For Pride Month this year, I’m highlighting some great queer representation on television. Not every character is perfect nor are some of them perfect representations, but each brings something fresh and different to the screen. (Click here for full list.)
22. Sophia Burset, Orange is the New BlackAnother repeat show, but we gotta talk about Sophia. Laverne Cox burst onto the scene with this amazing transwoman who happens to be in prison. Sophia is very well-respected at Litchfield by the other inmates, especially those who frequent the salon. When we found out Sophia’s record, the show was able to use Laverne’s twin brother for her pre-transition scenes which is basically a dream come true. One extremely important storyline was her season 4 story. It was based on the trials and tribulations CeCe McDonald, a real life trans woman, went through in prison. Laverne was able to talk to her and tell her story as accurately as possible. As Laverne Cox gets more famous, we will see less of Sophia, but I’m okay with that. Laverne needs to be in everything.
23. Chuck Noblet, Strangers With Candy
This one isn’t so much historic or important as it is self-indulgent. I just feel you all need to know Stephen Colbert played a hilariously closeted gay character for 3 seasons and movie. Chuck was in love with Geoffrey Jellineck, played by Paul Dinello. They did some A+ tropes and I loved every second of it. In everything they did together, Colbert and Dinello would inevitably play men who were in love or lust with each other. Is it a comment on who they are as people? Or just that they enjoy exploring all aspects of sexuality in their art? Either way, I’m here for it.
24. Mateo Liwanag, Superstore
As someone who has worked in a big box store (hello, IKEA friends!), I was really excited for Superstore, among other reasons. The primary reason was it promised a diverse cast. One character I wasn’t expecting was Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag, played by Nico Santos. He’s a flamboyant, competitive, overachieving gay Filipino who is not afraid to call people on their shit. He starts a secret fling with their District Manager, which in natural sitcom fashion, is played for laughs. Many things about Mateo are stereotypical queer man tropes in sitcoms, except one thing: he’s undocumented. We forget sometimes in discussing intersectionality that this is an identity some queer folks also hold. Mateo’s nervousness about his relationship with Jeff is only magnified when he learns he’s undocumented. It causes more conflict not only in the store, but within Mateo. He’s a really interesting and great character and I cannot wait to see where else they take him.
25. Betty DiMello, Masters of Sex
Though the show was about the work and lives of Bill Masters & Virginia Johnson, one of the best characters on the show was Betty Dimello (Annaleigh Ashford), a lesbian sex-worker-turned-receptionist. Masters’ research began in 1956 with hiring Betty to be his first subject. From the very beginning, Betty is strong, smart, and witty. She helps Masters develop and broaden the study. In the second season, she begins dating Helen (played by Sarah Silverman) in secret since homosexuality was still criminalized. They decide to have a baby together with the help of a friend. Tragically, Helen dies in childbirth (#killyourgays) and Betty is forced with the horrifying reality that she has no rights to their baby. Equally as tragic, we get no resolution as Betty fights for her child since the show was canceled at the end of season 4. I love Betty because she is very funny and though she has far less schooling than Masters & Johnson, she holds her own in conversation. Also, it is very important to show queer characters in all points of history since we’ve always been here and we’re never going away.
26. Michael Novotny, Queer as Folk (US)
Somehow I have made it this far into the month without using a single Queer as Folk character. QaF holds a very special place in my heart. It was one of the first shows I watched in high school when I was figuring out I was queer. (Took me a lot longer to figure out exactly what flavor of queer, but still.) I loved this show. It was extremely groundbreaking in showing the first simulated gay male sex scene on American television, as well as exploring many, many issues within the gay community at the time. Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks) is the heart of the show and my favorite character. He is optimistic, hopeful, a bit of a nerd, and stands his ground when Brian would do something so stupid. He is supported unconditionally by his mother Debbie though they may not agree on all of his choices. Michael falls in love with Ben, who is a college professor and HIV+. I know it’s just a story, but I always wished I could have a relationship like theirs. (Still do.) They were loving and passionate and slow to build a relationship, and even when they fought they could come back together. While sadly Queer as Folk hasn’t aged very well in terms of political correctness and representation, it will always be among the first truly revolutionary shows for the LGBT community.