It has been an unprecedented year for LGBTQ representation on television. There were so many queer characters and storylines that it made the task of selecting the best a difficult process. But these are wonderful problems to have, particularly in a time when the Trump administration is attempting to erase LGBTQ lives.
Below, see a list of the shows that pushed back against this erasure and placed queer people (and issues!) front and center.
No other show on television has impacted LGBTQ lives like Pose, the groundbreaking FX series that centers on ball culture in 1980s New York. Pose not only centers of transgender and queer people of color -- it also stars them, setting a record for the number of transgender series regulars and a new bar for representation in television. The show, cocreated by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, is unafraid to show the hardships and joys within this marginalized community, including issues like HIV, sex work, and found family. Billy Porter received a much-deserved Emmy nomination for his performance as Pray Tell, but all of the trans women: Indya Moore as Angel, MJ Rodriguez as Blanca Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson as Elektra Abundance, Hailie Sahar as LuluAbundance, and Angelica Ross as Candy Abundance, and producers Our Lady J and Janet Mock, deserve awards recognition.
The Bold Type
In its first season, Freeform's The Bold Type, about 20-something best friends, Kat (Aisha Dee), Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Jane (Katie Stevens), traversing career, love, and the current state of politics in and around a socially conscious women's magazine, had already established itself as breakout television.
That first season saw Kat come out as bisexual as she fell hard for Adena, a lesbian Muslim (TV's first) photographer played by Nikohl Boosheri.
When Kat and Adena returned for season two they were a full-on couple, but the truth soon came out that Kat had yet to go down on Adena, a sticking point in the relationship. With humor and heart, a frank, thoughtful conversation about sex between women ensued -- the likes of which had rarely, if ever, been addressed for queer women in TV or film. And there it was happening on the network that once was home to the religious show The 700 Club!
"When I read the script, I don't even think I understood on that level the importance of having a conversation like this," Boosheri told The Advocate earlier this year. "I think for me, it was even shocking, you know, our own conditioning. I was feeling a little scared or bashful to have the conversation because, even as women, even in heterosexual relationships, you don't very often see women being so forthcoming and open and owning their sexuality like that rather than seeing their needs as something shameful."
Beyond The Bold Type's willingness to go there with talk about sex between women, the series also costars Stephen Conrad Moore, a same-gender loving man of color who portrays Oliver, the delightful gay head of the magazine's fashion department who becomes a mentor to Sutton.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story has been a favorite on the awards circuit. The gripping series is seen through the eyes of Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss), the serial killer who, in a case that captivated the world, shot the famous designer (Edgar Ramirez). The story shows the bloody aftermath, of how Versace's partner Antonio D'Amico (Ricky Martin) and sister Donatella (Penelope Cruz, excellent) cope with the killing. But flashbacks also show how Versace and Cunanan first met, while exploring the taboos surrounding gay love and culture.
Killing Eve's story is a far cry from its creator Phoebe Waller-Bridges's dark comedy Fleabag, but she manages to infuse the new series' spy-thriller narrative with plenty of her signature bon mots. Sandra Oh finally gets a role worthy of her immense talent as Eve Polastri, a sardonic MI6 investigator who discovers the existence of a new female assassin wreaking havoc around the world. British TV veteran Jodie Comer plays Villanelle, the gorgeous bisexual polyglot of an assassin who becomes obsessed with Eve. The series is delicious, dark-humored fun bolstered by a solid cat-and-mouse plot. If that weren't enough, the inimitable out actress Fiona Shaw costars.
The CW superhero world has a reputation for being big on LGBTQ representation, but that universe really outdid itself with Black Lightning, about a family of superheroes of color who battle racism amd other social problems by day and villains by night. While Cress Williams's Black Lightning is the patriarch and main crime stopper, his daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) really tipped the scales for queer viewers when she became TV's first black lesbian superhero. Anissa's alter ego Thunder works with her father, and eventually with her sister Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and their genius scientist mother, Lynn (Christine Adams), to save their city. The series's second season offers much more of our new favorite crime-fighting family, especially since the daughters have just fully coming into their powers. If Anissa weren't badass enough as Thunder, she proved this season that her power of seduction is just one of her superpowers.
A Very English Scandal
A Very English Scandal is one of the year's best shows -- LGBTQ or otherwise. This period miniseries, available to stream on Amazon, follows Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), a closeted member of Parliament who tries to hide his past affair with Norman Josiffe (Ben Whishaw). His attempts at a cover-up lead to extraordinary measures that we won't spoil here; it really must be seen to be believed. But don't miss this ripped-from-the-headlines tale or its stellar performances from Grant (never better) and Whishaw. The miniseries is also a fascinating chronicle of the homophobia of 1970s and 80s England and the desperate measures it could spark in those it impacted.
One Day at a Time
Netflix's One Day at a Time takes the beloved '70s sitcom about a divorced mom raising teen daughters and gives it a fresh focus by reimagining the premise with a Latinx family. Justina Machado (Six Feet Under) stars as Penelope, the single mom raising her son Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and her daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez), who comes out as a lesbian in season one. Of course, the legendary Rita Moreno plays Penelope's over-the-top mother Lydia, who lends a classic air of camp to the entire show.
