claim the “B” in LGBTQ and how we are represented on screen. It’s equal parts dark comedy and drama, and it’s completely necessary viewing.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)

All of the ’90s kids have been buzzing about the new Netflix series featuring our favorite blonde witch. Some are balking at the drastic differences between this new show and its predecessor (Chilling Adventures is based on a series from Archie Horror that began in 2014, whereas Sabrina the Teenage Witch is based on the original Archie Comics series), and others are boasting about its campy creativity and unapologetic inclusivity. We tend to agree with the latter. One of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s most delightful characters is Ambrose, Sabrina’s compassionate, queer cousin, who is often stuck between his loyalty to the coven and his family. The series has only peeled back the surface layers of what makes Ambrose tick, so here’s to hoping we get to see a deeper dive into who he is and what he’s been through in the second season.

A version of this story was originally published in January 2019.

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