While the COVID pandemic has reshaped the world, television remained very queer in 2021. From looks at queer life during the AIDS epidemic to the up-and-coming influencer class of the next generation, this year's queer TV shows saw some revolutionary moments and unforgettable TV. In no particular order, here are the best queer shows of 2021:
Few shows have captured the beauty of queer resilience like Pose. Set during the ballroom scene in the '80s and '90s, this New York–based show finished its series out this year exactly how it started: with its queer cast shining brighter than anything thrown in their way.
If you've never seen this show before, don't walk, run to see this amazing show about Black and brown trans and queer people trying to make it in a world that doesn't want them shining bright. Ballroom, stellar acting, and an unforgettable story will make this an all-time great TV show.
The show is streaming on Netflix and FX.
2. We're Here
Drag Race legends and alums Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela, and Eureka O'Hara take the lessons of their lives and head to small-town America to get a look at the smaller, lesser known sides of American queerness.
Get the tissues ready, as the second season of this HBO Max offering just wrapped up with tons of heartfelt connections and gaggy moments. It's a show that will make you feel a little closer to the LGBTQ+ people who walk vastly different paths.
Season 2 is now streaming on HBO Max.
High school is an often turbulent time for LGBTQ+ youth, but Genera+ion takes that period and puts it in the spotlight, highlighting every failure and triumph of a group of queer teens.
File this one under "Gone Too Soon," as this one-season show about a group of queer kids finding themselves will not get a follow-up. Still, supporting the queers, even cancelled ones, is something that we can all do a little more of, and this exciting teen drama is a fresh and modern take on the queer television world.
The show is streaming on HBO Max.
4. RuPaul's Drag Race
OK, yes, after over a dozen main seasons, six All Stars seasons, and countless foreign spin-offs, this one kinda seems like a simple decision. Yet, in its 13th season, RuPaul's Drag Race is still one of the most captivating television properties around.
Season 13 was a test to see how the show would hold up in the COVID world, which had wrecked the previous season's roll-out, and instead of just passing, it made us excited for the future with a host of all-time great cast members. If you've never watched before, this season will be an excellent entry into one of the best queer shows of all time.
For fans of the show already, if you haven't checked out this year's All Stars, then you are missing out on some amazing returning queens and some herstory-making episodes.
5. What We Do in the Shadows
When you're hundreds of years old, the hang-ups of straight society fall away. That notion isn't the fundamental premise of this comedy show about a group of vampires on Staten Island, but it's one that isn't hidden, rather embraced. That being said, this show is one that will stick in your brain for months as its humor is bar-none.
Packed with jokes and spot-on acting, this show features its queer characters and loads of queer humor that doesn't make LGBTQ+ people the butt of the joke. If you want something to laugh until you cry, look no further.
This show's third season is on FX and Hulu.
6. It's a Sin
While the days of HIV and AIDS being a life-ending illness have mostly ended because of medical advancements, the trauma and scars of the initial epidemic and the lives that were lost still hang heavy with many queer people around the world. This show chronicles a group of friends in London who learn how to live in a world suffering.
Grab some tissues as this devastating miniseries will make you weep from its tragic beauty. Gay showrunner Russell T. Davies crafted a one-of-a-kind wonder that few shows ever attain.
The miniseries is on HBO Max.
7. The Other Two
When their younger brother then mother get famous, the other two siblings try anything and everything to ride their coattails. Made by former head writers of Saturday Night Live, this show features a gay main character whose queerness plays a large part in the antics and growth of this character.
Legends Wanda Sykes and Molly Shannon also join the fun in this wild show about the pitfalls of trying to make it big. Plus, few comedies take the modern gay experience and make it laugh-out-loud funny through its raw and brutal humor.
The show recently got renewed for a third season on HBO Max.
A documentary may not seem like peak TV, but this showing from FX about the modern history of the queer rights movement in all its forms takes a decade-by-decade look at what made queer people get to where they are today.
Our history isn't taught in schools, so learning how we really got the rights we have today, and who fought for them, is of the utmost importance. Through reenactments, this show looks at the Stonewall Riots until the early 2000s and shows the plights of the modern queer rights movement.
The show is streaming on FX and Hulu.
