Screening Room

TV continually devalues queer diversity. These 10 pathbreaking shows buck the trend.

We come with GLAAD tidings.

The media watchdog group released its annual report on representation in the media, and this year it comes with welcome news: LGBTQ characters make up about 7% of all regular characters on TV, an all-time high in terms of representation. Not bad, but still a long ways to go.

But then GLAAD makes a more interesting argument, pointing out that the 7% number comprises a majority of white, cisgender characters. LGBTQ people of color and gender fluid individuals remain terribly underrepresented in scripted TV.

There will be those in Hollywood who focus on the first number and downplay the second, pointing out how hard it is just to get gay and lesbian characters into scripts.

But it can be done, and it can be done well. In fact, there are a number of great shows already taking queer diversity to a whole new level of complexity. So we’ve composed a list of TV shows whose creators actually took the time to imagine amazing transgender or gender fluid characters, some of whom happen to be people of color.

Even better, the shows we picked are actually worth watching for the drama alone–beyond their distinction in diversity.

1. Sense8

Go figure that out transgender sisters Lily & Lana Wachowski would create one of the most diverse casts on TV with their sci-fi potboiler Sense8. Featuring one of the best ever transgender characters to hit the screen—the hacker Nomi, played by out trans actress Jaymie Clayton—and featuring hunky Latin couple Lito and Hernando, the show spins a tale of psychically connected people all over the world. Though Netflix axed the show earlier this year, the streaming service has announced a feature film that will wrap up the story of the series.

2. Suburra: Blood on Rome

Speaking of Netflix, the first Italian-language series from the streaming provider also features one of the most unusual and adorable queer characters on TV. Meet Spadino, the gay gypsy Mafioso charged with leading his family’s crime syndicate while struggling with an identity heretofore unknown (and rarely depicted) in this class. Gypsies have long faced persecution and discrimination even in socially liberal Europe. That minority status only adds to Spadino’s compelling character–but his flamboyant attire and general sex appeal don’t hurt either.

3. Orange is the New Black

The show that made Laverne Cox a star continues to score high marks for racial and queer diversity, featuring the lesbian characters of color Poussey and Crazy Eyes. Cox’s recurring character Sophia remains one of the highlights.

4. Andi Mack

The Disney sit-com Andi Mack made headlines earlier this year for featuring an adolescent character coming out, played by Middle Eastern Jewish actor Joshua Rush. The storyline of a kid coming out to his friends would get our attention in any case because, after all, kids are people too.

5. Star Trek: Discovery

The latest incarnation of the iconic sci-fi franchise already received high diversity marks for featuring an African-American woman in the leading role. It also features the first two canonical gay characters in Trek history (about damn time too!), Paul and Hugh, played by Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz. Rapp may get a bit more screen time as the ship’s engineer. But Cruz, as the ship’s doctor, gives the series an extra dose of sincerity.

6. American Gods

Meet Bilquis, the bisexual goddess of American Gods played by Nigerian-American actress Yetide Badaki. Bilquis enjoys having a lot of sex with both men and women…and devouring her mates through her vagina. It’s that kind of show.

7. The OA

Netflix strikes again with this sci-fi mystery, featuring an Asian-American transgender teenager, played by transgender actor Ian Alexander. Like Andi Mack, The OA deserves special props for featuring a diverse cast and an adolescent queer character in a period of self-discovery.

8. Dear White People

The controversial Netflix comedy takes a look at social injustice among people of color, and manages to drop in a number of queer characters to boot. Series regular Lionel, as well as recurring characters Neika and Monique all live out and loud.

9. Transparent

The award-winning Amazon series takes a lot of criticism for featuring a cisgender actor—Jeffery Tambor—in the leading role. Still, credit where credit is due: the show also features a number of out-transgender actors, including Alexandra Gray and Hari Nef.

10. 13 Reasons Why

Though problematic and downright absurd at times, the teen mystery/drama 13 Reasons Why does manage to feature a sexually diverse cast of characters, including the Latino Tony and Asian Courtney. The show touches on the difficulties of coming out queer as a teenager, though trust us, given the series premise, that is the least of their problems.

