It may be half way through Pride month, but there’s still plenty of TV to watch. From streaming services to network shows, LGBTQ characters and storylines are almost a dime a dozen now (though I’ll always take more!)
The staff at The Young Folks, with some extra help from our critic friends, pulled together a list of shows available to stream right now that feature and/or center LGBTQ characters and storylines. Some shows fully embrace the queer experience, while others are notable for incorporating queer characters and storylines in their side plots but are still worth checking out. Even if you’ve seen most of these shows before, perhaps you’ll find something you weren’t expecting or you revisit a favorite show you haven’t in awhile. Either way, happy Pride! And happy watching.
Created by Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was an entirely singular musical comedy series that ran for four glorious seasons, ending in 2019. The series follows high-strung New York lawyer Rebecca Bunch (Bloom) who, after suffering a nervous breakdown, quits her six-figure job and moves across the country to West Covina, California in an attempt to rekindle a romantic connection with a childhood crush from summer camp.
Among the show’s many progressive elements (spurred on by inclusive writing and a diverse cast) was its attitude towards sexuality—from toe-tapping tunes like “Gettin’ Bi” to more somber but still sweet arcs exploring wound-up Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) and her relationship with queerness, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend boats an effortlessly progressive attitude towards depictions of LGBTQ+ characters. Though certainly not the loudest in terms of its queer storylines, it’s the nonchalant way in which CXG folds queer stories into its narrative fabric that makes it so refreshing. All four seasons are available on Netflix.—Lauren Coates
Created by Tanya Saracho, Vida changed the game for Latinx representation in television when it first aired in 2018. The series follows the story of two sisters, Emma (Mishel Prada) and Lyn (Melissa Barrera). The pair must put aside their differences when they return to East L.A. after their mother dies. Revolutionary in centering Latinx and queer folks in front of and behind the camera, this show explored the complexities of sexuality, prejudice, and acceptance in Mexican-American families.
Through three seasons, we witness Emma struggle to come to terms with her own queerness, with much of her turmoil caused by her mother’s judgment. When the sisters come home to take care of their mother’s affairs and discover she fell in love with and married a woman, their grief becomes a much more complicated process, especially for Emma. At its core, this is a story about a family’s love and how that makes or breaks every one of us. Three seasons are available on Prime Video.—Melissa Linares
One Day at a Time
Inspired by the Norman Lear series of the same name, One Day at a Time follows the Cuban-American Alvarez family. The series seamlessly tackles racism, mental illness, homophobia, and other taboo topics in Latin families. Elena (Isabella Gomez) is the oldest daughter of the family and as she begins to understand her sexuality, her family comes to terms with it in different ways. We see how her religious grandmother Lydia (Rita Moreno) easily accepts her, while her seemingly open-minded mother Penelope (Justina Machado) has a harder time coming to terms with her daughter’s identity.
The show explores Elena’s story with grace and truth. One of the best moments of the series comes during the celebration of her “Quinces.” Not accepting her identity, Elena’s father decides not to show up for the father-daughter dance. Elena shares a beautiful moment with her mother and the rest of her family who join her on the dance floor to let her know she’s not alone. This moment captures the heart of the show best—a family that truly loves you will show up for you, always. All four seasons are available on Netflix. —Melissa Linares
Mae Martin’s semi-autobiographical comedy-drama Feel Good is a compassionate portrayal of the intersection between addiction and queer shame. The series follows Mae (Mae Martin) as they struggle with maintaining their sobriety after a newfound romance with their girlfriend, George (Charlotte Ritchie), stirs up deep-seated feelings of unworthiness. Addiction within the queer community is seldom addressed and often chalked up to the assumption that party culture is intrinsic to queerness.
Feel Good, however, locates the issue of substance abuse in a world that dismisses queer existence. Mae is unable to believe that George’s love is unconditional, and hence self-sabotages their relationship, which leads to their relapse. Other than Mae’s queerness, the series also handles George’s bisexuality with grace, as her love for Mae allows her to be a fierce advocate for her queer students. The series concludes with a joyful reconciliation between George and Mae, as Mae learns to accept that happiness is not only possible but wholly deserved. Two seasons are available on Netflix. Two seasons are available on Netflix.—Sharmane Tan
The Other Two
Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider’s The Other Two is a comedy series that embraces the ugly ways gay shame intrudes into our lives. The show follows Cary Dubek (Drew Tarver) as he attempts to resurrect his failing acting career after his younger brother, Chase (Case Walker), becomes a viral internet sensation overnight. During his job search, Cary realizes that while the showbiz industry claims to accept queers, his sexuality is still exploited for profit.
