LGBTQ+ characters and stories are becoming increasingly prominent in TV shows and it’s refreshing to see diversity increasing on the small screen. Some of these shows are more recent releases such as heart stopper with Nick and Charlie’s heartwarming romance captivating viewers.
While the amount of LGBTQ+-led shows have certainly increased, shows such as Queer as Folk and skins laid the way for these stories to be told. Many TV shows feature LGBTQ+ characters but there are a select few where these are the lead such as Love, Victor and others.
10 Love, Victor
Love, Victor ran for three seasons and is a spin-off of the hit movie Love, Simon. Where the movie centers around Simon’s coming out, the show is able to show Victor’s journey of self acceptance as he navigates relationships and friendships.
While Simon’s family accepts him instantly when he comes out, Victor’s mother struggles to come to terms with her son’s sexuality. Victor’s relationship with Benji is far from plain sailing throughout the show with them having several ups and down as a couple. Although the show is essentially a typical teenage drama, complete with messy love triangles, it’s a refreshing change to have an LGBTQ+ character as the protagonist.
Elite is an ensemble show meaning there isn’t one primary protagonist, however, many of the main characters fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. At the beginning of the show, the romance between Omar and Ander is key and both characters identify as gay. That being said, the show also has characters who don’t define their sexuality or are more fluid when it comes to relationships.
One of the best couples from Elite is actually a trio with Christian joining Carla and Polo’s relationship for a brief time. Many different types of relationships are portrayed on the show and while love triangles are still very present, there is often a twist on the usual trope.
8 sugar rush
This British comedy-drama series may have only run for two seasons but is one of the first to have a lesbian lead character. The show focuses on openly lesbian teen, Kim and her crush on her ‘straight’ best friend, Sugar. While Sugar uses Kim’s crush to her advantage and leads her friend on, it becomes clear that there are some real but complicated feelings there for her too.
sugar rush is also notable for featuring a young Andrew Garfield before his career really took off. Kim is refreshingly open and positive about her sexuality, something which was rare to see at the time and the will-they-won’t-they relationship between her and Sugar is captivating to watch.
7 Big Boys
Big Boys is another British comedy-drama with an LGBT+ lead, focusing on Jack who is starting university and dealing with the death of his father and exploring his sexuality for the first time. While at university, he develops a heartwarming friendship with his straight housemate who is outwardly confident but quietly struggles with his mental health.
The show perfectly blends comedy and drama to show Jack’s journey which culminates with him coming out to his mother in a moving scene. Also, Danny’s mental health struggles are portrayed both sensitively and realistically. Furthermore, it’s refreshing to see such a close yet entirely platonic friendship between a gay male and straight male, which is rarely shown in media.
skins is another ensemble show which features a number of LGBTQ+ stories and characters. While each generation arguably has a main character, the format of the show means that most characters get their own central episodes to shine. Maxxie plays a key role in the first generation and Emily and Naomi from the second generation have one of the best relationships from skins.
Emily and Naomi are two of the five characters who are later brought back in the final season of the show which proves how popular they are with fans. The girls’ relationship certainly has its ups and downs and unfortunately ends tragically but is one of the most important and prominent story-lines from the show.
Euphoria centers on Rue who is a recovering drug addict and develops an attraction to her new friend, Jules. While Rue is certainly the main character of the show, similarly to skins, the other characters also have central episodes. Refreshingly, Rue and Jules never really label their sexuality and Jules being trans doesn’t define her as a character and isn’t central to her story.
The show also explores toxic masculinity and self-loathing linked to repressed sexuality with both Cal and Nate which is rarely given as much focus as it is here. Euphoria is one of the most popular HBO shows of all time and sexuality is a prominent theme on the program.
Ash Sense8 focuses on a group of people from different parts of the world who discover they are mentally physically linked, it is an ensemble show and doesn’t have a single lead character. That being said, several of the ‘sensates’ fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, with Lito being gay and Nomi being transgender.
While not all of the ‘sensates’ embark on same-sex relationships in their everyday lives, there are several scenes which show them all being intimate with one another due to their link. Through the mental and physical links between the main characters, the show is able to explore the complexities and fluidity of sexuality. Showing characters from around the world and from different walks of life learning about and accepting each other makes this a truly unique viewing experience.
3 heart stopper
There are many shows which focus on teenage romances but very few with an LGBTQ+ couple at the center like heart stopper. The show became an instant hit when it hit Netflix and the chemistry between the two lead characters of Nick and Charlie is heartwarming to watch.
While themes of homophobia and mental health are present, they don’t detract from the positive and feel-good nature of the show. Not only does heart stopper focus on a gay relationship but also has a lesbian relationship and a transgender character clearly in the forefront too. After just one season, Nick and Charlie already have one of the best LGBT+ character arcs and fans are excited to see it continued in future seasons.
2 It’s A Sin
It’s A Sin focuses on a group of young gay men during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Although the show isn’t as uplifting as some other LGBTQ+-led shows in recent years, it covers an important part of history. The friendships between the characters are believable and relatable which makes the emotional scenes all the more devastating.
The show packs an emotional punch as it follows the characters through heartbreak, discrimination and loss. Keeley Hawes is a particular stand-out in her role of lead character, Ritchie’s overbearing mother. Her performance is so powerful that the character can anger the viewer in one scene, only to break their heart in the next.
1 Queer As Folk
Although Queer As Folk now has several different iterations, the British version started it all in 1999. The show is one of the earliest with an LGBTQ+ focus and explores the lives and relationships of a group of gay men. While the show deliberately includes archetypes and stereotypes which have become outdated, it paved the way for many other shows to come.
Russell T. Davies’ charm and wit is woven throughout the show and there are several hints to his future as Doctor Who show runner with the character of Vince being a die-hard fan. Queer As Folk is also notable for kick starting the career of Charlie Hunnam who portrays Nathan, a young teen who is new to the gay scene in the show.
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