Our Top 10 Recommendations LGBTQIA2S+ TV
Representation is important, which is why showing different stories in media, whether it be film, TV, books, or music, is critical to better understanding each other. By showing the various nuances of people across the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum, media has the power to change lives. As no one group is a monolith, media plays an important role in helping create awareness, providing support, and driving change in our communities.
Last week, for INSTI® Recommends, we focused on movies with LGBTQIA2S+ representation. This week, we bring you the INSTI® Recommends – TV Edition (in no particular order).
1. Legendary (Reality Series)
What It’s About: This show is a reality competition series based on voguing and ballroom culture with dance icon Dashaun Wesley as the MC. The show explores the high-stakes world of ballroom that was once an underground LGBTQ+ subculture dating back to the 1800s. Recently launched in 2020, the show makes an effort to bring the culture to life for viewers. For the most part, producers have tried to honour the community with the show and create awareness for the mainstream to learn about this rich part of cultural history, where ballroom acted as a safe space for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC folks and encouraged people to live their truths. According to Dashaun, “ballroom tells a story in many different ways. It is more than dance. It’s performance, art, and fashion.”
2. Schitt’s Creek (Comedy)
What It’s About: This immensely popular show is about a wealthy family that has fallen from its riches and landed in a small town where they need to rebuild their lives. The show has David, a fashion-obsessed and slightly snarky (though loveable) character who wears his queerness openly. Even though the family is living in what could be seen as a backwater town, David’s queerness and sexuality are never questioned and, to be honest, are rarely addressed. His relationship with Patrick is greeted by zero societal expectations, no raised eyebrows, and full acceptance. It is refreshing and all too rare to have a show where a character’s queerness is not a struggle but a healthy representation; a refreshing way to tell different stories in a relatable and catching way for all audiences. It is so rare to find shows with healthy depictions of queer life, and Schitt’s Creek does an excellent job of normalizing and portraying all kinds of relationships. David, who in the show identifies as pansexual, and Noah, who identifies as gay, are shown facing the regular relationship struggles that all couples do, such as living arrangements and family gatherings, and their relationship is full of warmth, humour, and love. They aren’t necessarily seen as the gay couple, but the couple that everyone is rooting for throughout their time together in the series.
3. Sex Education (Dramedy)
What It’s About: Film and television do not always get the facts about HIV and STIs correct, often leading to confusion or even fear. It is safe to say that Hollywood has not always gotten it right, nor does it always represent different demographics and their concerns adequately or accurately. But we are happy to see that this is all changing in the modern entertainment industry. With more representative content, many shows and films are beginning to provide a realistic and educational perspective of HIV, STIs, and overall sexual health. This show makes a point to tell the stories of a diverse set of characters across the sexual, gender, and identity spectrum. The show’s portrayal of HIV was accurate, kind, and respectful and considered many different perspectives, including those of the LGBTQIA+ communities, which is refreshing to see (if not long overdue). For the episode on HIV education, check out season 3, episode 4, around the 31:30-minute mark for a great 30-second spot on HIV education.
4. Please Like Me
What It’s About: The Australian show has been praised for its portrayal of LGBTQ identity and mental health. With several queer characters, the show strives to address and tell the stories of LGBTQ characters struggling with mental health. Written in a nuanced way, Please Like Me makes an effort to help reduce stigma by showcasing human stories with an LGBTQ and neurodivergent focus, helping represent different perspectives across the spectrum of identity and sexuality and their journey with mental health.
What It’s About: Based on the British graphic novel, the Netflix series follows an openly gay high school student as he navigates his first relationship. The show stands out with its positive take on queer stories rather than focusing on suffering or sadness. By depicting a more positive queer experience in situations and environments that may not always be welcoming to it, Heartstopper manages to respectfully show the emotion of its characters navigating high school and their relationships. While the show may not paint a completely realistic picture of young love by avoiding some of the darker parts of not only the queer experience but general teenage angst, it is a breath of fresh air to watch. By allowing characters the ability to enjoy and soak in the pleasure of experiencing young romance, the audience gets to participate in a luxury not often afforded to LGBTQ characters throughout media.
6. A League of Their Own (Dramedy)
What It’s About: The series is an expansion of the movie of the same name. While the fan favourite and beloved film told the story of the All-American Girls Baseball League, it left out key stories of the women who played and those who were unable to play due to restrictive segregation policies and attitudes of that era. Meticulously researched, including consultations with players from the league during the early days, the show expands on the movie’s offering by telling the stories of the women in and around the league. With incredible female storylines, it showcases what it meant for women in the 1940s to address their sexuality, identities, and friendship, including queer platonic love. The series makes an effort to include many different characters across the spectrum, including a transgender storyline with actors who identify as trans. Expanding the storylines of LGBTQIA2S+ and BIPOC people that were often overlooked at the time, the show makes an effort to tell the stories of the women who had to hide their true identities to stay in the league (and out of prison or an institution), making this an interesting watch of a group whose stories have remained mostly untold in the mainstream media.
7. The L Word: Generation Q (Drama)
What It’s About: A reboot of the popular lesbian show in the early 2000s, this version attempts to change the criticisms of the original series, which was rightfully critiqued for its lack of diversity in both its casting choices (they were uniformly thin, conventionally attractive, and mostly white with a lack of diverse storylines). The new generation includes a much more diverse cast that includes fully formed characters that are trans, Latin, and a more fully fleshed out and genuine take on a bisexual storyline. This regeneration is a fresher take on the lives of those across the sexuality and gender spectrums; there are no coming out stories, no tortured souls wondering about their attraction. And while it is not perfect, it is a show that tells queer stories that are messy, funny, sad, loving, lustful, and a bit more genuine in that all characters, regardless of sexuality and identity, are human.
8. Pose (Drama)
What It’s About: Set in the 80s and 90s, Pose follows members of the LBGTQ+ community who are connected to the underground ballroom culture. Nearly all of the show’s leads are transgender, including the show’s executive producer, Janet Mock. The show tackles tough topics such as the AIDS epidemic and the nation’s lack of leadership and urgency to find solutions, the disregard for trans lives, the ACT UP protests, and the overall struggles of life in that era while trying to find and remain true to yourself. Pose tells the stories of countless people who have often remained unnamed throughout history, especially in mainstream media. It helps create more awareness of the trans, queer, and black communities and what they continue to face daily.
9. Uncoupled (Comedy)
What It’s About: A show about a middle-aged gay man who finds himself single after 17 years, Uncoupled navigates re-entering a dating scene that has changed over the nearly two decades he has been “off the scene.” Whereas the show is a light take on queer dating, rather than a deeper look into the nuances of middle-aged LGBTQ+ dating, it offers an easy, “guilty pleasure popcorn-style” bingeable viewing experience that shows the struggles of rejoining the dating world in middle-age and learning the new dating world.
10. Orange is the New Black (Dramedy)
What It’s About: First premiering on Netflix in 2013, Orange is the New Black was original, new, and exciting, offering a women’s perspective on life in prison. It addressed (although not always well) privilege, racial inequity, and LGBTQ+ storylines, including the character Piper being touted, though not explicitly labeled as a bisexual (until the last season). While the show is not without criticisms, as mentioned, it offered representation to women across the LGBTQ+ spectrum by making their stories front and center in a way that is not intended for shock value.
Television offers an escape from reality, a way to learn about stories that are not our own, and perhaps most importantly, allows us to see ourselves in the stories of others, helping us to feel heard and less alone. And while there is still much room to grow, it is refreshing to see LGBTQIA2S+ storylines becoming more prevalent in media.