As much as we need to talk about the issues people in minority groups face in real life, we also need to talk about the representation they receive in fiction. It’s always important to see people in the things we read, play and watch that look like us, and for many people, that representation is very hard to come by. That’s why whenever that representation shows up, it’s generally celebrated as a pioneering moment. It shouldn’t necessarily have to be pioneering, though: diversity on TV and in fiction in general shouldn’t just be a novelty, it should be commonplace enough that we don’t notice it. That’s not necessarily where we are right now, but diversity has very much been on the upswing.
Since we’re winding down on Pride Month right now, and we’ve talked about how to be an ally to the LGBT community, I thought it would be fun to talk about some amazing fictional members of the LGBT community, and how they’ve changed things in their respective mediums. Here are fifteen amazing LGBT characters, in no particular order, that are excellent representations of well rounded characters that are worth talking about.
15. Game of Thrones Characters
Oberyn Martell is like a lone beacon of hope for male bisexual characters. For so long, people have gone about dealing with male bisexuality by pretending it doesn’t exist or assuming every male bisexual is actually a gay man in denial. Oberyn is different because you see him show active and genuine interest in both men and women while still having a story of his own that had nothing to do with his sexuality. That’s huge. On top of that, he found the time to have his mind opened to the concept of a sexuality through noted Westerosi asexual Varys.
Besides Oberyn and Varys, we’ve seen all types of LGBT relationships on Game of Thrones. From Yara, Daenerys and Cersei’s separate affairs with women to the committed relationship we grew to root for in Renly and Loras, Game of Thrones has a lot of representation. There’s also a lot of commentary about gay characters being oppressed for being who they are, including Loras’s current storyline with the High Sparrow.
14. Glee Characters
Glee was a pioneering show for a few reasons, and no matter what you think of the show’s actual content, you have to concede that there was nothing like Glee on TV before Glee came along. Characters came from the entire spectrum of sexuality and gender, which wasn’t so common at the time. From the series long back and forth between cheerleaders Brittany and Santana (whose coming out story was a huge part of the show at large) to the epic love story between Kurt and Blaine, to Unique’s journey navigating being trans in an unsupportive community, everyone could find something resonate with them.
13. Magnus Bane (The Mortal Instruments/Shadowhunters)
Magnus Bane isn’t just a bisexual characters, he’s an immortal bisexual that has magical powers and a significant other that is part angel. That sounds like something out of Supernatural story, right? But it is the truth. He is an important character in the Mortal Instruments series and that universe at large, and he’s even got a book series of his own. He went through one middling movie adaptation, but is now being portrayed quite excellently by Harry Shum Jr. on the show Shadowhunters.
12. Once Upon a Time Characters
The popular TV show Once Upon A Time just had its first real Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender relationship, which is certainly pretty great, not just because representation as a whole is great, but because Once Upon A Time is a fresh new take on classic fairy tales and modern Disney properties, which means that the characters that we all grew up knowing and loving are finally coming together in new, modern and interesting ways. That includes the show’s LGBT relationships and the first canon LGBT relationship the show has ever had.
11. Orange Is The New Black characters
Orange Is The New Black is a popular Netflix Original TV show that thrives on diversity, and that includes a few LGBT characters. Not only does this show go out of the way to show all types of relationships and give them the same, equal attention that any other TV show would give its “traditional” (now rather “old” “school”) heterosexual couple, it also goes out of the way to shed light on hot button political issues with a sense of pride and bravery that very few popular shows possess.
Side note: Is anyone else still devastated over the show’s last season finale? I know I still am.
10. Jack Harkness (Doctor Who)
The character Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman), is just like a dream for pansexual Doctor Who fans. He is a guy that’s had various on-screen flirtations with humans of any gender, plus even some aliens, and that’s treated the same way as any other flirtation, which is pretty refreshing for a sci-fi show. On top of all that, Jack Harkness isn’t just a side character of the TV show, he’s a fully fleshed out part of the Doctor Who canon with a spin-off of his own that involves several prominent LGBT relationships. It’s nice to finally see some variety on TV after all this time.
9. Connor Stevens (The Fosters)
The Fosters is a pretty amazing show when it comes to all different kinds of representation, but I am going to focus on Connor Stevens’ relationship with the youngest member of the Foster family, because this relationship is actually the first real, three dimensional underage LGBT relationship on mainstream television, and that, among other reasons, makes The Fosters a TV show that really pushes the boundaries of the stories you can tell on TV. Not only do we get to see the journey of both Connor and his then boyfriend Jude, deal with the many ups and downs of a high school relationship, we also get to see those characters grow up and change, and their relationship given the same gravity that any other relationship would have.
8. Dr. Remy Hadley (House M.D.)
Dr. Remy “Thirteen” Hadley (played by the beautiful Olivia Wilde) was a pretty great character who got a lot of time on screen from the popular TV show House M.D. (which lasted 8 seasons), not least because she is one of the bisexual characters who has had multiple relationships with both men and women and all of her relationships were treated with the same amount of importance. That’s important because for many people, bisexuality isn’t actually “a thing” and doesn’t actually exist, so seeing characters like “Thirteen” is really important for bisexual visibility.
