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26 inspiring LGBTQ+ characters and why we love them

From Sex Education to Gentleman Jack and Euphoria, there are many inspiring characters from the LGBTQ+ community...

RT Pride characters
Published: Friday, 17th June 2022 at 9:00 am
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LGBTQ+ representation on-screen has come on in leaps and bounds in recent decades.

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Visibility on television of individuals from the LGBTQ+ community used to be much rarer and when it did appear it could often be stereotypical, purely issue-led, negative and often tragic.

However, even when LGBTQ+ characters in modern times tackle some vital issues, their portrayal is much more grounded in reality, with depth and complexity, that in some cases even allows them to get the happiness they deserve.

For Pride Month 2022, some of the writers at RadioTimes.com have gathered 26 inspiring LGBTQ+ characters from television (in no particular order) and explained why they love them so much.

26 inspiring LGBTQ+ characters and why we love them

Eric Effiong - Sex Education

Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) in Sex Education season 3
Ncuti Gatwa as Eric in Sex Education Sam Taylor/Netflix

In Sex Education, Eric is not Otis’s gay best friend, but his best friend, who also happens to be gay – an important distinction which speaks to the heart of why Ncuti Gatwa’s character is the crowning glory of the Netflix smash hit.

The gay best friend trope, which only ever fetishises queer characters and exists to further develop the heterosexual, cisgender protagonist’s arc, is nowhere to be found in the comedy-drama.

By contrast, Eric is a real, flesh-and-blood person with a fully-realised inner landscape and his own love story. He is the main character in his life, rather than a footnote in someone else’s.

And while Eric’s narrative doesn’t sugar-coat the challenges of being queer, it also showcases the life-affirming beauty of LGBTQ+ love and expression and cements why it must be protected at all costs. Abby Robinson.

Christian Clarke and Syed Masood - EastEnders

Christian and Syed in EastEnders
Christian and Syed in EastEnders BBC

A groundbreaking pairing, it’s hard to not include these two EastEnders characters together. Christian Clarke (John Partridge) was a different kind of gay man in soap - he was visibly masculine, promiscuous, unapologetic in his sexuality and yet not defined by it. Syed Masood (Marc Elliott) was a Muslim gay man - a first for British soap - and was engaged to marry a woman, Amira Shah.

Syed and Christian’s chemistry was electric and also provided massive growth for each other - Christian found a new level of intimacy in his life, while Syed would eventually come out of the closet as a gay Muslim man and slowly come to accept his sexuality and how this could live alongside his faith.

The pair’s relationship had its fair few ups and downs but considering all of their heartache along the way, it was only right - and oddly unique, for soap especially - that this groundbreaking pairing got their happy ending when they left the Square together. Lewis Knight.

Elektra Abundance - Pose

Dominique Jackson as Elektra Abundance in Pose
Domoinique Jackson as Elektra Abudance/Evangelista in Pose FX/Eric Liebowitz

And the category is… boss babe, because when it comes to Pose’s Elektra Evangelista, she is that and so much more! After escaping her transphobic birth mother, Elektra (played by model and actress Dominique Jackson) moved to New York during the 1980s where she developed House of Abundance, taking in new faces within the ballroom community.

A true businesswoman, Elektra levelled up her children, letting them know that they can live a life of luxury and be who they really want to be. While often harsh in her demeanour and always ready to read a transphobe (trust me, you do not want to be on the receiving end of this), Elektra showed moments of vulnerability and a love for the new family she created.

A true style queen, with looks that could kill, Elektra represents the glamour, fierceness, and strength within the LGBTQ+ community. Grace Henry.

Robin Buckley – Stranger Things

Maya Hawke plays Robin Buckley
Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley in Stranger Things Netflix

Adding a new character to a beloved show when it’s three seasons in can be a daunting task, but when Stranger Things introduced Robin Buckley – Steve Harrington’s co-worker and the show’s first confirmed LGBTQ+ character – fans immediately fell in love with the Scoops Ahoy employee.

