Happy Pride Month! There’s been a shift in the past decade for LGBTQ+ representation onscreen. While there’s still plenty of work to do when it comes to authentic representation, especially in Hollywood, more queer stories are being told and celebrated than ever before. I’m kicking off Pride Month 2022 with a post celebrating the groundbreaking LGBTQ+ characters of television.
Ryan Wilder- Batwoman
Justice for Batwoman! Save Batwoman! One of the things the CW had going for it before the network axed several superhero shows, is how gay the Arrowverse was and how unafraid they were of highlighting the vast spectrum of love and identity. Some series featured LGBTQ+ characters more explicitly than others, like the recent 2018 Batwoman series, which was sadly canceled after three seasons. It’s a shame because Javicia Leslie portrayed Ryan Wilder with earnest enthusiasm and was just experiencing the full joys of donning the cowl before the series’ cancellation.
I loved Ryan’s sense of humor, her bond with her fellow Bat Team allies Luke and Mary, and her relationship with Sophie, which is the first prominent queer relationship between two Black women in a superhero television series. I love Ryan because she constantly pushed herself to be better. Despite the tragedy that defined her early life, she realized the unique gift of the Batwoman persona: to make a real, tangible difference in the lives of the people of Gotham City.
Ryan’s journey was just getting started. I hope people seek out this show and that we see Ryan Wilder again in the future. She’s the cool older sister we all wished we had.
Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber- Star Trek: Discovery
Star Trek has always prided itself on being at the forefront of inclusivity. Whether you’re a fan of New Trek or not, television shows like Discovery feature some of the most diverse casts in the entire franchise. Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber are a couple on the Discovery who’ve been through their fair share of chaos, misery, and misadventure but they’ve always had each other’s backs no matter what space throws at them. Discovery pulled a red-shirt move and killed off Culber in Season 1, but his subsequent “resurrection” opened the door to a heartfelt examination of mental health, grief, and recovery.
Discovery received a lot of criticism early on for its use of the “kill your gays” trope. Cruz and the series’ showrunners have explicitly stated on several occasions that Culber’s death and return were always in the cards. In an interview with IndieWire, executive producer Aaron Harberts stated:
“This is something we knew we wanted to do pretty much from the minute we started breaking the arc of the entire season. We wanted to have this be the first chapter for this gay couple, who we plan to make one of the most important couples on our show. So, to do that, we needed to tell some tough stories to get this couple where they need to be, and to continue to expand their importance in the fabric of the show.”
Sophia Burset- Orange Is the New Black
The Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, featured several LGBTQ+ characters throughout its run. One of the most iconic characters to come from the series is Sophia Burset, played by transgender actor Laverne Cox. Sophia is a unique soul. She’s deeply intelligent, beautiful, and sarcastic. She looks for beauty and creativity wherever she is, and she inspires the people around her to be their authentic selves.
Sophia’s vibrant personality was a highlight of the show, which never shied away from depicting the trials of a Black transgender woman in jail. Sophia struggled with depression in the wake of vile transphobia, homophobia, and racism, including losing access to her medication and being locked in solitary confinement. Through all of life’s hardships, she never stopped fighting to make a better life for herself. The series finale suggests Sophia has a happy ending, which is exactly what the character deserves.
Kerry Weaver- ER
Leave it to Weaver. For nearly 250 episodes of the groundbreaking medical drama ER, Laura Innes played the badass, big-hearted, yet cunning lesbian Chief of Emergency Medicine, Kerry Weaver. From the moment she appeared onscreen, Kerry proved to be a formidable force in the Chicago based hospital despite her limp gait caused by congenital hip dysplasia; she took no sh!t from anyone, she was unafraid of speaking her mind, and she sometimes threw people under the bus to advance her own career. Kerry was flawed, but she was also unique, spirited, and driven to support women and people in the LGBTQ+ community.
Kerry Weaver is one of my favorite characters from ER. She’s so well written and developed I can’t help but love her even amidst some of her more questionable decisions. At the end of the day, Weaver is a damn fine doctor and the coolest lesbian on TV.
Ryan O’Connell- Special
Special is an Emmy-nominated comedy-drama Netflix television series created by Ryan O’Connell (who also stars as the main character) that explores his life as a gay man with cerebral palsy (like me!). The concept isn’t one explored onscreen very often, which makes Special sort of…well..special. Ryan is charming, snarky, insecure, funny, selfish, and deeply thoughtful. He’s another well-rounded, flawed individual with a beautiful story to tell.
Throughout Special‘s two seasons, Ryan deals with individuality, identity, ableism, fetishization, and stigma as he develops his writing career. Special is a funny and heartwarming series that tells the story of being queer in a new and unique way.
Who is your favorite LGBTQ+ character in television? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for more lists like this one. For all things pop culture, check out my website! If you want to support my site, check out my Ko-fi here. Happy Pride Month and stay nerdy!