With humor and a whole lot of heart, One Day at a Time's excellent season two focused on a newly out and deeply political Elena who joined protests and fought for LGBTQ rights at her school even as she navigated dating. The series did a deep dive into intersectionality and highlighted various sexualities and genders at a teen level eventually giving Elena a girlfriend, Syd, who is nonbinary.
Schitt's Creek is a bright spot on the comedy landscape. Created by Eugene Levy (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) and his son Daniel Levy, who is gay, Schitt's Creek brims with absurdist humor that's (mostly) sadly missing from pop culture these days. The series, about a wealthy family that loses it all and is forced to rebuild in the podunk town they happen to own, stars Eugene Levy as the patriarch of the family opposite his frequent on-screen partner Catherine O'Hara, who plays his kooky, over-the-top wife Moira. Daniel Levy plays the family's pansexual son David while the wonderful Annie Murphy stars as their bizarrely worldly daughter Alexis. Over the seasons, David has engaged in relationships with men and women on the show, including the town's motel's owner Stevie, played by out actress Emily Hampshire. Loaded with camp and a queer sensibility, Schitt's Creek continues to be a panacea for the daily news cycle.
The Cartoon Network's Steven Universe is already benchmark in that it was created by a bisexual, nonbinary person, Rebecca Sugar. But the show literally made history this summer when it showed the first same-sex wedding explicitly featured in a children's television program. The series also notably features non-binary characters in the spotlight, and the cast is mostly made up of people of color and queer people. The show has a lot of heart and new episodes are coming back later in the month. If you want quality LGBTQ family-friendly entertainment, Steven Universe is it.
The Handmaid's Tale
The critically-acclaimed Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale managed to amp up the terror in its second season. And it was already as scary as hell in terms of how close to reality it truly is. The show that stars Elisabeth Moss as June, a woman trying to survive a near-future in which women are valued merely for the viability of their reproductive organs, told poignant stories about queer women in its freshmen season, introducing Samira Wiley's Moira and Alexis Bledel's Emily. But an episode in The Handmaid's Tale's second season that flashed back to the lead-up to the conservative uprising that led to the women's imprisonment telegraphed how easily hard-won rights could be snatched away under an authoritarian government. The flashback episode of Emily attempting to flee the country with her wife (Clea DuVall) and their child was brutal to watch and also impossible to turn away from in terms of what LGBTQ people stand to lose under the current presidential administration.
"What I found surprising was that in playing the character, because she's such a fighter and she had the steely resolve, that somehow she keeps surviving these horrific traumas and fighting. Beyond surviving, she has the will to keep fighting her oppressors," Bledel told The Advocate about playing Emily earlier this year.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was one of the surprise contenders this year. The show, which centers on the half-witch/half-mortal Sabrina Spellman, features a host of queer representation, including her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and her gender-nonconforming friend Susie (Lachlan Watson). Many LGBTQ can also relate to Spellman's plight about being trapped between two worlds, as well as her need to stay in the closet about her true magical nature. But the show, produced by Greg Berlanti, is also old-fashioned, campy fun, with exorcisms and high-school drama packed into the same episode.
The new Fab Five rode in a rainbow unicorn this year, winning hearts and minds as they administered feel-good body and soul makeovers throughout America's heartland. Netflix's Queer Eye -- the only reality series on our list -- gave the world Antoni, Tan, Jonathan, Karamo, and Bobby, who provided some bipartisan unity in a time of division. The revival also expanded the idea of a "queer eye for the straight guy" to members of the LGBTQ community, which produced some of the most heartwarming television this year.
Dear White People
Created by out showrunner Justin Simien, Dear White People returned to Netflix for a stellar second season, continuing to explore how issues related to race and sexuality operate on a college campus -- and by extension, America. This season goes beyond the titular radio broadcast to explore how social media influences these conversations and at times inflames them. The show also features a central gay character, Lionel (DeRon Horton), whose episode exploring the different queer scenes on his college campus this season is a must-see lesson in intersectionality. As a bonus, Lena Waithe also makes a hilarious cameo.
The Good Fight
The Good Fight is more than just a spinoff. The CBS: All Access series, which began with The Good Wife's Diane Lockhart as she joins a historically African-American law firm, was the first major television series to embody the spirit of The Resistance against the Trump administration. Cush Jumbo, Audra McDonald, and Rose Leslie, who portrays the lesbian character Maia Rindell, round out the central cast of strong women who try to bring law and order to a world filled with chaos. Also, they found the pee tape!
Starz's Vida, from creator Tanya Saracho is in a class of its own in terms of representation for queer Latinx people on screen and behind the camera. Based in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the series tackles gentrification as two sisters, the fastidious Emma (Michel Prada), who is queer, and the free-spirited and self-centered Lyn (Melissa Barrera), return to their mother's home after her death to mourn her and to handle her affairs. Namely, they must decide what to do with the money pit of an apartment building and bar their mother, Vida, owned. In the process, they discover that Vida had a secret life.
Not only does the fresh and deeply funny Vida star a couple of actors who are LGBTQ, the show's writers and crew consist overwhelmingly of people of color, queer people, and women.