Every encounter with homophobia in an industry that Cary wants to succeed in drags up his repressed feelings of shame, which heightens the displacement that he feels. Throughout it all, the series views Cary’s shame with compassion—his awkwardness is endearing as it is an indictment of straight society’s mistreatment of queer folks. The Other Two is abundantly kind towards gays who are struggling with shame, and hence is a series that deserves our attention. Two seasons are available on HBO Max.—Sharmane Tan
It’s a Sin
It’s a Sin, written by Russell T Davies, follows a group of gay men and their friends in London in the 1980s at the beginning and into the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and how it impacts their lives. The show is a raw and heartbreaking exploration of one of the biggest injustices to face the gay community in recent history. Davies’ impeccably emotive writing mixes well with fully realised, likable characters who are hard not to get attached to.
The overall narrative is filled with so much pain, (it’s no surprise that you’ll probably want a box of tissues at hand if you’re thinking of binging this), but Davies finds that perfect balance between friendship and hardship, and on top of that it’s a positive representation of what it means to be unashamedly gay. Although It’s a Sin is a tough watch, it requires viewing and goes a long way to combat the continuing demonization of HIV/AIDS, which is still specifically pointed toward gay people. It’s a Sin is available on HBO Max and Channel 4.—Alex Gilston
Years and Years
Mixing dystopian themes with biting social commentary, Years and Years is a six-part drama set over the space of fifteen years following the Lyons, a British family, through the trials and tribulations of an ever-evolving technological life. Russell T Davies tackles everything from immigration, advancements in technology, nuclear war, financial crisis’, and a broad spectrum of political issues in the series’ 6-hour run time. Davies’ golden goose is writing relatable and instantly likable characters, and what makes the show so effective is all of these things are framed around the family unit.
Seeing these ordinary people go through ups and downs adds grounded humanity to issues that some people are privileged enough not to have experienced. One of the main storylines centres around Daniel and his boyfriend Viktor. The most monumental thing about this is that their being gay is treated as a normal thing. This kind of natural representation is something that we should be seeing a lot more of across the line on TV. It’s monumentally important for members of the LGBTQ+ community to see themselves represented on the screen like this. Available on HBO Max.—Alex Gilston
Over four seasons, this Canadian ‘weird west’ soap opera managed to include every possible supernatural trope. Among them: immortal gunfighters stuck down a well for centuries, vampire ex-wives, government agents who are secretly mutant lizard-men, angels who seduced a mother and daughter (separately—don’t be gross), and deathless criminals from the wild west who are periodically resurrected and can only be blasted back to hell with a magic gun wielded by a descendant of Wyatt Earp. But it also managed to contain a ferociously unbreakable bond between jaded gun-wielding biker-chick Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) and her universally adored, cheerful younger sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), whose relationship with town sheriff Nicole (Katherine Barrell) became the slow-burning heart of the series. Genuinely feminist, violent, disturbing, hilarious, and sexy, usually all at once. And the dance Waverly does for Nicole in her high school cheerleading outfit has to be seen to be believed. All four seasons are available on Netflix.—Sarah Manvel
Angels in America
It’s impossible to overstate the impact of the first half of Angels in America, Millennium Approaches, crash-landing on Broadway in 1993, shortly followed by Perestroika in 1994. Before Tony Kushner, no one had integrated gay stories (or Mormonism) into mainstream American history on such an enormous scale. The 2003 miniseries, directed by Mike Nichols, chose to keep some elements from the theatrical productions—notably the main actors playing all minor parts—but with all the CGI special effects only the screen can provide. Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, and Meryl Streep threw every ounce of their gravitas into roles that, at the time, still had a stigma attached, and Jeffrey Wright reprised his Tony-winning role as the gay carer of Roy Cohn, the Commie-hunter who killed Ethel Rosenberg. It’s rare for a work of art to rewrite how a nation examines its history, but Angels in America did. Available on HBO Max.—Sarah Manvel
Sex Education is undeniably one of the most successful television shows on Netflix. Created by Laurie Nunn, the British comedy-drama stars Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson in a complex mother/son duo as they navigate their lives together. Otis Milburn, a high schooler, and his mother, Jean, a sex therapist, illustrate a quite hilarious and quirky pair. The addictive narrative follows Otis as he teams up with a high school classmate, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), to set up an underground sex therapy clinic at school. But Sex Education’s significance lies in the conversation that undeniably follows after the show’s binge-watched. Each episode’s script touches on the matters of healthy sex life, easy access to professionals, adequate sex ed, and openness we should exercise when talking about this aspect of life. Three seasons are available on Netflix.—Zofia Wijaszka
Gentleman Jack is an excellent example of an influential series with skillful storytelling. Sally Wainwright masterfully creates tension and comedy in this fantastic show. At the same time, the premise provokes a conversation about LGBTQ+ rights back then, how far we’ve come and how much farther we need to get and do. After we left Anne Lister (Surrane Jones) and Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) to their devices in Season 1, the pair got a sacrament in their local church to begin their lives together as a wife and wife.
