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22 LGBTQ+ Characters Who Were Actually Played By LGBTQ+ Actors

“If I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would have thought, ‘I could never be on TV. They don’t let LGBTQ people be on TV.'"

1. Pretty much the whole damn cast of Pose.

FX

If you've seen Paris Is Burning, you'll know that Pose is inspired by the New York queer ball culture scene in the 1980s, and it's made history by having Janet Mock be the first Black trans woman of colour to direct and write an episode of TV. It also has the largest cast of trans actors on a scripted television show ever, and the storylines of Blanca, Angel, and almost every character are equal parts heartwrenching, eye-opening, and inspirational.

2. And the of the cast of It's a Sin.

Channel 4

Earlier this year saw the release of It’s a Sin – a poignant miniseries that told us the story of a group of friends living in London in the ‘80s and ‘90s during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Creator Russel T Davies is passionate about authentic casting, and told Radio Times: “I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint... they are NOT there to 'act gay' because 'acting gay' is a bunch of codes for a performance.” It’s a Sin features a cast of both internationally known names and new actors who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and authenticity runs throughout the entire miniseries.

3. Titus from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Netflix

No one can deny that Titus Andromedon totally steals the show – he's been nominated for tons of awards for his role as the totally lovable, out and proud actor. In real life, Tituss Burgess, who's openly gay and from the Deep South, has used his platform to fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and won the GLAAD Gala Atlanta's Local Hero award in 2017.

4. Aaron from The Fosters.

Freeform

The Fosters has always been commended for its portrayal of LGBTQ+ themes – it won two GLAAD Media Awards in its first season. Since his first role as Noah in Faking It, Elliott Fletcher has been outspoken about the importance of authentic transgender representation in the media, and when he joined the cast in season four, it didn’t take long for sweetheart Aaron to become a fan favourite. Elliott has praised the show for including the storyline of Aaron’s parents struggling to come to terms with the fact that he’s trans, telling Access Hollywood. “Its important to even show the negative side to show kids that your parents can come around… Or for parents who are watching to see how easily negativity can affect their kids.”

5. Casey from Atypical.

Netflix

If you haven't got to season 3 yet – soz for the spoiler – Casey gets a girlfriend, and in 2019, Bridgette Lundy-Paine came out as non-binary, sharing that they use they/them pronouns. Before we saw the whole Casey/Izzy storyline, Bridgette said they hoped the show would delve into Casey exploring her sexuality, saying: "I’m queer, and I feel that for a lot of queer youth, there’s not a lot of nuanced examples of queerness on TV when it comes to teenagers. A lot of the time, someone will come out as gay and it’s about the coming-out story and then they’re gay."

6. Kurt from Glee.

Fox

Glee pretty much covered every situation a noughties teen may have been going through, and they didn't shy away from LGBTQ+ issues. Chris Colfer – who's openly gay – said that he received letters from both teen viewers and their parents, and that the show's storylines have "really helped a lot of progress get made in that area."

7. Theo from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Netflix

Theo, who came out as trans in the second installment of the Netflix original, is played by one of the youngest openly non-binary actors in Hollywood, Lachlan Watson. In an interview with MTV, Lachlan shared that, after being cast to play a trans guy on the show, they talked to the writers about the possibility of slowing down the transition. They said that: “By existing and showing up and being a different person, a different identity that the writers may not have even known about before, I think in that way, I influenced Theo’s character.”

8. Rosa from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Fox / NBC

There's no denying that the 'B' is often a forgotten part of the rainbow, which is why fans were so happy when Rosa explicitly said she's bisexual. Speaking about the role, Stephanie Beatriz, who is openly bi said, "I have a platform where people are listening to what I have to say, so it's not by mistake I'm so open about being bisexual. I am astounded that in my lifetime I'm getting to play a character who is queer on TV."

9. Sophia from Orange Is The New Black.

Netflix

Laverne Cox may have won our hearts in her breakout role in the show, but she's done a hell of a lot more than that – she's an activist who's been fighting for trans rights for years, and made history by becoming the first openly trans woman to win a Daytime Emmy, the first to have a wax figure at Madame Tussaud's, and the first transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.

10. Ellen from the Ellen sitcom.

ABC

Being the huge star she is today, it might come as a shock that the show and Ellen herself faced major backlash when the show's main character came as a lesbian – making prime-time TV history. The show lost sponsors, cast members received death threats, and the series was cancelled just a year after the episode aired, but there's no denying that it paved the way.

11. Toine Wilkins from Queen Sugar.

Own

Brian Michael Smith joined Ava Duvernay’s Queen Sugar in its second season, playing Officer Toine Wilkins, Ralph’s childhood friend. This was the first time Brian played an openly trans character and he said that he used this character as a vehicle to publicly come out as trans himself. In an interview with NBC News, he said that through “acting training and doing a lot of self-investigation and through therapy” he became more comfortable with his entire self, and wanted to share his experiences through his work. In the same interview, he opened up about coming across some roles earlier on in his career that made him think “‘this isn’t really rooted in truth,’ and ‘they probably didn’t consult with a trans person before they wrote this,’” but the role of Toine was basically on his vision board.

