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5 TV Shows That Do Right By LGBT Youth

The more diverse, accurate portrayals of LGBT teens, the better…

The numbers of fictional LGBTQ+ characters on television has been steadily improving over the last decade. Showrunners, writers, and producers are making more of an effort to include characters who identify as something other than straight, but at the same time, those characters aren’t always as well-rounded and relatable as they should be. Tropes like the gay best friend that make the character seem like an after-thought are still pretty common.

Younger generations want storylines they can relate to and three dimensional characters they can root for, and that includes the LGBTQ+ characters. They should have their own storylines that don’t revolve around the drama of their straight friends—and these TV shows geared towards teens and young adults are doing a great job at making strong LGBTQ+ representation a priority.

The Fosters
The premise of Freeform’s The Fosters surrounds a biracial lesbian couple and their mix of adopted and biological children. The portrayal of a non-traditional American family touches on a lot of the same themes as any family drama but with the added layer of an LGBT perspective. Married couple Stef and Lena are raising their kids to be open, compassionate, and accepting towards everyone regardless of sexual orientations, gender identity, race, and culture, which is something many parents strive for. The latest season includes a storyline that explores the challenges that face a transgender man as he figures out when and when not to disclose his status.

Pretty Little Liars
The CW’s Pretty Little Liars may seem like a teen soap opera on the outside (and it kind of is), but one thing they’ve done right is their portrayal of sexuality. Emily, played by Shay Mitchell comes out as a lesbian pretty early on and her friend Hanna tells her “You were Emily dating Ben, and now you’re Emily dating Maya. We love Emily. No one cares who you’re with.” Even before she comes out, her friends show and voice their unconditional support for her in subtle ways that mirrors the experience of many LGBT teens who are trying to find the right time way to come out to their friends. The show is particularly good at portraying the natural fluidity of sexuality with a number of characters who are attracted to both men and women and are perfectly comfortable with who they are.

This spinoff of Black-ish starring Yara Shahidi as Zoey, a girl who has left home to go to college, has garnered praise for its portrayal of a modern college experience. One of Zoey’s friends Nomi is openly bisexual to her friends (but still in the closet to her family). While on a date with a girl, she experiences a direct example of biphobia. When Nomi’s date finds out she identifies as bisexual, she tells her to “call me when you’re done going through this whole ‘bi’ phase.” This assumption that bisexuality is just a pitstop on the way to being gay is common and damaging to people who are genuinely attracted to both men and women. The episode also touches on how people look at men and women who identify as bisexual differently.

British TV show Skins was controversial for its portrayal of teenagers navigating casual sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, and partying. Co-creator Bryan Elsley defended the show by saying it was rare to see an accurate representation of the bad decisions teenagers make and the consequences of those decisions on TV. With the ensemble cast rotating every two seasons, there was plenty of opportunity to touch upon a range of different themes including the experiences of LGBT teenagers. The show lasted six seasons and served as a big break for some of today’s successful actors like Daniel Kaluuya, Nicholas Hoult, and Kaya Scodelario. The show was praised for its portrayal of gay and lesbian characters in particular.

Everything Sucks
Although it only lasted a single season before it was canceled, Netflix Original Series Everything Sucks is notable in its portrayal of a young girl who is just starting to realize that she might be a lesbian. There are a lot more plot lines out there that explore the journey of a gay male coming to terms with his sexuality, so seeing it from a girl’s perspective is a different experience. Kate, played by Peyton Kennedy, is in grade nine when she really starts to take notice of her attraction to female singers such as Tori Amos. She makes friends with fellow AV Club member Luke and he develops a crush on her that she can’t bring herself to return despite his attempts at grand gestures. The show is about more than just Kate’s sexuality, but it’s an interesting part of the overall plot and the first season is still worth watching even though there won’t be a second.

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    Lee / 28 October 2020

    Another TV show I think represented different queer relationships in great ways would be Sex Education, They show a lot of different types of relationships and treat it as they would with any other relationship. They don’t just add queer people for fan service or anything. They started off with a queer main character and ended with a lot more.


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