However, it’s not the end of obstacles for the newly married couple. Season 2 illustrates their marriage and settling together at Shiden Hall with Lister’s family but both women, unfortunately, continue struggling with homophobia and backlash regarding their “unusual” lifestyle. Despite their struggles, the real characters behind the script and Gentleman Jack as a show overall remain an important social commentary regarding the interesting lives of peculiar Anne Lister and intelligent Ann Walker. Two seasons are available on HBO Max.—Zofia Wijaszka
The POP Original Series Schitt’s Creek showcase the lives of The Roses—Johnny (Eugene Levy) and Moira (Catherine O’Hara), as well as their children, Alexis (Annie Murphy), and David (Dan Levy), who were a once-wealthy family. After being defrauded by their accountant, the Roses lose everything and are forced to relocate to a little town called Schitt’s Creek.
Schitt’s Creek managed to do something very distinctive—as the creator, Dan Levy created an influential series that not only had a five-rated cast ensemble and an elaborate, clever narrative—all elements carefully-crafted and beyond incredible—but also one that featured a pansexual character in David, and wonderful coming out episode for Patrick (Noah Reid). This easily makes Schitt’s Creek one of this decade’s best and brightest shows. At the same time, Levys present a story that can stimulate many post-show discussions about the significance of tolerance, the unconditional love of parents and friends, and perhaps the charm of small towns. All six seasons are available on Netflix. —Zofia Wijaszka
The Haunting of Bly Manor
Mike Flanagan’s return to The Haunting world wouldn’t leave you to believe that this show would be a gothic romance. However, this adaptation of Henry James’ novella The Turn of The Screw not only came with creepy kids and spirits but also the tender romance between Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) and Jamie Taylor (Amelia Eve). While the scares increased throughout Bly Manor, so did Dani and Jamie’s electric chemistry, full of genuine adoration towards each other. Even though some viewers accused the series of abiding by the “Bury Your Gays” trope, their eventual and tragic end felt heartbreakingly poignant due to the care put into the couple. The Haunting of Bly Manor is available on Netflix.—Erin Brady
Joe Penhall and David Fincher’s acclaimed crime series, which dramatized the rise of the criminal profiling practice in the 1970s, is forever in our hearts and our minds. Part of this has to do with the fantastic character of Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), a stern and tough psychology professor who reluctantly serves as Special Agent Holden Ford’s (Jonathan Groff) right hand. When she isn’t helping to unravel the inner workings of serial killers, she is trying to find love as a closeted lesbian. Sure, the two relationships she had throughout Mindhunter’s two seasons did not end well. However, the discussions of power dynamics and emotional insecurity in queer relationships are those that need to be discussed more, making the show oddly revolutionary. It also doesn’t hurt that Carr is a great and properly developed character, either. Both seasons are available on Netflix.—Erin Brady
Six Feet Under
While rightfully known for its incredible series finale, Six Feet Under remains a special part of LGBTQ+ media history. Even though queerness was not the show’s central theme, it’s still one of the most realistic depictions of gay love through the on-and-off romance of Keith Charles (Matthew St. Patrick) and David Fisher (Michael C. Hall). The two are not perfect, with them both poorly dealing with their issues and pasts as the show progressed. At times, their relationship could even border on toxic. However, while their love was never a cure for each other’s problems, it showed that queer relationships are not all that different from straight ones when it comes to the importance of trust. David and Keith didn’t have the smoothest relationship in the world, but it is still so damn heartwarming to watch, even more than 15 years since the show ended. All five seasons are available on HBO Max.—Erin Brady
You really just had to be there when this Norwegian series was being passed around internationally on Google Drive. Arguably the primary reason for this show’s success was the relationship between Isak Valtersen (Tarjei Sandvik Moe) and Even Bech Næsheim (Henrik Holm) in its third season. The chemistry between the two was intoxicatingly powerful, with their relationship being adapted in various ways throughout the many international adaptations the original show received. Its unexpected popularity, especially among teenagers, left an indelible mark on the portrayal of LGBTQ+ teens and burgeoning sexuality in media.—Erin Brady