12. Lana from American Horror Story: Asylum.

FX

Sarah Paulson, who has called sexuality fluid in the past, played journalist Lana Winters who went through it in the second season of AHS – she was imprisoned in the asylum after investigating its bad practice, forced to undergo conversion therapy, and had her girlfriend murdered. Sarah's stated that she doesn't want to be defined by her sexuality, but when speaking about her relationship with Holland Taylor, she said, "Our relationship represents a certain amount of hope and risk. Maybe there’s something brave in it. Maybe it encourages others to make brave choices."

13. Jess from Bombshell.

Lionsgate

The character of Jess – the Fox producer who happens to be a closeted lesbian and Hilary Clinton loving democrat – was written for Kate Mckinnon, who is one the few openly LGBTQ+ cast members in the history SNL. In her moving speech at this year's Golden Globes, she touched on the importance of queer representation, and how watching the Ellen show help her accept her sexuality, saying: “If I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would have thought, ‘I could never be on TV. They don’t let LGBTQ people be on TV."

14. Callie from Grey's Anatomy.

CBS

Callie Torres is one of the most notable bisexual characters in modern TV – she came out back in 2009 and it's safe to say that she paved the way for great bi representation on our screens. Sara Ramirez, who identifies as bisexual and non-binary, opened up about being afraid of being public about their sexuality and has since used their platform to encourage young people to embrace their identities.

15. Payton from The Politician.

Netflix

The sexuality of the characters in The Politician isn't part of the show's storyline, but lots of the characters are queer, and it's a complete non-issue. Payton has dramatic relationships with both his politics rival River and his long-term girlfriend Astrid, and openly gay Ben Platt said that: “no one is free from the queerness, really, on the show.”

16. Denise from Master of None.

Netflix

Denise was originally written as a straight, white woman, but Lena had such an impact on Aziz Ansari that he reworked the character so that she mirrored aspects of her identity. "Thanksgiving," the episode that followed Denise's coming out story, was co-written by Lena and inspired by her own journey. It spanned the character's entire life, rather than the usual "moment" we often see when characters come out. The episode won an Emmy, making her the first black woman to win one for writing.

17. Graham from But I'm a Cheerleader.

Lionsgate Films

With its biting satire, the 2000 classic was way ahead of its time, and Graham stole many a heart as Megan's love interest. Clea DuVall said that she was initially afraid of becoming an LGBTQ+ icon, but she's since starred in, written, and directed a lot of queer films and TV shows. Speaking about society's acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, she said: "I think the climate has really changed in that way, and it doesn’t really matter as much. It’s not that big of a deal, which I think is really encouraging... We’ve come so far, now kids don’t even care."

18. Bram from Love, Simon.

20th Century Fox

Keiynan Lonsdale, who's also a singer-songwriter and dancer, said that playing Simon's mystery man hugely impacted his decision to come out as queer – he opened up to the cast and crew on the last day of filming, and then told the world via Insta in 2017. Speaking about how the movie influenced him, he said: "I realised while I was filming that it felt like I was a contradiction to what we were fighting for. I didn’t come out because of that, it just highlighted and sort of put up a mirror to myself and made me really think and start to realise that I’m not afraid of anything. I’m ready now to make this step."

19. Shea from Transparent.

Prime Video

As well as playing an HIV-positive trans woman navigating the world of dating, Trace Lysette is a prominent activist who has advocated for more diversity when it comes to casting. She's also one of the first trans actors to play roles who aren't explicitly trans, including Tracey in Hustlers, which is definitely important when it comes to trans visibility. Speaking to Vogue, she said: "those in the middle of America or anyone else that says, 'I don’t know anyone who is trans,' may see me on that screen and look me up online and see that I am trans. And now, indirectly, they know someone who is trans."

20. Jules from Euphoria.

HBO

Jules is a precocious sweetheart with a complex past whose transition as a young teen is shown through flashbacks. Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules is openly trans, was a named plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit with North Carolina over the “bathroom bill,” which sought to govern who could use what public toilet. Speaking about the lawsuit she said: “I was in a place of privilege in my transition and felt like I could handle making myself visible in order to help my state understand why what they were doing was detrimental to my community.”

21. Casey from Grey's Anatomy.

CBS

Intern Casey came out as a trans man to his Grey Sloan Memorial coworkers at the same time as Alex Blue Davis, who plays him, came out to us as viewers. It was a moment that Grey's showrunner Krista Vernoff wanted to get exactly right, so she worked closely with GLAAD and Alex before settling on the details of the impactful scene. Alex told The Hollywood Reporter that delivering the line "I’m a proud trans man, Dr. Bailey," was so moving that he cried at the table read, saying: "I’ve been waiting for a moment like this on TV my whole life. I am so honoured I got to say that line on TV because it’s a long time coming."

22. Poussey from Orange Is The New Black.

Netflix

Samira Wiley, who married Lauren Morelli, a writer on OITNB in 2017, has shared how playing Litchfield's most lovable inmate helped her become more comfortable with her sexuality, saying: “I think falling in love with Poussey, which is a real thing that happened to me, helped me fall in love with myself."

Who's your favourite character? Tell us in the comments!

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