While initially portrayed as a sarcastic, too-cool-for-school cynic, Robin opens up to Steve over the course of season 3, revealing that she’s secretly a lesbian when Steve confesses his feeling for her and that she’s always wanted to be liked by her classmates despite appearing otherwise.

A breakout role for Maya Hawke, Robin is a multi-faceted teen who’s a vital member of the Hawkins gang (without her multi-lingual skills, they never would have decoded the Russian code), and while it’s fun to watch the back-and-forth between her and Steve, hopefully season 4 part 2 will continue to explore her recent crush on fellow band member Vickie. Lauren Morris.

Patrick Murray - Looking

Jonathan Groff as Patrick Murray in Looking: The Movie
Jonathan Groff as Patrick Murray in Looking: The Movie HBO

Many billed HBO dramedy Looking to be the Girls for gay men but Andrew Haigh’s series following three gay male friends in San Fransisco had an identity and style of its own.

Naturalistic and grounded in realism, Looking was a touching examination of friendship and intimacy for a modern gay man.

At the centre of the show was the neurotic, geeky and excitable Patrick Murray, played by the excellent Jonathan Groff. Patrick is very much concerned with appearances and how to be the “right” type of gay man, and grapples with his hang-ups surrounding sex and relationships.

Engulfed in a love triangle, it is hard to not will Patrick to succeed and find the love he is looking for, despite how flawed he is.

Groff is touching, funny and magnetic as Patrick and the role feels all the more authentic for his presence. A charming character who was on our screens for all too brief a time. Lewis Knight.

Dr Callie Torres - Grey’s Anatomy

Sara Ramirez as Dr Callie Torres in Grey's Anatomy
Sara Ramirez as Dr Callie Torres in Grey's Anatomy Photo by Ron Batzdorff/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Sara Ramirez’s Callie Torres is the Grey’s Anatomy character we never knew we needed. Arriving on the scene in the early series as Dr George O'Malley’s love interest, the orthopaedic surgeon soon became a prominent figure in the long-running series.

Following her split from George (TR Knight), Torres came out as a bisexual woman and went on to meet Dr Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), who would later become her wife and mother to their daughter Sophia.

As well as being a force at Grey Sloan Memorial, Torres stood up to her strict Hispanic and Catholic parents, specifically her mother, who refused to attend her wedding day because she was marrying a woman. Grace Henry.

Poussey Washington - Orange Is the New Black

Samira Wiley as Poussey Washington in Orange Is The New Black
Samira Wiley as Poussey Washington in Orange Is the New Black JoJo Whilden / Netflix

It’s hard to think of Orange Is the New Black without remembering the tragic story of Poussey Washington. Played by Samira Wiley, Poussey was an inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary before her death in season 4.

A gentle soul and a genuine friend to fellow inmate Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, Washington defied the stereotypes of being a Black inmate and had hopes of finding true love – something viewers got to see a glimpse of with Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn) before her passing.

With themes of racial tension and police brutality, Poussey’s accidental death at the hands of a corrections officer really struck a chord with fans of the show and became a major talking point in the media. Grace Henry.

Jules Vaughn - Euphoria

Hunter Schafer as Jules in Euphoria
Hunter Schafer as Jules in Euphoria Eddy Chen/HBO

Euphoria character Jules Vaughn is a rarity on-screen. A trans character in her teens who while still exploring her relationship with gender, is mostly at ease with who she is and instead her storylines focus on the issues that many characters in teen dramas face - romance, friendship, parental relationships and sex.

The authenticity of Jules is made all the stronger by the performance and creative input of actress Hunter Schafer who brings vulnerability, charisma and emotional honesty to her work that makes Jules feel fully rounded - even when her choices are questionable.

Even in the second season when her character feels somewhat sidelined in later episodes, Jules feels vivid and complex. No doubt fans will be wondering after season 2 whether she and Rue Bennett (Zendaya) really are finished for good. We can’t wait to find out. Lewis Knight.