While Dragula may fall under the "Drag Competition" genre, its greatness comes from the gritty queerness it embraces. While Drag Race is all about pretty, Dragula shines for allowing the drag performers to get filthy, scary, messy, and ultimately beautiful when the "drag monsters" have time to show off what makes them great.
This show has a track record of being way more inclusive of its contestants and holds nothing back. Those who prefer Halloween to anything else will need to check out this wild time, and those who loved Fear Factor will get plenty of joy from the torture inflicted upon the contestants.
The show's fourth season is now streaming on Shudder, while the second and third seasons are on Netflix.
Emily Dickinson was queer. This little-known fact plays a huge part in this Apple TV+ show that not only embraces her queerness but puts it front and center to the person whose writings have shaped generations. Dickinson follows the poet during her early years as she learns who she is.
The show's last season is airing this year, and it is not holding back on its main subjects queerness. This comedy show is a sleeper hit that's been talked about for years, both for its courage in its storytelling and its quality.
The final season is airing now on Apple TV+.
11. Sex Education
This Netflix hit about a group of horny teens in a small English town has continued its streak of excellence with this year's third season. The latest season sees big changes at the main characters' school and puts them in a fight for free expression and open sexuality.
Its queer characters shine and get a chance to be the normal teens in this comedy-drama about sex in a small town.
The third season is airing on Netflix.
12. Gossip Girl
You don't need to have seen the original version of Gossip Girl to understand this reboot that has a very queer core. Created by a queer showrunner, this reboot lets its naughty rich kids be very queer, even as the world is watching. The show also features a group of teachers rebelling against their rich students, high school influencers, bisexual polyamory, and a lot more.
Queerness in this show is layered as the show refuses to let itself get caught in stereotypical tropes while letting its rich teens be bad. AKA, this show is a good time.
The first season is now on HBO Max.
13. Feel Good
The second season of this Netflix comedy saw queer comic Mae Martin continue her struggle with sobriety, love, and everything in between in this dramedy about the struggles of life. Semi-autobiographical, the show tells a raw and funny story about trying to get your life together.
You can see the show on Netflix.
The last season of this Netflix show saw representation so rarely seen on TV that makes it noteworthy all on its own, but luckily the show was fantastic. Ryan O'Connell fronted the show about a gay writer trying to figure out sex and love as a person with cerebral palsy and what it really means to be looking for love as a disabled person.
While the show will only get two seasons, this is required viewing for comedy fans who want to see a fantastic show. Funny, endearing, and even sexy at times, this show will surprise and stick with you.
The series is streaming on Netflix.
For competition shows, few are as queer and brilliant as Legendary, which sees ballroom and voguing houses from across the country compete for $100 thousand and legendary status. Drama, elegance, fashion, and talent are first and foremost in every aspect of this show, which celebrates the queerness of its contestants and roots.
Season 2 aired this year on HBO Max.
Not all shows can be the best, but if they're queer, still check them out. Supporting queer work in all its forms is important!
So here are some honorable mentions:
The L Word: Generation Q has caused some controversy in this reboot and continuation of the hit lesbian show. Still, the newer update has tried to modernize its representation, but you can be the one who decides. Showtime also aired Work in Progress's second season about a lesbian trying to figure out love during a mid-life crisis.
Batwoman, the queer superhero show from The CW, has survived replacing its lead actor and is in a third season.
While Euphoria didn't release a full season, early in the year HBO released a second special focusing on trans-icon Hunter Schafer's Jules post Season 1.
Love, Victor, the spinoff of Love, Simon, debuted its second season earlier this year and became a part of a conversation on social media about straight actors portraying queer roles. Ewan McGregor, as the lead in Halston, a Netflix miniseries about the fashion designers' life, also caused a similar stir.
Elite, the sensational and soapy Netflix show, entered a new season and transitioned into a newer cast of just as bad high schoolers. A group of Young Royals joined Netflix's list of international hits with a Swedish show about a young prince finding love at school amid a crisis.
Just as the LGBTQ+ spectrum is wide and complex, so are the stories that focus on them. While the coronavirus stunted the movies, television had time to thrive with its very queer crop of shows for 2021.
There's a bit of everything about queerness on television these days, and by supporting LGBTQ+ television and stories, we can hopefully see better and bigger queer productions in the future.