Elessar Younglove (they/she)
One critique of modern media is the lack of Black queer characters in TV and film. Many queer Black viewers find themselves saying, “I just don’t see myself in media.” Today I have put together a list of queer Black characters in media. Here is a list of 27 shows featuring Black queer characters!
1) “How to Get Away with Murder” centers around Annalise Keating (she/her), a bisexual law professor played by Viola Davis. The trouble with bisexual characters is they are often only shown as bisexual for sex appeal, or in mention only, instead of being portrayed as multi-layered human beings. HTGAWM marries Annalise to Sam Keating. However, the show displays that Annalise had a previous long-term relationship with a woman named Eve Rothlo (Famke Jansen). The show also treats Annalise’s sexuality as fluid. Bisexuals often hear the harmful stereotype that they are “half straight, half gay,” “greedy,” or someone who “doesn’t fit in” with the queer community. Annalise is never insulted, judged, or limited because of her sexuality. Annalise experiences attraction to both men and women, and two seasons later she develops feelings for lesbian, Afro-Latinx Tegan Price.
2) Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” includes Ambrose Spellman (he/him), who is pansexual and a main character on the show. Ambrose is a warlock that specializes in necromancy and he is played by Chance Perdomo. Perdomo is especially proud of how the character’s pansexuality is explored. “Like on ‘The 100’ you have these LGBTQ+ relationships, and when the character’s queerness comes into fruition, they’re put into the background. Like, ‘Okay, they’ve had a happy relationship,’ and then it’s done. We see Ambrose’s relationships play out as any other character’s would. You have the ups, the downs, the doubts, and the I-love-you’s — all of them come into play. The depth is refreshing,” he said.
3) HBO’s “True Blood” featured the late actor Nelsan Ellis. Ellis, like his character Lafayette, was a Black gay man. Ellis’ contributions to his character led to a complete reversal of the original script. Instead of being killed off as Lafayette was in the books, Lafayette remained a central character. Lafayette is most famous for the “AIDS burger” scene in the first season. In this scene, Lafayette confronts three small-town bigots refusing to eat once they spot Lafayette as the cook. Another Black queer character on “True Blood” is bisexual character Tara Thornton, played by queer actress Rutina Wesley. In the novels, Tara Thornton is straight. The show once again deviated from the story to include LGBTQ characters. And I am so happy they did! Tara is an MMA fighter who dates men in the first two seasons and later has a short-lived relationship with girlfriend Naomi (Vedette Lim). Tara then works as a bartender and befriends Pam de Beaufort. The two become very close and share an onscreen kiss in season 5.
4) Netflix’s “Master of None” features the Black, lesbian character Denise played by lesbian writer and actress Lena Waithe. The show received high praise from fans and critics for its depiction of coming out in a Black family. Denise shows how Black children are constantly told they have to work twice as hard to get half as much as their non-Black peers. Denise’s mother speaks through tears after her daughter comes out to her. "I don't want life to be hard for you. It's hard enough being a Black woman in this world, now you want to add something else to that." Her mom chokes up, saying, “I just never thought I'd have a gay daughter.” This episode thoroughly explores and discusses the experience of being Black and LGBTQ, and why some Black parents view queerness as another demerit for a Black child to endure. Waithe, who co-wrote “Thanksgiving,” said the episode was largely based on her own life.
5) Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” features three queer Black women in its first ever original show. Each woman has a unique experience and story of being Black and queer. Shows often feature one gay character, and rarely is this character Black. But “Orange Is the New Black” features three different women of different backgrounds, income levels, personalities, and mentalities. Sophia Burset, played by transgender actress Laverne Cox, is one of the most groundbreaking and memorable characters in the show. This hilarious character is filled with personality and strength and has some of the best lines in the show. Another queer character, Poussey Washington, is played by lesbian actress Samira Wiley. Poussey comes out to her father, a military man, as gay. He loves and accepts her, and defends her in front of his commander, who suggests he have his daughter “treated” for her homosexuality. Poussey is at the heart of the show and is a fan favorite along with Suzanne, the third Black queer woman in the comedy-drama. Suzanne, who canonically takes antipsychotics, is shown to mature and learn to cope with her (undiagnosed) mental illness. Along this journey, she flirts with Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Maureen Kukudio (Emily Athaus). Sophia, Poussey, and Suzanne are all openly queer and kiss women on screen.