When you think of LGBTQ+ representation, you probably don’t think about middle-aged women breaking down because they may have been cannibals as teenagers. However, Yellowjackets dare to think differently. While the central plot revolves around a plane crash and the long-lasting traumas that are fostered within its survivors, it is intrinsically a story about the relationships women and girls have with each other. This, of course, translates into sapphic, specifically lesbian, love from the textual (Simone deserves better from Taissa) to the subtextual (Natalie and Misty have major potential for enemies to lovers arc). It’s messy, gross, and maybe a little problematic, but Yellowjackets wears its LGBTQ+ imperfections on its sleeve.—Erin Brady
Heartwarming and earnest, Queer Eye shows the power of human connection in transforming people’s lives and interrupting prejudice. A reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, this more inclusive version brings together Tan France (Fashion), Antoni Porowski (Food), Karamo Brown (Culture), Bobby Berk (Design), and Jonathan Van Ness (Hair/Self-Care) as the Fab Five. Thanks to the show, Jonathan Van Ness is now a prominent non-binary public figure. The Fab Five travel the U.S. and share their makeover magic with those who often need it most. Each host shows deep compassion in their work, making it poignant when they choose to share their personal experiences as queer people. Queer Eye is now entering its 7th season on Netflix.—Jennifer Studebaker
The L Word
For queer teens with HBO access, The L Word‘s launch in 2004 was like a predecessor to the “It Gets Better” project—a vision of lesbian and bisexual hookups, friendships, and, most importantly, community, in LA. While many aspects haven’t aged well—it is, on the whole, a story about thin, able-bodied white lesbians; trans characters and folks of color are mis- and underrepresented—it’s still a cultural touchstone (would your friends characterize you as a Dana? A Shane? An Alice? Or, god forbid, a Jenny??). It was transgressive for the early 2000’s—the first time we’d seen sapphic sex scenes on TV, unapologetically filmed by and for the queer community—and worth a watch for that reason alone. Availabe on Prime Video.—Chhaya Kolavalli
There is a reason Steven Universe helped usher in Cartoon Network’s second golden age in the early 2010s. The Peabody Award-winning animated series was one of the few cartoons to tackle gender and queer identity with nuance and care. With its roots in the magical girl genre, Steven Universe subverts societal norms by showing viewers that it is possible to embrace anyone, regardless of who they love or how they identify themselves. Instead of defeating his foes with violence, Steven uses compassion and understanding to make the most powerful galactic empire come to terms with their misdeeds. The young hero may come from a quirky family full of sentient gemstones, but his empathy for others is something anyone can emulate. Available on Hulu and HBO Max. —Phylecia Miller
She-ra and the Princesses of Power
ND Stevenson and DreamWorks Studios did something few animated productions struggle to achieve: they made a beloved 80s Mattel franchise reboot feel fresh and unique. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power accomplish this feat by putting queer storylines and characters at the forefront of the beloved sci-fi animated series. The cartoon refuses to hide or hint at Adora and Catra’s attraction for one another unlike other animated works (cough, cough, The Legend of Korra). Instead, the series develops the lesbian couple’s friendship, conflict, reconciliation, and eventual romance out in the open throughout the five seasons. This relationship, which is a favorite among fans, is one of the reasons the LGBTQ+ community embraces the Netflix animated series full-heartedly. Available on Netflix.—Phylecia Miller
For any fans of the 2018 film Love, Simon, be sure to add this endearingly insightful show to your watchlist. Love, Victor on Hulu currently has two seasons—with the third and final season starting on June 15—and follows Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino), a new kid at the same high school as Simon Spiers of Love, Simon, who is on his own journey of exploring and finding his sexual identity.
