It was a historic year for LGBTQ people on TV, with a record number of out lesbian, gay and trans actors, along with several out nonbinary actors.
Out gay actor Billy Porter, who plays the gay ballroom emcee Pray Tell in “Pose,” made Emmy history by becoming the first openly gay Black man to win lead actor in a drama category.
Ellen DeGeneres, who made history as the first out gay actor on TV, coming out on her sitcom “Ellen” in 1997, made history in nonscripted TV in 2019. “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” has now been on TV since 2003, with a record 16 seasons of the Emmy-winning daytime talk show. The show was renewed in 2019 for three more seasons — into 2022. Ellen has now won 31 Emmys for her work.
GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” report on LGBTQ representation in scripted TV shows noted that there are more LGBTQ characters on TV than ever before in 2019.
The best-scripted LGBTQ series of the year were mostly on cable and streaming services. Series featuring gay and lesbian storylines and characters and those that highlighted racially diverse LGBTQ characters included, “Will & Grace,” “Modern Family,” “Black Lightning,” “Supergirl,” “This Is Us,” “Batwoman,” “Stumptown,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
“This Is Us” had a compelling storyline of the daughter of a central character coming out in junior high and what it is to navigate that territory. “Black Lightning” has the only Black lesbian superhero in “Thunder,” and “Supergirl” has the first trans superhero in Nia/Dreamer. “Batwoman” stars Ruby Rose, whose superhero character is an out lesbian.
“Will & Grace” remained one of the most reliably funny and gay series on TV, as did “Modern Family.” Both series — now in their final seasons — have been groundbreaking TV, credited with bringing gay characters in normative familial settings to straight America and changing perceptions in the process.
In 2019, the very best series with LGBTQ content is “Pose.” While there are a few straight characters in the show, those are peripheral to the main storylines, which are solely about the lives of gay, lesbian and trans people. This makes watching “Pose” a remarkable experience — we don’t wait, poised for the queer scenes because all scenes are queer.
The second season of “Pose” featured the most out trans actors in history. Reviews of season two were mixed, and some of the major players from season one did not return. But the series is riveting and the performances extraordinary. It is at the top of our list.
The second season focused less on ball culture and more on the AIDS pandemic of the early 1990s. Performances by Porter, as well as trans actresses Mj Rodriquez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson and Anjelica Ross were superb. Charlene Woodward and Sandra Bernhard also co-starred.
“Pose” has been renewed for a third season, coming in 2020. The first two seasons are available on Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime. Expect to cry throughout the entire first season and much of season two, because this drama goes to the heart of who we are.
The most vaunted new LGBTQ series of 2019 debuted Dec. 8 on Showtime, and it is definitely one of the years most anticipated. “The L Word: Generation Q” is more than a reboot of the iconic series that ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2009. “Gen Q” brings back three of the most pivotal original series stars — Bette, Alice and Shane — and introduces a plethora of new ones.
The excitement over the series is understandable. Like “Pose,” this is a show about queer people — it’s the obverse of standard TV. The new cast is expansive and diverse. In addition to a plethora of lesbians, queer and bisexual women, trans folks are also in this newly fashioned “L-Word.”
Set 10 years after the events of “The L Word,” “Gen Q” follows an ensemble cast of friends, the majority of whom are lesbian women. The series relocates from its original setting of West Hollywood, to the lesbian gayborhood of Silver Lake, Los Angeles. The original series is available on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Let’s continue to watch as the series addresses the transphobia, biphobia and other issues that plagued its first run.
“Killing Eve” was one of the year’s best crime series while also having the best bisexual/lesbian coupling in TV history — albeit one (if not both) of those characters being a sociopathic international assassin. The Emmy-winning series is set in and around the U.K. and Europe and features an MI6 operative — the eponymous Eve — chasing down Villanelle, the sexy assassin. Together they burn up the screen.
The dialogue is sharp, incisive and witty. The series creator and writer is Emmy-winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and performances are pitch-perfect; the sexual tension between the two main characters is electric. Both seasons are available on Hulu and Amazon. Season three debuts in 2020.
“Gentleman Jack,” “The Miniaturist” and “Dickinson” were also among the year’s best queer TV. These period pieces each highlighted, through their lesbian and gay main characters, the perils of being queer in centuries past. With vivid characters — both fictional and historical — energetic performances, unique sets and fabulous costumes, the show gives a stunning overview of periods past and what it meant to navigate societies that considered lesbians and gay men anathema.
“Euphoria” was possibly the most original series of the year addressing LGBTQ characters and their stories. The HBO series follows a group of high-school students through their experiences of sex, drugs, friendships, love and trauma. The central relationship between a Black girl, who is a recovering addict and a trans girl, who is new to their high school, is breathtakingly real and profoundly moving.
“Euphoria” delves deep into the fractured world of 2019 adolescence, with cyberbullying a core destructive force. Vivid, believable characterizations and storylines made this one of the year’s most memorable series.
The Netflix original series “Trinkets” charts the lives of three teenage girls who meet in a court-mandated Shoplifters Anonymous group and form a bond. One is trying to come out; another is in an abusive relationship; the third is hiding a series of deep secrets from her friends.
This series is strong, and the lesbian and queer characters are real. The premise is quirky yet works seamlessly, and the characters stay with you long after the last episode. Season two debuts in 2020.
“The Bisexual” is funny, poignant, beautifully crafted and deeply provocative as it details the life of a bisexual woman who exits her decade-long lesbian relationship to traverse her own bisexual heart. Available on Hulu and Amazon.
And for maximum queer and cathartic crying, last but not least of the year’s best LGBTQ offerings is the reality series “Queer Eye,” where the Fab 5 do more than makeovers. The Fab 5 remind us that we can all be re-made in our own image, not society’s version of us, and being authentic may feel scary as anything, but it is the only way to live our lives freely and fully. All four seasons are available on Netflix.
Let’s hope 2020 holds up to the breakthroughs made this year.