6) “Pretty Little Liars” includes Black, bisexual character Maya St. Germain as played by Bianca Lawson. In the pilot episode, Maya meets her neighbor Emily when she brings over a fruit basket her mother prepared to welcome Maya and her family into the neighborhood. Emily expresses an attraction to Maya and flirts with her throughout the season. Emily (who is herself both Korean and Filipino) and Maya share an onscreen kiss in Season 1, Episode 3, “To Kill a Mocking Girl.”
7) “Queen Sugar” features bisexual main character Nova Bordelon, who is played by the queer actress Rutina Wesley. Though the show has received criticism for having “too tame” of LGBTQ representation, it also features queer character Toine Wilkins. Toine Wilkins is a transgender police officer played by transgender actor and activist Brian Michael Smith. You can watch “Queen Sugar” now on Hulu!
8) The Netflix original series “Dear White People” doesn’t shy away from very real issues involving race. In season two, this includes racism in the gay community. The first season focuses on Lionel, a smart, shy, gay college student, being gay in Black spaces. The second season depicts the alienation Lionel experiences while being Black in gay spaces. In the Season 1 finale, Lionel exposed the racist transgression of his student run-newspaper, The Independent. His editor-in-chief- Silvio later kisses him in front of the entire student body. Episode 3 features a nervous Lionel preparing for a date with Silvio. So, season one gives a lot to work with. Season two introduces us to another Black, gay character named De’Andre who turns Lionel because of his skin color. "So, no shade," he says. "But I'm not like… into other Black guys. Just an FYI." Lionel discusses race and dating as a gay man further in a conversation including racial fetishizations and “whites only” dating profiles.
9) The FX series “Pose” is set in the 1980s and revolves around the drag ball culture of New York. It features TV’s largest transgender cast as well as a large amount of Black actors, including Afro-Latina goddesses MJ Rodriguez and Indya Moore, as well as the stunning Dominique Jackson and charming Billy Porter. The pilot opens with Damon Evangelista, a talented ballerina and gay teenager who is kicked out from his home and relocates to New York. He later joins a cast of other queer characters, including his transgender friends and found-family Angel Evangelista, Blanca Evangelista, Elektra Wintour, and Candy Ferocity. The drag balls are overseen by a talented man who is also gay, Pray Tell, played by gay actor and singer Billy Porter.
10) Based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” also features the iconic lesbian actress Samira Wiley. Wiley plays one of the main show’s main characters in the Hulu adaptation. Moira is a gay Black woman and a living legend amongst the other handmaids for successfully escaping the Red Center. In both the novel and show, Moira is a lesbian. She is also a feminist gender equality activist. You can learn more about Moira in the novel, film, or TV adaptation on Hulu!
11) If you’re looking for a more lighthearted show, check out “Looking”! “Looking” is an HBO comedy-drama television series which ran for two seasons from 2014 to 2016. O-T Fagbenle's character, Frank, is a gay character featured in season one. He is the main character Augustin’s friend and potential love interest.
12) Another comedy is the British miniseries “Cucumber.” The show can be watched on Amazon Prime. It focuses on a white gay man and his relationship with his Black gay ex-boyfriend Lance Sullivan following their breakup after nine years of dating. Another character, Dean Monroe, is another Black gay man in this comedy miniseries. Dean, played by Fisayo Akinade, is 19 years old and works as a mail boy in the main character’s office. His starlight shines even brighter in the follow up series, and my next recommendation, “Banana.”