With Nick Robinson reprising his role as Simon, Victor has to find a way to balance his newfound sexuality with not just the typical troubles of high school, but also the societal expectations of a male athlete and the heaping dose of animosity from his religious parents. The Season 2 finale left fans with quite the cliffhanger, wondering if Victor would return to his slightly judgmental but nonetheless supportive former boyfriend, Benji (George Sear), or move forward in an exciting new connection with Rahim (Anthony Keyvan). Either way, Season 3 promises to continue with the heartfelt and moving story of a young man who embraces himself above all else. Available on Hulu.—Kellie Innes
Freeform’s The Fosters broke ground for many reasons, perhaps most notably in its embrace and representation of the LGBTQ+ community. Following a foster family who navigates life in all of its ups and downs, the show is rooted in the love that foster mothers Lena and Stef—played beautifully and tenderly by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum—have for each other and extended family. Their relationship both pushes forth the message that LGBTQ+ relationships and parents are no different from heterosexual couples, but also explores the deep issues that each woman faces in regard to family, employment, and even their own feelings for each other.
In addition to Lena and Stef, The Fosters also follows Hayden Byerly as Jude, the youngest foster child in the family, as he explores and emerges into his own sexual orientation. One of the highlights of the whole series is the young and hesitant relationship with his friend-turned-more-than-friend Connor (Gavin MacIntosh), culminating in their historic first kiss, marking the youngest same-sex kiss shown on TV. As their theme song repeatedly croons, The Fosters emphasizes the importance of choosing your family and finding a place where you are accepted and belong no matter what. All five seasons are available on Prime Video.—Kellie Innes
Harley Quinn is in love with Poison Ivy. It used to be the worst kept secret in the DC universe, but in recent years has been wholeheartedly embraced by writers and artists, giving the fandom one of the best ongoing relationships between legacy characters in comics history. Then, Harley Quinn came around, relenting against the modern status quo of adult animation and DC canon alike by having little reverence for any rules except for caring about its characters.
The world has long been ready for Harley to break away from her on-and-off relationship with the Joker, and it articulates coming away from toxic relationship rebounds as well as it does showing an organic friendship blossom as Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy (Lake Bell) share more screen time together than ever before. The growing intimacy of this relationship isn’t forced. It buds from a believable friendship, without any obligatory coming-out story. Instead, the two aren’t presented as characters with arcs defined by their sexuality but as two women supporting each other through their goals and aspirations and even other relationships until we watch a clown queen and an ecoterrorist realize they understand each other more than anyone else ever could. Two seasons are available on HBO Max. —Evan Griffin
The Owl House
The Owl House, created by Dana Terrace, quickly found popularity following its premiere in the winter of 2020. Part of its success is due to how it uses different formats other Disney series typically do not use for their shows. The show represents LGBTQ+ characters and gender identities in a way that makes it not glaring to the viewers. It’s common in series for teens and children with LGBTQ+ representation that they tend to make a coming-out moment a big reveal or something used for dramatic shock factor, only to be praised for their inclusiveness.
Most of that representation is through background characters too, so we don’t get to learn about their personality, with their main characteristic being that they’re “the gay character.” The Owl House doesn’t do this. They treat the characters and their relationships in a way that is natural and realistic, unlike how other shows may display it. They don’t exaggerate their identities—instead, they make the characters feel more human. Two seasons are available on Disney Now.—Sophia Johnson
Created by The Matrix filmmakers Lana and Lili Wachowski along with J. Michael Straczynski, the bold and beautifully queer Sense8 was as confounding as it was transfixing, a true explosion of unrestrained creative ideologies. Following a group of eight individuals all over the world who discover they share a psychic link that allows them to feel, see, and experience what the others are going through, the series often stumbles through its own mythology but never loses the complex spark that came from the characters, their friendships, romances, and relationships with one another, often all overlapping.