7. Connor Walsh (How To Get Away With Murder)
Connor Walsh is an amazing character because not only does he have a well rounded relationship that gets a ton of screen-time and importance, but because as a character, he’s actually pretty deeply flawed. A lot of characters that end up representing a minority end up not really having flaws or fears, and Connor Walsh really averts that. On top of that, his relationship is the most recent I can think of that deals with the issues surrounding the HIV positive community.
On top of Connor, there are four more LGBT characters in How To Get Away With Murder, and their relationships are all treated the same, regardless of orientation. The main character herself is shown in relationships with both male and female characters, which is important because not only does it make bisexuality more represented, it makes that representation commonplace.
6. Lily Aldrin (How I Met Your Mother)
Lily Aldrin (played by Alyson Hannigan) from the popular TV series How I Met Your Mother, is a perfect example of a fictional character who is a member of the LGBT community whose storyline has absolutely nothing to do with her sexual orientation. Her attraction to women isn’t important to her overall journey at all, but the show never actually treated that attraction to women as unimportant. It was simply an aspect of Lily that everyone just accepted, which makes her an awesome representation of bisexual women who end up with men. Their choice of life partner has no bearing on their sexuality, and neither does Lily’s.
5. The Gems (Steven Universe)
The Gems on Steven Universe aren’t actually female, they are female presenting, gender neutral magical beings made out of gemstones. This may sound a little bizarre if you are not too familiar with the show, but I promise that they make more sense on the show, I really do. Regardless, the Gems have a lot of different relationships among them, and all of them are excellent LGBT representation. From the relationship between Pearl and Rose Quartz to Garnet literally being the physical embodiment of the love between two women (I promise that’s not as strange as it sounds, either), there is something wonderful for everyone here.
4. Princess Bubblegum and Marceline The Vampire Queen (Adventure Time)
Princess Bubblegum and Marceline The Vampire Queen had a relationship with each other in all but name, since the show didn’t state that out loud for international censorship reasons. Their relationship is complicated and given even more importance than any other romantic relationship on Adventure Time, and that is really saying something. Both characters are completely different and given independent storylines and development, which is something that some live-action shows don’t even bother to do. It’s really saying something when an animated show does a better job at representation than live action TV does, but that’s where we are at right now. We are hoping this changes sooner rather than later.
3. Carmilla Karstein (Carmilla)
Carmilla is a gothic novel that’s also been made into a really well done web-series of the same name. It is not only one of the first vampire novels ever written (no, it was not the Twilight saga), it’s also the first vampire novel ever written with an LGBT pairing at the forefront of the story. Sure, the relationship between Carmilla Karstein and Laura isn’t exactly the healthiest in the world (whose relationship is?), and it obviously ends in tragedy, but it is a perfect example of how LGBT representation isn’t just a modern fad, it’s a well established thing in literature that goes back centuries and even millennia.
2. Degrassi characters
Degrassi is a popular TV show which ran from 2001 to 2015. Degrassi has had a ton of characters during its legendary run, and it has given a few people major big breaks. For example, we wouldn’t have actress Nina Dobrev or artist/rapper Drake, if it weren’t for the beloved Degrassi. Notably, Degrassi has tackled various storylines involving LGBT characters in the past, most notably the first trans character on the show, who’s also the first trans main character on a scripted TV show in history. That’s huge. It just shows how far the community has come, and simultaneously, how far they still have to go.
1. Hannibal characters
Hannibal is a really weird show. It’s weird that I’m about to call a TV show that’s about a man that literally eats people a “mutual love story,” but those are the words that the show’s creator used to describe the show, so I’m not alone in this. The relationship between Hannibal and Will Graham is incredibly unhealthy and disturbing, but literally everyone watching the show knows that the relationship is a romantic one. Bryan Fuller had this to say on the subject:
“Mads and Hugh, there were a lot of takes where they got very intimate, and lips were hovering over lips. I definitely had the footage to go there, because Mads and Hugh were so game. They called me and warned me: “We really went for it!” And then I saw the dailies, I thought there was a fine line from that #Hannigraham fan fiction motive to give the hardcore audience exactly what they want in terms of this actually being a homosexual relationship between these two men, and what is authentic for the characters in that final moment. I mean, it’s not “Brokeback Mountain.” Mads isn’t gonna be spitting on his hand and getting to work. (laughs) We felt we had to keep it genuine to the tone of the relationship as we’ve been telling it in the series, and even in that moment when Will asks if Hannibal is in love with him, and Bedelia says, “Of course he is, ya big queen!” Even in that moment, it’s not quite dipping into the physical passions that would be the case if they were both homosexual. But I feel one is ominisexual and one is heterosexual and there’s a lot of influence going back and forth, who knows with a six pack of beer what would happen.”
Their relationship is proof in fiction that sexuality can be incredibly fluid, which is actually a basic point about sexuality in general.