#Movies & TV
23 of the Most Iconic LGBT Characters in Pop Culture History
by Alyssa K. Priebe
Let’s celebrate the recent positive steps taken for LGBT equality by honoring the some of the most iconic LGBT characters in pop culture history. Whether you recognize them right away or have to reach back to your childhood days, one thing is certain, these characters revolutionize the way society perceives the LGBT community, and we couldn’t be happier. *Warning: spoilers*
Sure, everyone knew he was gay since his first appearance on The Simpsons, but Smithers never officially came out until this April. Could his recent admittance be due to LGBT acceptance in society? We think so.
Ever since episode one of Glee, this fashion loving, all-star performing and unapologetically sassy diva stole our hearts. Throughout the series, Kurt faces several struggles from relationships to bullies, but like his performance to “Defying Gravity” —no one ever brings him down.
Willow’s character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is remembered for her relationship with Tara Maclay, which not only brought her happily ever after, but also landed her the first lesbian sex scene on prime time TV.
Piper Chapman and Alex Vause
Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon take on the challenging roles of prison inmates Piper Chapman and Alex Vause in the Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black. The show focuses on the girls’ complicated romantic history while proving same-sex relationships are just like heteros: full of love and complications.
Marceline the Vampire Queen
One character that really challenges the gender norm in cartoons is Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time. Not only is Marceline known for her fearless, dare devil ways, but also her bisexuality, which is prevalent in her past with Princess Bubble Gum and ex-boyfriend Ash.
Marco del Rossi
Throughout Degrassi: The Next Generation, Marco becomes proud of his sexuality and learns how to appreciate those who accept him and forget about those who don’t. He was a trailblazer, paving the way for more LGTB characters in the show.
Brittany and Santana
Another iconic pair, Santana and Brittany battle the odds in order to be together in Glee. These girls prove love can triumph over anything when they finally say “I do” in the final episode.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy
Sure, Harley Quinn’s main love interest is the deranged Joker, but Batman fans everywhere also know the little clown had an intimate relationship with Poison Ivy. It didn’t exactly shake up the comic industry, but we gotta say, they make one hot couple.
Jodie Dallas from Soap was the first prominent gay character on TV, however he was also incredibly stereotypical. So much so activists protested the character when Soap aired in 1977. Thank God for progression.
Will Truman from Will and Grace was the first gay character to star in the center of a TV show. Will’s personality is a more serious realist, which is different from how media normally portrayed gay characters. Some cliches never die, though—Will still played the ultimate gay best friend.
Keith Charles destroyed the standard gay stereotype in Six Feet Under. Charles is a strong policeman who doesn’t take crap from anyone. His relationship with David Fisher shows love in a progressive, realistic way. Honestly, he was a breath of fresh air.
Forced to come out in front of classmates by his English teacher, Jack McPhee made us see the hatred in society while reading his poem describing his crush on a man. And sh*t got real. This was a very powerful moment in Dawson’s Creek, and TV history in general.
My So Called Life may have only run for one year, but this drama was packed full of powerful messages. A lot of which came through Wilson Cruz’s portrayal of Ricky Vasquez, a gay teenager who dealt with everything from girls liking him to an abusive family and homelessness.
Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett
Cam and Mitch symbolize society’s shift in accepting the LGBT community. They face standard challenges of parenting, but with Cam’s creative imagination and Mitch’s down to earth realist attitude, they make it work. With these two stealing the spotlight, no wonder the show is called Modern Family.
Ruby and Dorothy
Once Upon a Time is known for twisting up fairy tales—c’mon, Hook was never meant to be that hot—but it took it to a whole new level with the recent episode, “Ruby Slippers.” The episode featured Ruby and Dorothy locking lips in the name of true love, making them the first LGBT couple on the show.
The L Word
With all the incredible characters, it’s impossible to pick just one from The L Word. The show, based in Los Angeles, features many different lesbians, bisexuals and their relationships. It was a breakthrough in pop culture; the first show to focus entirely on lesbian life.
Rany Harrison’s character, Justin Taylor, in Queer as Folk must be mentioned.Through starting a Gay-Straight Alliance group in high school to fighting the election of a homophobic mayor, Taylor symbolizes the LGBT community fighting back. And it. is. glorious.
Susan and Carol
Carol, Ross’s ex-wife on Friends, winds up marrying Susan in the iconic episode “The One with the Lesbian Wedding.” But the part that makes their relationship so important, is that it’s filled with so much love and understanding. Yup, Friends supported gay marriage before it was cool. Even Ellen wasn’t out yet.
Dr. Arizona Robbins and Callie Torres
Okay, we know they aren’t together anymore, but since the first time their characters interacted in Grey’s Anatomy they broke barriers. And Callie’s famous line to her religious father, “You can’t pray away the gay,” demonstrates the challenges of coming out to family.
Orange is the New Black takes a look into the life of a transgender woman in prison through the strong character, Sophia Burset. Her struggles provide a front row seat to the difficulties transgender people face.
Stef and Lena
The Fosters doesn’t focus on the challenges of being lesbian parents, instead it capitalizes on the difficulties of adoption. Stef and Lena are simply integrated into the story, making them one of the most realistic depictions of LGBT marriage.
In Will and Grace Jack McFarland is as stereotypical as they come. But his love for theater, fashion and witty come backs still entertained viewers for years. Jack and Will’s characters proved two gay men don’t need to be romantically involved in TV; they can just be friends.
Another break out character from Glee, we can’t leave out Unique Adams, formerly known as Wade. Not only is she one of the first openly transgender TV characters, but she does it proudly, strutting around in heels and dresses despite what anyone thinks. Now that’s a diva!