13) The comedy-drama “Banana” is the follow up miniseries to “Cucumber.” The show revolves around eight separate stories, all following different aspects of LGBT life. Each episode is dedicated to the unique storyline of the character dealing with life, love, and loss. Fisayo Akinade returns as Dean Monroe, who harbours family secrets including his affair with a mystery man from Newcastle. The fabulous Letitia Wright plays Scotty, a young lesbian dealing with unrequited love. You can watch “Banana” on Amazon Prime!
14) In 2012, “Glee” introduced the first openly transgender high school on American television. Unique Adams makes her debut appearance in Season 3, Episode 16, “Saturday Night Glee-ver.” She is played by actor and singer Alex Newell, who is a gay, gender nonconforming man. Unique is a talented singer but is initially shy performing in front of crowds. She radiates confidence when presenting as feminine and comes out to her school within her first few episodes of “Glee.” She feels more comfortable when she presents as feminine and is true to herself. She was a recurring character in season three and four and was promoted to the main cast in season five and six. You can watch Unique’s incredible performances on YouTube and Netflix.
15) The HBO drama series “Six Feet Under” features Keith Charles, played by Mathew St. Patrick, a gay Black man. Keith meets the gay main character, David Fisher, at a gay-friendly church. The two begin dating on and off again throughout the season, and later reconcile. Keith and David decide to make a family together at the end of the show’s first and only season.
16) “San Junipero” is Episode 3, Season 4 of “Black Mirror.” The episode takes place in 1987, when a shy young woman named Yorkie (played by Mackenzie Davis) visits the famous party town San Junipero. She then meets Kelly, a Black, bisexual woman trying to escape a man she had sex with whose following her throughout the city. Kelly Booth is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and won an Emmy for her role as the sexually fluid, bisexual party girl who is pretty and protected by another woman. Black women are rarely depicted as vulnerable, but this sexuality and vulnerability work together in the sapphic relationship of this episode.
17) If you’re looking for reality TV, well, what can we possibly say about “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” that hasn’t already been said? RuPaul Andre Charles is the actor, model, singer, songwriter, drag queen, producer, and television personality we all know and love. The producer and host is a gay, Black man. The ten seasons of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” has featured several Black drag queens who are gay and transgender.
18) In Netflix’s “Sex Education” the dazzling Eric Effiong is a gay man who comes from a religious Nigerian/Ghanaian family. He is played by the Rwandan-British actor Ncuti Gatwa. Eric is the best friend of main character Otis Milburn. Eric grows up in a strict Christian household with his parents and several sisters. He came out to his family when he was 13. His personality and confidence only grow in this teen comedy-drama series.
19) If you’re looking for something on the adventurous side, look no further than the Netflix original sci-fi series “Sense8.” Amanita Caplin is one of the show’s main characters and is bisexual. She is dating, and later marries, one of the main characters, Nomi Marks. She is extremely mindful of social issues such as racism and LGBTQ discrimination. Amanita is a strong, intersectional women's activist and has faith in women’s solidarity, which is shown in several episodes. She is an incredibly kind and open-minded woman, but she does not back down from a fight and is an incredible character to watch.
20) The CW’s action series “Black Lightning” follows in Sense8’s footsteps. But this time we see the Black, queer woman having superpowers with Anissa Pearce, TV's first Black lesbian superhero! Anissa is played by Nafessa Williams, who says she was moved to tears when she pulled on her costume for the first time. “It was a moment,” she says. “I mean, I’m representing a whole group of people who need to see themselves on TV.” Williams plays Thunder in the hit television series “Black Lightning” in what she admits is “not your typical superhero show.” “Yes, we’re wearing costumes, but we’re not fighting aliens or creatures in an alternative universe,” she says. “We’re fighting real-life issues that are happening within our country, in our inner cities. Police brutality, gang crime, drug crime, social injustice – and we’re shedding light on it.”