Young Taissa and Van - Yellowjackets

(L-R): Liv Hewson as Teen Van and Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa in YELLOWJACKETS
(L-R): Liv Hewson as Teen Van and Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa in Yellowjackets Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

There are countless unsettling and traumatic incidents that unfold in Yellowjackets, but there are also sporadic moments of love and light that sweep you up in their arms and rescue you from the gloom if only momentarily, to remind you that beauty and joy can be found in the most hopeless of places.

When their plane crashes on a remote, uninhabited island, leaving Taissa, Van and the rest of the all-female football team stranded, they quickly learn that food, water and shelter aren’t the only ingredients integral to their survival. The bonds they form with one another keep them afloat in times of crisis, with the group most at risk when it splinters and those support systems falter.

Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van (Liv Hewson) are one another’s silver lining, creating space to play and express tenderness and warmth despite the conveyor belt of challenges they must overcome, or perish. They provide physical and emotional support to one another when it’s needed most, counteracting the ugliness and brutality that runs through Yellowjackets, and the prejudices that have blighted the queer community right here, in the real world.

There’s so much that’s pitch-black dark in Yellowjackets, but together, Taissa and Van are bathed in light. Abby Robinson.

Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson - Heartstopper

Kit Connor and Joe Locke in Heartstopper
Kit Connor and Joe Locke in Heartstopper Netflix

Hi! We couldn’t forget one of the most loved couplings of recent years in television.

The warm and sweet Netflix series Heartstopper, based on the graphic novels of the same name by Alice Oseman - introduced us to the bullied but sweet Charlie (Joe Locke), an out gay teen in a British school, and depicts his growing friendship and eventual romance with rugby playing peer Nick Nelson (Kit Connor).

As Charlie finds himself falling hard for Nick, the rugby player also feels something he has never felt before and grapples with his bisexuality for the first time.

The series is utterly charming and feels like a warm comfort blanket, providing positive representation across the board.

Nick and Charlie are two characters who deserve and find happiness, and this feels particularly special to watch - so much so that for some LGBTQ+ people of an older generation it feels bittersweet, as they didn’t have this when they were younger. Lewis Knight.

Annalise Keating - How to Get Away with Murder

Viola Davis as Annalise Keating in How To Get Away With Murder
Viola Davis as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder Mitch Haaseth/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Viola Davis is phenomenal as How to Get Away with Murder’s Annalise Keating.

A lecturer and lawyer, Annalise is roped in to help five of her students with covering up the murder of her own husband Sam, while helping to fix the many cases of her clients. But behind her dominant, public presence lies a fragile character, who is a victim of sexual abuse, has suffered a tragic miscarriage, and continues to battle with alcoholism.

Keating’s bisexuality is also touched upon, as viewers learn that she had a long-term relationship with her friend Eve Rothlo (Famke Janssen) while at law school, which is rekindled later in the series. Grace Henry.

Bette Porter - The L Word

The TV landscape looked strikingly different when The L Word first landed in 2004, certainly in terms of lesbian representation.

Picking one favourite out of the extraordinary cast isn’t easy, as all the characters were radical and ground-breaking by the standards of the time. But if we had to choose someone, our vote goes to Bette Porter, a firecracker of a lesbian with so much wit, passion and power.

An art curator and partner to Tina Kennard, Bette subverted TV stereotypes, showing audiences that lesbians can be happy and successful (the bar was low, right?) – and arguably paved the way for the nuanced portrayal of lesbian characters we’re seeing more of today.

Bette and Tina also provided a rare – and powerful – portrayal of lesbian parenting, pushing audiences to rethink motherhood, but in a way that remained relatable. Molly Moss.

Anne Lister - Gentleman Jack

Gentleman Jack - First Look
Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack Aimee Spinks/Lookout Point/ BBC/HBO

Capitalising on the remarkable story of Anne Lister – a diarist, a rule-breaking and astute businesswoman, and a landowner often attributed to being ‘the first modern lesbian’ – Sally Wainwright’s BBC drama Gentleman Jack unpacked gender, sexuality and female desire through its brilliant titular character played by Suranne Jones.