Any other great shows featuring great LGBTQ characters you’d like to add to the list? Add them in comments below…

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24 Comments

  • Kangol

    Not just TV, this site is atrocious when it comes to diversity beyond those single pages featuring Instagram posts. When was the last time Queerty devoted an article to an Asian American gay person? A non white-passing Latinx? When are you going to cover the historic win this past Tuesday of Angela Jenkins, a Black transwoman and activist in Minnesota? Do you guys just not care?

    • Fakerobot12

      Queerty is a gay gossip rag. You’re coming to the wrong place if you want legit news.

    • mhoffman953

      @Kangol

      What is Latinx? Are you trying to remove gender from a culture which bases its language on masculine and feminine variations of words?

    • Bob LaBlah

      Kangol, your talking about substance when you mentioned that historic win by Angela Jenkins. You see, it has to be a situation invoking victimization to get recognized by Queerty and its readers. Several articles have appeared on Queerty where its readers called out the article for the facts that were omitted and the article magically disappeared from its pages. One that comes to mind was the recent incident in Florida where a trans-THING decided to poke of the eyes of “its” sugar daddy with pieces of wood from a dresser drawer after it was broken over the poor guys head. But of course that part was left out.

      I saw the same thing you did in the pics posted in this article and hoped you or another regular reader would have called it out instead of ol’ Bob Blahblahblalhblah. I thank you for doing so. I mean really, Laverne Cox clearly represent…….anyway, it was what it was.

      Heres something else that you can rest assured will go unnoticed by Queerty because of its lack of a victim.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/11/as-trump-attempts-a-transgender-military-ban-germany-celebrates-its-first-trans-commander/?utm_term=.0566c54cebde

    • Kangol

      @ mhoffmann, “Latinx” is increasingly used among LGBTQ Latinxs. In case you missed it, here’s a Huffpost article from last year on Latinx. And the OED is even on the case.

      Bob LaBlah, thank you for posting that article on Germany’s landmark ruling. I figured Queerty would be on it since it’s Germany, but I guess it’ll take a bit of degradation or victimization of trans people–or for some famous pop star like RuPaul to comment on it or some German hottie to post it on IG–for Queerty to report on this major news.

      It’s even more important and ironic given Germany’s particularly murderous history towards gay men and lesbians too.

    • mhoffman953

      @Kangol

      Yeah, I know people use it, mostly people in the USA, but why?

      Why not just say Latinos (when talking about the group)? And Latinas when only talking about a group of girls? That is how the Latin culture does it. The Latin culture uses masculine and feminine variations of words throughout their language and culture. If you took a basic Spanish class, you would see this.

      Why are you trying to change a culture’s language / heritage to sound politically correct?

    • ruben_gloria

      @mhoffman953 I’m latino. Im sure in english you have slang and words written and used differently to mean something other than it is intended to. What is wrong with adjusting a word to fit a gender neutral pronoun?

      Although Spanish is our main language is Latin America, it isn’t our official language, and we aren’t particularly attached to it as it is a sign of colonialism. So assuming we are attached to its cultural significance is rather inaccurate. Its our tool of communication out of necessity, but it defeats the purpose if you can’t quiet communicate what you mean just because of a gender pronoun.

      In Mexico alone we have more than 35 languages no less official than spanish (this applies to most of Latin America too, with their own populations): Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mayo, Yaqui, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, Totonac, Purépecha, Otomi, Mazahua, Mazatec, Chinantec, Mixe, Zoque, Popoluca, Popoloca language, Me’phaa, Wixarika, Chontal, Huave, Pame, Teenek, Kickapoo, Kiliwa, Paipai, Cucapá, Amuzgo, Triqui, Lacandon Maya, Mam Maya, Jakaltek, Matlatzinca, Tepehua, Chichimeca Jonaz, Pima Bajo, Ngiwa, Ixcatec, Ayapanec, etc.