Soaked in compassion, Sense8 is one of Netflix’s best series to date and one that refused to compromise on its ideas of identity, sexuality, and relationships and the fluidity that often inhabit all three. Sense8 is available on Netflix.—Allyson Johnson
Based on the incredible film Skate Kitchen, Crystal Mosselle adapts her film to television for HBO’s Betty, which follows a diverse group of young women as they navigate the predominantly male-oriented world of skateboarding in New York City. With much of the same core cast as the film, the series embraces a Gen Z aesthetic both in the naturalistic dialogue and modern exploration of romantic relationships but also, most notably, in how they depict sexuality and LGBTQ+ relationships. It’s a deceptively breezy show, but under the chill exterior is a show that embraces the very real selfishness and loyalty that comes with young adult relationships. Two seasons are available on HBO Max.—Allyson Johnson
Our Flag Means Death
Having taken the internet by storm, not only is Our Flag Means Death one of the funniest new comedies to come out this year, but it also presents one of the most wholesome relationships—as wholesome as a pair of two murdering pirates can be of course. Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi play Stede Bonnet and Captain Blackbeard (or Ed), the central relationship to the series, and their opposite attract, will they-won’t they dynamic is a breath of fresh air in an era of television that has seen so many series fall victim to the reductionist issue of “Queer baiting.” Created by David Jenkins, Our Flag Means Death fully commits to both their burgeoning romance as well as the multiple queer relationships that inhabit the ship in general. The first season is available on HBO Max.—Allyson Johnson
Please Like Me
While he’s yet to fully break out in more mainstream circles, actor, writer, and creator Josh Thomas has been making a name for himself over the past few years with his honest and hilarious series. The first of which was heartfelt, biting, and compassionate Please Like Me which followed Thomas in the leading role along with his friends as they all fall in and out of love and navigate the ennui of being a mid-twenty-something in today’s world of dating. However, despite the pilot opening with Josh being told he’s gay by the girlfriend who is breaking up with him, the series is less intent on making a point of his sexuality or his coming to terms with it and more simply about his day-to-day life and friendships, along with the men he dates, sometimes to disastrous effect. It’s also a terrific, often heartbreaking, but never exploitative look at mental health. All four seasons are available on Hulu.—Allyson Johnson
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay
Running only two seasons, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay was Josh Thomas’s second series that he wrote and starred in, this time as a brother who’s tasked with raising his two half-sisters after their father passes away. As he’s tasked more with being the mature figure in this series, his one romantic relationship also weathers the commitment that comes with one over time. It might not possess the same spark and energy as Please Like Me but it once again solidifies his voice in LGBTQ+ spaces, his persistence in highlighting inclusive storylines and mental health across all spectrums, and his innate understanding of the pettiest sides of ourselves, much to our discomfort. Both seasons are available on Hulu.—Allyson Johnson
Dan Goor and Michael Shur have created some of the best sitcoms of the last century and while many will argue over what’s their best (Season 2 of The Good Place gets my vote) Brooklyn Nine-Nine is often fighting for top spot, in large part due to the exceptional cast. Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) was an instant favorite of fans and critics, as the no-nonsense and monotone lead of Brooklyn’s 99th precinct. He also, as established, happens to be gay and in a long-lasting relationship with his husband, Kevin (Marc Evan Jackson).
Their relationship and personalities prove an excellent foil to the sillier Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and it’s their relationship along with other fan-favorite Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) coming out as bisexual that gives an already wonderful procedural comedy an edge as it tackles greater stories of inclusivity with little fanfare. Bisexuality is still not seen as often on television (though particularly with men, and wouldn’t it have been great if the show had gone there with Jake with all the soft bi-coding they gave him) and it was nice to see a well-executed storyline with a bisexual main character and its center (and one that doesn’t meet some sort of terrible fate.) All eight seasons are available on Hulu.—Allyson Johnson
The Legend of Korra
It still feels revolutionary what The Legend of Korra managed to pull off, even if compared to today’s standards of kids broadcasting it doesn’t quite reach the same levels of a show such as say, The Owl House. That said, in 2014 when the finale aired and Korra and Asami walk hand and hand into the spirit world, it felt like a big deal, especially again with the pretty consistent trend of Queer baiting in media. Fans had been sensing something between the two and their relationship for all of Season 4, so to get confirmation of it after watching their relationship bloom across all four seasons from not-quite-friends, to friends, to something more was a beautiful evolution of their characters.
