Padma Danturty (she/her)
For me, starting a television show is a big deal. If I’m going to commit my time and energy to caring about characters and reflecting on their decisions, I need it to be good. I also cannot watch shows that show no diversity, and I often get bored very easily. I don’t mean to say that I can’t care about characters that are different from me, but I find that it adds another interesting layer of depth and reality when shows include characters that are POC and/or queer. It’s even better when these characters aren’t pushed off into a B story, with such little screen time that their presence almost doesn’t matter. So, here is a masterlist of TV shows that include main characters who are queer!
1. Degrassi: Next Class
“Degrassi” has been a show ongoing for decades at this point, but I find that “Degrassi: Next Class” does wonders in terms of diversity within the gay community. Within the first episode they establish a gay and a bisexual man, who are both out and proud of their identities, and also a lesbian coming to terms with her sexuality. In the last season they even include a queer woman from Syria, which highlights how the queer identity isn’t restricted to certain areas in the world. Although the show can be a little cringey sometimes with their dialogue and silly drama, the show overall does a good job of showcasing diversity through its range of characters.
2. Young Royals
“Young Royals” became a Netflix hit when it was released in 2021. This is a brilliant show which includes more serious themes regarding intense familial pressure, poverty, racism, and hazing. The show does more than include LGBTQ+ representation, but rather is centered around it. The show was applauded by various YouTube personalities for their diversity, show writing, and their casting. The teenagers in this show look far more realistic than most — with acne and all. Despite being a great show, it’s not exactly the happiest, and is meant as a more serious watch.
“Skam” became popular seemingly randomly as it is a Norwegian show about high schoolers. The interesting thing about the show is that each season focuses on a new person, and those who you thought were important characters soon fade into the background as a new plotline takes place. Season three (the gay one) focuses on Isak coming to terms with his sexuality and experiencing his first love. It has a bit of a somber tone, but these two take you through ups and downs that are so interesting to watch.
4. The Sex Lives of College Girls
“The Sex Lives of College Girls” certainly has a questionable title, but this HBO show has genuinely been one of the more realistic shows I’ve seen regarding the adjustment to college life. Although the “gay reveal” at the end of the first episode (involving one of the four main characters) is a little cliché, it is amazing to have a character so blatantly defy the lesbian stereotype and navigate around her friends and family. This show is lighthearted and a cute watch, and the writing always has me laughing.
5. It's a Sin
This HBO mini-series is a lot darker than the previous one, and focuses on the lives of gay men during the AIDS crisis in England. You don’t know at the beginning which characters are going to live, but you experience the journey from carefree sex to anxiety in the gay community as characters learn and understand more about what having AIDS means. The representation within the show is once again wonderful, and it highlights the diversity within the gay community, which often gets undermined in other shows about the 80s.
6. Grand Army
What starts off as seemingly a silly high school drama quickly turns into a show with a darker note, as the kids at this New York school deal with shooting threats and Joey, the main character, struggles with sexual assault. Among the five main members, there is Sid, an Indian-American senior applying to colleges and coming to terms with his sexuality. Although the show is probably a lot darker than most people’s actual high school experience, it certainly provides representation for the Indian community through Sid. The show attempts to tackle a lot of issues at the same time, and doesn’t necessarily say something about them all, but the LGBTQ+ representation made this show, for me, a pretty decent watch.
Another HBO original, “Looking” is a comedy about a group of three gay friends and their various romantic endeavors. This is another more lighthearted show which focuses on gay storylines without holding back on both the good and questionable parts of the community. The main character, Patrick, is sweet and loveable, despite some of his immoral decisions regarding getting entangled with a man who is already taken, making us question what can and should be acceptable conduct within queer communities and friend groups.
“Hollywood” is an interesting look into what the city was like in the 1950s. This show is a perfect mix of comedy and seriousness, as it comments on the types discrimination which took place during that time. The best part of the show is that the characters, regardless of their race or sexuality, for the most part had a happy ending. Though it isn’t necessarily realistic, it is an uplifting watch and fun to experience.
I have to admit, “Crashing” probably has the least likable characters of any show on this list. They cheat, can be extremely pretentious, and make some of the dumbest decisions, yet this six episode series has been a place of comfort to me throughout these past few years. The show is funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and though its diversity isn’t great, the developing romance of Fred, the only POC of the group, makes the show worthwhile.
10. Queer as Folk
I’ll be the first to admit that “Queer as Folk” has some major flaws, from essentially condoning a morally questionable relationship between the two main characters (one of whom is in high school while the other is an established advertising consultant) to its lack of characters of color. Nonetheless, I have to admit this show was absolutely the first of its kind. Released in 2000, the show works hard to avoid any straight characters as it focuses on a group of four gay friends, and a lesbian couple. Their journey throughout the five seasons and the growth among all the characters is layered and interesting, and it's nice to watch a show where all the LGBTQ+ main characters are confident and proud of their sexualities. The show is bold, not hesitating to show graphic sex scenes, and include darker themes among the gay community, but makes sure to have a purpose for all of its bold decisions. As a high schooler still coming to terms with my own sexuality, “Queer as Folk” not only provided me with queer comfort characters, but also reminded me how much progress we’ve made in just fifteen years.
Overall, the television industry has changed greatly just in the last few years. With more representation of different sexualities and ethnicities shown on screen, viewers can get excited about characters who look like them being shown on screen, and in a positive light. I hope that these recommendations highlight that queer POC especially are coming into the limelight in newer shows, and give people an opportunity to explore new and interesting TV!