  • Mandrake

    Transgender I understand. Tranvestite I understand. Could somebody explain to me what a “gender fluid individual” is? Do they change their gender at will like a sexual chameleon might? Do they dress up as one gender one day and change clothes to appear as another the next? How does this “fluidity” work?

    • spacecadet

      I think you pretty much nailed it. Gender fluid means they don’t identify completely as one gender or the other but aspects of both. So they can dress in a typically masculine manner or a feminine manner or a mix of both.

    • Danny595

      It’s mental illness.

    • Aires the Ram

      If one reaches down the front of their pants once in a while, all doubt should be erased about whether or not they are “gender fluid”.

    • Heywood Jablowme

      A ‘gender fluid’ person leaves a trail of gender fluid behind him/her/them, sort of like a snail.

    • Kangol

      @Danny595, since no one else has pointed this out to you, trans people are not mentally ill. But your extreme fear of sexuality, effeminacy, and so much else sounds like you could use some counseling.

      @AirestheRam, you are confusing “gender” and “sex.” You may be born with particular sex organs and can tug at them all you like, but they do not determine your gender. That’s the whole point of transgenderism, gender expression, gender fluidity, etc.

    • mhoffman953

      @Kangol

      So you’re saying that women have penises? What’s the difference in your world between a woman’s penis and a man’s penis?

      If you would tell someone this in a Biology class, you’d fail

    • ruben_gloria

      @mhoffman953 Actually no, he wouldn’t biologists actually get the difference between gender and sex, which you can’t seem to grasp.

      Although the male/female split is often seen as binary, this is not entirely true. For instance, some men are born with two or three X chromosomes, just as some women are born with a Y chromosome.

      Although sex is often considered a black and white state of affairs, there is, in fact, a significant amount of middle ground; some believe that sex should be considered a continuum as opposed to two mutually exclusive categories.

      The world health organization defines gender as:
      “Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed.”

    • mhoffman953

      @ruben_gloria

      You typed a lot but didn’t answer my questions. I’ll ask it again. Do women have penises? What’s the difference in your world between a woman’s penis and a man’s penis?

  • am_psi

    I’m pretty sure reboot timeline Sulu was the first gay Star Trek main character since that series started in 2009. Also, most of these shows are trash.

  • KaiserVonScheiss

    Diversity, for its own sake, is stupid. I just want good characters, not tokens for the sake of some diversity nonsense.

  • thomas prentice

    “13 Reasons Why” is neither problematic nor absurd. The writer must not have attended high school.

    My only critique is the absence of working class and poor kids except for Tony and he was more than a bit bourgeois — indeed the SHOW was pretty bourgeois — but hey OK it was a good, suspenseful and intense series depicting severe problems with rape and violence rather than glorifying rape, pillage, plunder and violence — with more programs to come.

    If you didn’t watch the afterlogue “Beyond 13 Reasons,” give it a watch.

    The viewer could clearly see and connect clear dots between the plot and characters and the imploding American capitalist civilization which forces out many if not most of these twisted, demented behaviors. If any thinking and reflection was involved.

    And I really like critics who say “that is not the way *** The Almighty I *** would have written or directed it so it is problematic and absurd. Believe me, the DI-VER-SI-TAY that is praised was more than a bit overdone.

    “13” is a damned good series compared to, say, the infinitely stupid and insipid Will and Grace and the painfully boring and upper class gentrifiers of “Looking.”

    • PinkoOfTheGange

      Have you been to a US suburban High School this century. They are more racially diverse, which is at a 50 year low, then they are socioeconomically. “Planned communities” are planned to be sold/rented at a specific price point, that means a certain income level, and with union membership falling as these communities rose, fewer blue collar workers could afford the the houses they were building.

      Now don’t get me started on gentrification…;)

    • StupidBoy

      I’m just finishing a fantasy novel where my main character attempts suicide. I haven’t watched 13 reasons yet, but I think I need to so I can see how they approach it. I’ll begin watching it based on your recommendation.

  • PinkoOfTheGange

    Paul, the guy is turning into a very Hebertian Navigator (which would make him a gold shirt), Is he a Red or Blue shirt? I thought he was a Blue.

    Really spice v. spores…

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