21) “The Bold Type” is a drama about women in journalism and publication creating and publishing the women’s global magazine, “Scarlet.”. Actress Aisha Dee plays main character Kat Edison, a bisexual woman and the head of the social media department for “Scarlet Magazine.” Kat is a loving, smart, strong, woman who stands up proudly for what she believes in. Gay actor Stephen Conrad Moore plays main character Oliver Grayson, the openly gay head of fashion for “Scarlet.” The show also includes TV’s first lesbian, Muslim character, Adena El-Amin!
22) If you’re looking for an animated, Black queer character I present “Steven Universe.” In the Season 1 finale "Escape," it is uncovered that Steven's guardian, Garnet, is the result of a romantic fusion between Ruby and Sapphire. Garnet is the living embodiment of a visible lesbian romance; as her melody goes, "I'm made of love.” Garnet is voiced by queer singer-songwriter Estelle.
23) “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is a comedy-drama series from NBC. Gay actor Alex Norwell, who is a gender-nonconforming man, plays Mo. Mo is a main character on the show. He is a DJ and the landlord and neighbor of Zoey Clarke. He is the first person Zoey tells about her power. Mo is queer, and dates and kisses men on screen, specifically his later boyfriend. He is genderfluid and uses he/him/his pronouns.
24) Sitcom “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” features deuteragonist Titus Apallonia Andromedon, born Ronald Ephen Wilkerson, who is a Black gay man. He is played by gay singer and actor Tituss Burgess. Titus is flamboyant, hilarious, proud, and a necessity to this sitcom. He is an iconic gay character. The show writers Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, and Allison Silverman clearly love him and so will you! You can watch “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” now on Netflix.
25) The ABC Family dramedy “Greek” focuses on college life, specifically the freshman Rusty and his determination to shed his high school reputation of geekiness and become a frat boy. This comedy-drama features multiple gay characters, of all personalities. But the character we’re discussing is Calvin Owens, a gay student played by Paul James. The creators of the show made a point to add this masculine Black gay character, who was an all-state hockey and football player. And this was on ABC Family, back in 2007!
26) Netflix and DreamWorks Animation's newest animated featured “Kipo and the Age of Wonder Beasts” features an adorable coming out scene. The series shows Kipo Oak, voiced by Karen Fukuhara, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world where creatures are massive and intelligent. We meet DJ Benson, Kipo's best friend whom she has a crush on. In Episode 6, she nervously decides to tell DJ how she feels. "I just feel like I need to tell you that...I think I like you," she begins. “Oh...” DJ tenses up. “You don't feel the same,” Kipo concludes in disappointment. “I like you too, really, really like you," says DJ. “You're all kinds of awesome. You should know something...” “You like me as a friend.” Kipo says. “Yes… Because I’m gay.” And just like that, a character on a children's television show has explicitly come out as gay, a rare occurrence in animated media. After some initial embarrassment Kipo thanks Benson for being honest with her. “Thank you for just uh, I don't know, being you?”
27) Disney’s animated fantasy series, “The Owl House” tells us about Luz Noceda, the show’s main protagonist. The witch in training is Afro-Latina, voiced by Afro-Latina actress Sarah Nicole-Robles. She is the first bisexual lead character on a Disney Channel show. Luz begins the series with crushes on different male characters in the series. But when their school announces its prom her friend Amity (voiced by Mae Whitman) asks Luz to go as her date. “In [development] I was very open about my intention to put queer kids in the main cast. I’m a horrible liar so sneaking it in would’ve been hard,” said series creator Dana Terrace. “When we were greenlit, I was told by certain Disney leadership that I could not represent any form of bi or gay relationship on the channel.” However, Terrace revealed that she’s gotten support from Disney’s higher-ups. “I’m bi! I want to write a bi character, dammit!” Terrace tweeted. “Luckily, my stubbornness paid off and now I am very supported by current Disney leadership.”