Complicated, entitled, selfish and often unpleasant, Jones’ character was unapologetically focused on what she wanted from the world, whether that be in the bedroom or in business, and her unwavering sense of self was a breath of fresh air for queer female representation on TV.

Furthermore, Lister was something that queer people on TV are so rarely allowed to be: unlikeable. And yet audiences still found themselves drawn to – and rooting for – the character. In other words, Lister was the queer antihero TV needed.

If you’re in doubt of the impact that Jones’ character has had in the real world, you need only watch the BBC documentary Gentleman Jack Changed My Life, which follows six British women rediscovering their sexuality, coming out and rekindling long-lost love after watching Wainwright’s drama. Molly Moss.

Pray Tell - Pose

Billy Porter as Pray Tell in Pose
Billy Porter as Pray Tell in Pose FX/Eric Liebowitz

Another Pose fave is ballroom emcee Pray Tell, played by actor Billy Porter. A panellist and judge in the ball scene, a member of the Master of Ceremony Council, and a much-loved father figure to the children of the ballroom, Pray Tell is such a powerful character in the FX series.

After seeing many of his loved ones and friends suffer at the hands of the HIV epidemic, he learned that he too is HIV-positive. From here, he had to work out how to adjust to his life as a gay man battling the virus, during a time when patients were treated very scornfully.

Despite his health, Pray Tell continued to offer hope to those who looked up to him, showing his strength and dedication to his people. Grace Henry.

Sophia Burset - Orange Is the New Black

Laverne Cox in Orange Is The New Black
Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

If there’s any story in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black that's worth following, it’s Sophia Burset’s. Based on Vanessa Robinson from Piper Kerman's memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, Burset was thrown in prison for committing credit card fraud to pay for gender reassignment surgery.

During her time in the women’s prison, Sophia faced physical and verbal abuse due to her gender identity and was wrongfully thrown into solitary confinement as a means to protect her, rather than give her the real help she needed.

With the help of her wife Krystal, Burset managed to fight her case, resulting in an early release and a six-figure payout, allowing for Burset to completely transform her life and open a salon. Played by Laverne Cox, who became the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in an acting category, Burset is one of the true stars of OITNB. Grace Henry.

Charity Dingle and Vanessa Woodfield - Emmerdale

Vanessa Woodfield (Michelle Hardwick) and Charity Dingle (Emma Atkins) in Emmerdale

Well, no one can say that Emmerdale pairing Vanity has been without its issues but they’re made for each other really.

Charity Dingle (Emma Atkins) is the epitome of chaos, the village schemer and hopeless mum who is always trying to be better. Vanessa Woodfield (Michelle Hardwick) is the neurotic but warm and motherly vet who travelled a long, bumpy road to accepting her own sexuality.

Together the pair truly made each other’s lives better and they created an ideal family unit, and also helped Vanessa wrestle with losing her father and discovering her sister, along with Charity discovering a long-lost son and facing up to having been a victim of child sexual abuse.

Actresses Emma Atkins and Michelle Hardwick share easy and natural chemistry together and their recent scenes together prove that Charity and Vanessa should be back together soon. Sorry, Mackenzie. Lewis Knight.

Cameron Tucker - Modern Family

Eric Stonestreet in Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker in Modern Family Bonnie Osborne/ABC via Getty Images

Eric Stonestreet is brilliant as Modern Family’s Cameron Tucker.

With an eclectic cast, including Sophia Vergara as Gloria and Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy, the comedy isn’t short of comical characters.

Tucker just takes it to a whole new level with his campness and hilarious quips. A true multi-faceted gay man, Cam is a loving husband to his partner Mitchell Pritchard, a father to their adopted daughter Lily, an uncle and confidant, a football coach and headteacher and part-time clown, stealing any moment to dress up as his alter-ego Fizbo (yes, you read correctly). Grace Henry.