The Legend of Korra didn’t always contain the same consistent magic and narrative throughline as its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender did, but it tackled mature themes with quiet grace and introspection, with their relationship and sexuality only the tip of the iceberg. That this was released through Nickelodeon at all was shocking for the time, with the same-sex relationship between Korra and Asami being unprecedented at the time of airing. All four seasons are available on Netflix.—Allyson Johnson
With its distinct, bubblegum aesthetic, narrative dream logic and underrated pathos, it’s little surprise that the popular animated series, Adventure Time, would possess such a graceful LGBTQ+ storyline. While there are plenty of colorful characters in the Land of Ooo, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen were quick to steal hearts, especially those in search of a queer romance with a happy ending. A romance that was teased throughout much of the series ten seasons, the culmination was sweet, deliberate, and a perfect send off to such treasured characters. Available on Prime Video.—Allyson Johnson
Cruel Summer portrayed a queer relationship that grew from an unlikely friendship. Kate and Mallory’s relationship blossomed throughout their season of the anthology show. Their friendship was unexpected, but it didn’t take long for the girls to prove their trust and devotion to each other. This relationship is authentic and feels unplanned, letting the girls fall into place rather than forcing them together through contrived drama. However, probably the most significant aspect of this ship was that the start of their romantic relationship is Kate’s happy ending for the show. As she went through the traumatic experience of being groomed and later kidnapped, not only is it satisfying to see the girl happy and free, but it also serves as an anti-bury-your-gays trope, even if we need a lot more to call it even. The first season is available on Hulu.—Amanda Reimer
The Wilds took a big gamble when it decided to add a group of boys to an already female-centric show. But not only did the show introduce a new gay character into the mix with the boys’ group, but it also still dedicated time to the relationship between Toni and Shelby. The show does a good job at telling different queer stories, from Shelby’s closeted experience in conservative Texas to Ivan, who struggles with anger. The Wilds lets them be happy together and enjoy their relationship for a sizeable portion of the second season. This show successfully explores a variety of LGBTQ stories and with the survival genre The Wilds wedges itself into, it also shows how the stigma and queer experience has the capacity to stay with us, even in the most removed of circumstances. Both seasons are available on Prime Video.—Amanda Reimer
Google the keywords “Heartstopper Euphoria” and you won’t have to look far for comparisons between the two teen-centric shows that diverge greatly in tone and style. One can hypothesize that the sweet, LGBTQ Netflix series pleasantly surprised (or bored more cynical viewers) audiences with its earnest portrayal of a romance between two boys, and their supporting cast that included a teen lesbian couple and a transgender girl dealing with their own school and love lives.
Hearstopper illuminated the insecurities that can underpin LGBTQ+ youth experiences into a coming-of-age narrative with fluffy animated garnishes of sparks, hearts and lightning bolts that appear when characters feel a surge of affection that pay homage to the original webcomics. Heartstopper is a world that is lovely to visit—one that proves that media with LGBTQ love stories do not need to be relentlessly graphic, crude, or shocking to host conflict in it. The first season is available on Netflix.—Ingrid Allen
Black Mirror, “San Junipero”
The most joyful of Black Mirror episodes and significant for its happy ending for the lesbian couple, “San Junipero” came out in the fall of 2016, during the fraught election between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton when anxiety about LGBTQ rights being rolled back was at an all-time high in the States. “San Junipero,” like the best of Black Mirror episodes, raised interesting philosophical questions about virtual consciousness and life after death that made double meanings between shy Yorkie (played by Mackenzie Davis) and “bodacious” Kelly (played by a radiant Gugu Mbatha-Raw) clear on a rewatch. Nostalgia for the eighties granted the landmark episode its dazzling color schemes and California vistas to elevate the critically acclaimed love story even further. “San Junipero” is available on Netflix.—Ingrid Allen
Young Royals centers on Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding), the youngest member of the Swedish royal family, who has disgraced the nation after the paparazzi caught him fighting another teen. In retaliation for his behavior, Wilhelm is sent to Hillerska, a prestigious boarding school, to shape up. Wilhelm has little interest in the school and pouts about his punishment—until he meets Simon (Omar Rudberg), a scholarship student at Hillerska, and everything changes. The two begin a clandestine relationship, but nothing stays secret for long: not when backstabbing classmates armed with cameras are lurking everywhere, and certainly not when you’re the heir to the throne. Wilhelm’s desire for a life out of the spotlight, free with Simon, is a powerful and introspective conflict anchoring the show (from TYF’s review by Claire Di Maio). The first season is available on Netflix.
