When Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) came out in season one of Pretty Little Liars, she launched moments of self-reflection for queer teenagers around the world. While the same praise cannot be extended to the show’s trans representation, Emily will always hold a special place in our heart.
Years after her run on the show ended, Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) is still the longest- running LGBTQ+ character in television history, appearing in 239 episodes over 11 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. During this time, Callie dated and married both men and women before leaving the show in May 2016.
Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) was a closeted cheerleader on Glee whose relationship with Brittany Pierce almost broke the Internet. Their storyline resonated with many, for its representation of a femme-femme couple and the difficulties of coming out to a religious family. While Rivera died tragically in 2020, her portrayal of Santana will live on forever.
Laverne Cox became a household name after her role on Orange Is the New Black, where she played Sophia Burset, a trans woman who went to prison for committing credit card fraud to finance her sex reassignment surgery. With this role, Cox became the first trans person to be nominated for an Emmy Award in an acting category, and has been making herstory ever since.
Lena Adams-Foster (Sherri Saum) showed us what it’s like to be a queer parent on The Fosters, and for that, we will always be grateful. Now she’s back as a guest star in the show’s spin-off, Good Trouble, and we can only hope there is more of her and her wife Stef to come.
In 2017, Stephanie Beatriz made headlines when her character Rosa Diaz came out as bisexual on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When speaking to Tagg in 2018, Beatriz highlighted her work to keep the storyline authentic, explaining: “queer people should be able to have input in telling their stories or tell them themselves.” We stan her.
With six seasons and more murders than we can even remember, Viola Davis shined on How to Get Away With Murder as Annalise Keating, a black bisexual law professor who morphed into a complex and unlikeable heroine. Even with her questionable ethics, we couldn’t get enough.
Though in its series finale Killing Eve fell prey to the “bury your gays” trope, Sandra Oh’s portrayal of Eve Polastri was noteworthy, as it explored themes of compulsory heterosexuality and abuse within relationships.
Pose was home to more queer BIPOC characters more times than we can count, but Michaela Jae Rodriguez as Blanca Evangelista will always be our favorite. In July 2021, Rodriguez became the first ever out trans person ever to be nominated for an Emmy in a lead acting category, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
While Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) wasn’t the first Black lesbian superhero on television (that feat goes to Anissa Pierce on Black Lightning), she is certainly the fan favorite. In her two seasons on Batwoman, she captured the hearts of fans around the world and her love interest, Sophie Moore.