Adena El-Amin - The Bold Type

Adena El-Amin in The Bold Type
Adena El-Amin in The Bold Type Freeform

Freeform’s The Bold Type was hailed for all of its badass and authentic female characters. But perhaps the boldest type was Adena El-Amin (Nikohl Boosheri), who represented something that is rarely seen on screen – a queer Muslim artist who just happened to be a lesbian, and who still had a deep connection to her faith.

Adena was a powerful character living her truth and being unapologetically herself, and her storyline avoided the stereotypes around terrorists and oppressed Muslim women that mainstream media tends to perpetuate.

When Kat, who Adena goes on to have a relationship with, asks her why she wears the hijab, Adena says: “It does not oppress me but liberates me from society’s expectations of what a woman should look like.” Molly Moss.

Clare Devlin – Derry Girls

Clare Devlin - Nicola Coughlan (Channel 4, SD)
Claire Devlin, as played by Nicola Coughlan, in Derry Girls

Derry Girls simply wouldn’t be the same without Clare Devlin – the permanently anxious ‘wee lesbian’ at Our Lady Immaculate College. Academically orientated and the most sensible out of her friends, Clare’s Type A personality tends to clash with Michelle’s impulsiveness, Erin’s tendency to romanticise everything, James’ cluelessness and Orla’s oddness.

While Clare’s coming out is an important plot point in the season 1 finale, her love life is only really explored in the show’s penultimate episode, with the regular worrier finally getting her first kiss at a Fatboy Slim concert – just before she finds out that her father has died.

That being said, Nicola Coughlan’s performance as the catastrophizing Clare has been key to the success of the show, with the character frequently providing essential comic relief against a backdrop of heavy political issues of the time period. Lauren Morris.

Naomi Campbell and Emily Fitch - Skins

Kathryn Prescott and Lily Loveless in Skins
Emily (Kathryn Prescott) and Naomi (Lily Loveless) in Skins Channel 4

Were you a British teen in the noughties if you didn’t love Skins? The raucous and gritty E4 teen drama had its fair share of memorable characters.

However, there was no romantic pairing more solid or emotionally charged than the sweet and shy Emily Fitch (Kathryn Prescott) and the bold and political Naomi Campbell (Lily Loveless).

The pair’s slow but steady developing love story is a highlight of the show’s entire run, bringing a believable portrayal of gay first love to a generation of teens.

Both Emily and Naomi grapple with their sexual identities and explore how they wish to define themselves in a manner rarely seen until this point, especially for young women.

It is a shame that the series’ final run Skins: Redux undid the hopeful and happy ending of the fourth run in favour of tragedy - something that often befalls many depictions of lesbian love - but we will choose to love and remember this pairing at their happiest and most vital. Lewis Knight.

Victor Salazar - Love, Victor

Michael Cimino as Victor Salazar in Love, Victor season 3
Victor (Michael Cimino) in Love, Victor season 3 Kelsey McNeal/Hulu

While Love, Simon may have broken ground as a major studio rom-com/coming-of-age tale to be focused on a gay teenager, its spin-off Love, Victor also broke new ground.

The Disney/Hulu series offers a realistic but positive examination of a half Puerto Rican, half Colombian-American high school student named Victor Salazar, played with charm and naivety by Michael Cimino.

Across three seasons, Victor grapples with coming out on a journey to true acceptance and pride. This is often painful and Victor especially struggles in his relationship with his mother, Isabel (Ana Ortiz).

However, despite the hardships and heartache, Victor remains adamant in his desire to be true to himself after making the vital steps he needs to.

There is even time for Victor to check his own privilege among the members of the LGBTQ+ community, but he remains always keen to learn and eventually mentor.

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Victor is the type of character that viewers want to see happy, and in the final season, they may just get their wish. Lewis Knight.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.

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