Shameless might have a large ensemble of characters but at the end of the day, the show will always be known for accidentally telling an eleven-season-long gay love story. The relationship between Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey (Noel Fisher) started off rocky, going through many seasons of secrecy, a psychotic homophobic father, and unfortunate weddings. Even when they were openly together, then came Ian’s Bipolar diagnosis. Through the ups-and-downs of their relationship, including joint prison stays, Ian and Mickey always stuck together, no matter how much they bickered. They might have been apart for seasons at a time, but that time apart allowed for necessary character growth. All 11 seasons are available on Netflix.—Katey Stoetzel
Generation captured the essence of queer Gen Z high schoolers through its clever narrative tricks and earnest exploration of sexual identities. The show also boasts a diverse cast, prominently featuring Black, Brown, and Asian characters, and explores many types of queer identities. With a large ensemble cast, the interconnected stories are at risk of turning as convoluted as those star-studded Valentine and New Years’ movies. But with Daniel Barnz and his Gen Z daughter Zelda Barnz at the writing helm, the way in which our characters come together and grow apart throughout 16 episodes is immaculate narrative storytelling.
As Chester (Justice Smith) tries to get closer with his guidance counselor (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) falls more in love with Chester while also navigating his experience as a bisexual kid with his parents’ conservative values. Meanwhile, Riley (Chase Sui Wonders) develops a mutual crush on Greta (Haley Sanchez) as Greta struggles with the realization that she’s asexual. There are many more characters to get to know in Generation and plenty of unforgettable scenes that will blow your breath away. From Nathan’s public coming out and subsequent jump off a yacht that acts more as a rebirth than the more ominous takeaway, to Greta’s confession to Riley, and that final shot of Chester, Generation is written by queer people and for queer people. It’s one season is available on HBO Max.—Katey Stoetzel
It’s fair to say this one comes with a bit of a caveat—the ending to Season 4 will forever hold a bitter place in fans’ heart, but at least The Magicians gave us the first three seasons. Not afraid to break out into song or travel to different worlds, The Magicians approached its queer representation with the same nonchalance they did with their musical episodes—they were just gonna do it. The relationship between Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Eliot (Hale Appleman) was more “why aren’t they”? instead of “will they/won’t they.” However, episodes like “A Life in a Day” and “Escape from the Happy Place” solidified their relationship, even if it mainly existed in alternate universes and mind prisons. All five seasons are available on Netflix.—Katey Stoetzel
911: Lone Star
911: Lone Star features many queer characters, notable for a popular network procedural set in the traditionally masculine atmosphere of the firehouse. Brian Michael Smith as firefighter Paul Strickland is the first out Black transgender man in a series regular role on network television. In Season 3, Nancy (Brianna Baker) dropped high-heeled hints about her bisexuality, and fan-favorites Carlos (Rafael L. Silva) and TK (Ronen Rubinstein) got engaged. Though the show has gone through its fair share of angst for all of the characters, Lone Star also manages to find time to let their characters have a bit of fun. The first three seasons are available on Hulu.—Katey Stoetzel
Set in New York during the 80s and 90s, Pose brought to life the found families that drove ball culture of the time, and was notable for centering Black and Latinx trans characters. Though the series also covers the AIDS epidemic, the show is so full of life and celebration. Michaela Jaé Rodriguez became the first trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy and to win a Golden Globe for her role as Blanca Rodriguez. Though the show ended in 2021, the show’s legacy lives on as one of the first to have trans women play trans women and sets the tone for how trans stories should be told. All three seasons are available on Hulu.—Katey Stoetzel
Sure, it’s as campy as a CW show, but Netflix’s First Kill has all the makings of a long-standing stay on the streaming service. The chemistry between Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook,) a legacy vampire, and Calliope (Imani Lewis,) a monster hunter, is electric and satisfying. Their Romeo-and-Juliette style relationship provides a lot of fundamental angst as two people who should not be together. The show’s CGI budget could use some of that Stranger Things money, but it’s not often we get a lesbian vampire/monster hunter shows, and First Kill is a total blast of camp and supernatural angst. The first season is available on Netflix.—Katey Stoetzel