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LGBTQ+ actors playing LGBTQ+ characters? What a concept! Over the last few years, there’s been a hefty amount of discourse surrounding the entertainment industry and heterosexual performers receiving acclaim for queer roles, which has seen various celebrities from Cate Blanchett to Scarlett Johansson and Billy Porter all passionately weigh in. The fact is, LGBTQ+ performers are rarely afforded the same amount of opportunities as the straights – just take a look at Academy Award nominees and winners over the past decade. Rami Malek and Matthew McConaughey won gongs for their autobiographical performances as queer legends Freddie Mercury and Ron Woodroof, respectively, while others such as Blanchett, Eddie Redmayne, Mahershala Ali and Rooney Mara have all been celebrated with a nod. Yes, acting is just that: acting, but until there are equal opportunities for all actors, there will be lists like this celebrating those who got a chance to authentically tell a queer story. This list will be updated over time, so let us know if we’ve missed your favourite and we’ll make sure to include them in the next update!

Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane) – Bros

Bros, which marks the first-ever gay rom-com from a major studio and features a principal LGBTQ+ cast, follows the dysfunctional relationship between podcaster and radio show host Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner) and real estate lawyer slash jock Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane). The latter actor is best known for his five-year stint on ABC drama Brothers & Sisters as Scotty Wendell, whose romance with Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) is often regarded as one of the greatest in television history. The star came out as gay in 2008, the same year Scotty and Kevin tied the knot.

Abby (Kristen Stewart) – Happiest Season

Upon release in 2020, Happiest Season made history as the first LGBTQ+ Christmas film released by a major studio. The Clea DuVall-directed rom-com follows the story of Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis), a lesbian couple who attend the latter’s annual Christmas festivities. Upon arrival, Abby discovers that Harper hasn’t come out to her conservative parents (Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber), as well as her dysfunctional sisters (Alison Brie and Mary Holland). Stewart is bisexual, and is currently engaged to screenwriter Dylan Meyer.

Abraham “Bram” Greenfeld (Keiynan Lonsdale) – Love, Simon & Love, Victor

The Flash’s Keiynan Lonsdale won the hearts of viewers across the world with his portrayal of Abraham “Bram” Greenfeld in Greg Berlanti’s romantic teen comedy, Love, Simon, which became the first major Hollywood studio film to revolve around a queer teen romance. Lonsdale, who identifies as queer, reprised the role in the first season of Disney+ spin-off series, Love Victor. The former GAY TIMES cover star has continuously used his platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights on social media and through his music; his song Gay Street Fighter celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and declares war on homophobia. Add it to your Pride playlists, it’s an absolute bop.

Angel Evangelista (Indya Moore) – Pose

Pose changed the course of television when it premiered on our screens four years ago, not just because of its rare depiction of the queer African-American and Latino communities in 80s New York City, but also for featuring the largest amount of trans actors in regular roles of any scripted television series in history. Indya Moore, who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, received praise for their depiction of Angel Evangelista – a transgender sex worker and ballroom alum who aims to break through mainstream media as a fashion model. Speaking about their gender identity on Twitter, Indya wrote: “I’m non-binary, femme, agender feels fitting too. My pronouns: they/them/theirs. I correct people often. At times they ignore me and I tolerate it to avoid conflict/irritation but it’s upsetting to feel like I’m ‘too much’ in a world that takes so much from trans people constantly.”

Blanca Evangelista (Michaela Jaé Rodriguez) – Pose

In 2021, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez made history when she became the first transgender woman to earn an Emmy Award nomination in a major acting category for her performance as Blanca Evangelista on Pose. Rodriguez’s portrayal of the drama’s resident house mother received universal critical acclaim and also earned her a Golden Globe Award and a Critics’ Choice Award nomination. In an interview with GQ in 2018, the actress explained the importance of letting the transgender community tell their own stories: “I’m glad that we get to be the spokespeople for the story. It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s the best responsibility to ever have. We were a part of it and we get to tell it because we know what it was like to be in the culture.”

Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner) – Bros

Starring the Billy on the Street alum as Bobby Lieber, the host of a New York podcast and radio show called The Eleventh Brick at Stonewall, Bros follows the character as he accepts a position as a curator for Manhattan’s upcoming National LGBTQ+ History Museum and and falls for Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane), a handsome “Tom Brady”-esque gay. In an interview with GAY TIMES earlier this year, Eichner said of the historic film: “We are just so hungry as LGBTQ+ people, as gay men, to see accurate, multi-dimensional and genuinely funny and genuinely smart depictions of ourselves that we don’t get.” He also explained that it was crucial for the dialogue in Bros to reflect how he and his queer circle interact in everyday life by depicting gay people as “funny, sad, lonely, extremely confident, messy, brave, horny and hypocritical adult human beings.”

Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) – Grey’s Anatomy

After appearing in 11 seasons and 239 episodes, Grey’s Anatomy character Callie Torres currently ranks as the longest-running LGBTQ+ character in television history. The Tony Award-winning entertainer behind the beloved surgeon is a member of the LGBTQ+ community too, as Ramirez has spoken about their queer, bisexual and non-binary identities in the past. Ramirez – who goes by she/her and they/them pronouns – is also known amongst the community for their extensive work campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, winning the Ally for Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in 2015.

Candy Ferocity (Angelica Ross) – Pose

After starting her career in Her Story, a 2016 web series about the lives of two transgender women, Angelica Ross found her breakthrough role on Pose as Candy Ferocity – the fiery and outspoken member of the House of Abundance. In season two, the character was was murdered by in a motel room; highlighting the very real problem of trans women of colour being forced into sex work to survive, and in doing so putting their safety at risk of extreme violence and, in this case, murder. Ross subsequently reunited with Murphy on the ninth and tenth seasons of American Horror Story, which made her the first female transgender actress to secure two series regular roles.

Carlos Reyes (Rafael Silva) – 9-1-1: Lone Star

9-1-1: Lone Star’s beloved police officer Carlos Reyes is played by openly gay Brazilian-American actor Rafael Silva. The character’s relationship with TK Strand (Ronen Rubinstein) has become one of the most championed queer romances in recent memory, with the couple affectionately referred to by fans as ‘Tarlos’. In his 2020 digital cover story with GAY TIMES, Silva paid homage to the pioneers who “harvested the fruits” long before him and made it possible for queer love to be mainstream on television. “This love and the representation that comes with being able to be fully out in the industry, playing an LGBTQIA+ character and being loved for your work and who you are, is one of those things that you can’t really claim to be yours,” he explained.

Carson Shaw (Abbi Jacobson) – A League of Their Own

Best known for her beloved role as Abbi Abrams in Broad City, which she co-created with Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson leads Prime Video’s reimagining of A League of Their Own as Carson Shaw, an endearingly awkward yet talented baseball player who abandons her home and army husband to pursue a career with the Peaches in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Carson, who is in a comfortable marriage but is forced to live in the closet due to the era’s social constraints, subsequently finds her community with the Peaches including D’Arcy Carden’s Greta, a cool Mae Morbadito-type who she passionately locks lips with in the premiere and embarks on a forbidden romance with across the series. Jacobson has been engaged to South African actress Jodi Balfour since August 2022.

Casey Gardner (Brigette Lundy-Paine) – Atypical

Brigette Lundy-Paine, who plays LGBTQ+ character Casey Gardner in Netflix’s Atypical, came out as non-binary in 2019. In an Instagram post, Lundy-Paine said they’ve always felt “a lil bit boy, lil bit girl, lil bit neither” and that using they/them pronouns feels right to them. In their original interview with The Advocate, in which they came out as queer, the star revealed how their role in Atypical helped them come to terms with their sexual orientation. “Sam feels like a deep part of myself that I am only now beginning to let out: the insecurities and the complete confusion with the system and the rules that have been laid out for him,” said Lundy-Paine, before adding: “I feel grateful to be part of such an expanding queer community. And there’s something about Atypical that feels part of that.”

Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) – Heartstopper

Joe Locke memorably rose to global superstardom earlier this year as Charlie Spring in Netflix’s queer teen drama Heartstopper, based on the beloved webcomic and graphic novel of the same name from Alice Oseman. Chronicling the romance between Charlie and fellow student Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), the series was a monumental success for the streamer and was renewed for two more seasons. For his performance as Charlie, Locke received acclaim and was nominated for Rising Star at the National Television Awards. The actor, who was recently confirmed to make his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Wandavision spin-off Agatha: Coven of Chaos, is openly gay.

David Rose (Dan Levy) – Schitt’s Creek

Schitt’s Creek won rave reviews throughout its six-season run for its complete absence of homophobia in the storyline and portrayal of David Rose – played by co-creator Dan Levy – and his sexuality, due to the lack of openly pansexual characters on television. Levy, who is gay and has been out to his loved ones since he was 18, made history when the sixth and final season of the Canadian comedy swept all seven major categories at the Primetime Emmy Awards – the first time for a comedy or drama. The series also set a record for most Emmy wins by a comedy series in a single season, and Levy became the first person to win a Primetime Emmy Award in all four major categories in a single year. Yes, Daviiiiid!

Denise (Lena Waithe) – Master of None

Since 2015, Lena Waithe has co-starred alongside Aziz Ansari in Netflix’s comedy-drama, Master of None, as his lesbian best friend. Waithe also wrote the season two episode Thanksgiving, which was loosely based on her personal experience of coming out to her mother. The episode won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, making Waithe the first Black woman to win the award. Thanksgiving also won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Individual Episode. Following accusations of sexual misconduct, Ansari took a step back for the third season and Laithe’s character became the new lead.

Elektra Wintour (Dominique Jackson) – Pose

Widely considered as Pose’s breakout character, Elektra Wintour has been inducted into Gay Twitter’s Hall of Gif Fame thanks to her snappy comebacks and legendary reads, particularly for her takedown of the prudish, transphobic white woman in season two. You know the one, but let’s revisit it here anyway! The star behind Elektra, Dominique Jackson, has been open about her transition since rising to fame with an autobiography, titled The Transsexual from Tobago, which was written over the course of 13 years. Discussing the legacy of Pose, Jackson told Marie Claire in 2020: “It spoke volumes to how the world perceived us, to how FX felt about us, and to how important this show was, how our lives really did matter.”

Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney) – Heartstopper

Yasmin Finney has become one of the media’s most prominent trans women since she was catapulted to stardom on Heartstopper with various fashion campaigns and confirmed roles in Yungblud’s upcoming short film and Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary as Rose, the title character’s new companion. The star’s character in the Netflix series, Elle Argent, is also trans and has been lauded for normalising the trans experience and for refusing to conform to harmful tropes. In a recent appearance on Munroe Bergdorf and Tayce’s MTV series Queerpiphany, Finney said her character “shows trans youth that they can do these amazing things no matter where you are or who you are.”

Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres) – Ellen

Ellen DeGeneres made history for television when her character in her self-titled sitcom, Ellen, came out a lesbian. She, herself, came out concurrent with the episode during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and with a spread in Time Magazine. The iconic episode, titled The Puppy Episode, was a smash hit in the ratings – garnering over 42 million viewers – and was hailed as the “most hyped, anticipated, and possibly influential gay moment on television”. Despite the aforementioned success, and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing, Ellen was cancelled shortly after for being “too gay”.

Howie (Bowen Yang) – Fire Island

Inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, Fire Island stars Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang as Noah and Howie, respectively, best friends who take a week-long vacation with their queer circle to the titular LGBTQ+ hotspot in New York. Yang, who also appeared in a cameo role in Bros, has been a featured player on Saturday Night Live since 2019; becoming the long-running sketch show’s first Chinese-American, first Austrasian-American, third openly gay male and fourth-ever cast member of Asian descent. He later made history as SNL’s first player to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.

Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) – Will & Grace

Although Will & Grace’s Jack McFarland has received mixed reviews over the years for being a ‘stereotypical’ gay due to his flamboyancy (because for some reason, that’s bad), it’s important to note his impact as one of television’s first long-running and openly gay characters. For his performance as the self-absorbed acting coach, Sean Hayes won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. While Hayes refused to discuss his sexuality during Will & Grace’s first run between 1998 and 2006, he opened up in later interviews, telling The Advocate: “Really? You’re gonna shoot the gay guy down? I never have had a problem saying who I am. I am who I am.”

Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) – Jennifer’s Body

Megan Fox won legions of queer fans for her performance as the title character in Jennifer’s Body, who becomes a succubus after a popular indie-rock band sacrifice her in a satanic ritual. Although her character primarily lures men in and consumes them, she states in the film that she goes “both ways” and – in one of the most popular scenes – kisses her best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Fox also identifies as bisexual, and said she believes that “all humans are born with the ability to be attracted to both sexes”. To mark Pride Month 2021, the actress shared a photo of her rainbow-coloured nails alongside the caption: “Putting the B in #LGBTQIA for over two decades.”

Jules Vaughan (Hunter Schafer) – Euphoria

Gritty teen drama Euphoria flew the flag for the transgender community in 2019 with Hunter Schafer’s stunning portrayal of Jules Vaughan, an openly transgender teen who becomes romantically involved with Zendaya’s lead character Jules. “That was something I hadn’t really seen on TV before: a trans girl in a non-hetero relationship, in a queer relationship,” Schafer told Vogue in 2019. “Seeing that spoke to me as a queer trans woman.” While Schafer was known in the industry prior Euphoria for her modelling and LGBTQ+ activism, her performance of Jules has seen her fame skyrocket with countless magazine covers and millions of followers on social media.

Kelsa (Eva Reign) – Anything’s Possible

Helmed by Billy Porter in his directorial debut, Prime Video’s Anything’s Possible follows Eva Reign’s character Kelsa, a trans high schooler who embarks on a relationship with fellow student Khal (Abubakr Ali). Like her character, Reign is a proud member of the trans community and told GAY TIMES earlier this year that the rom-com – and its authentic casting – is proof that the “world is changing”. She said: “Now, we have a movie like Anything’s Possible where a Black trans girl figuring out who she is can watch this cute movie and think, ‘That’s me. I can find love. I can have a career. I can have friends. I can have a loving family. I can just be myself.’”

Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) – Glee

The same year Chris Colfer catapulted to superstardom with his performance as Kurt Hummel, a fashionable countertenor on Ryan Murphy’s Glee, the star spoke openly about his homosexuality in an interview with Chelsea Handler, which made him one of the only out teenagers in Hollywood. Colfer, who played the fan-favourite role for six years, has used his platform to support the It Gets Better campaign and LGBTQ+ charity The Trevor Project, and was a co-chair for the Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party between 2013 and 2014. Since 2013, the Emmy Award-nominated actor has been in a relationship with actor and producer Will Sherrod.

Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) – American Horror Story

Sarah Paulson has played various queer characters throughout her career such as Abby Gerhard in Oscar-winning drama Carol and the title character in Netflix’s horror-thriller prequel series Ratched. But none have reached the same level of adoration, arguably, as her second character on American Horror Story: Lana Winters, a strong-willed lesbian journalist. Has there ever been a character on the anthology series who’s endured as much torture? Paulson has previously described her sexuality as “fluid” and has been in a relationship with Hollywood star Holland Taylor since 2015.

Leighton Murray (Reneé Rapp) – The Sex Lives of College Girls

The entire cast of The Sex Lives of College Girls were praised when the HBO Max show premiered in 2021, but it was Renee Rapp’s portrayal of Leighton Murray, an affluent closeted lesbian with quick wit that stole the hearts of Gay Twitter and queer women around the world. In an interview with Vulture, Rapp said she identifies with the term queer. “I’m 21, and there will be days that I go to my partner and be like, “We need to have a conversation because I think I’m this.” And then I’ll come back and be like, “No, I’m this.” It’s a queer, evolving story,” she explained. “What I think is beautiful about this younger generation is that we have more grace about finding your identity and how these things change and loving that part of yourself.”

Lulu Abundance (Hailie Sahar) – Pose

Like the rest of the cast on Pose, Hailie Sahar is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. Although she’s known for her recurring roles in Mr. Robot, Good Trouble and Eastsiders, it’s her star-making turn in Ryan Murphy’s drama that she is most associated with. For the entirety of the show’s run, the actress played Lulu Abundance, an exotic dancer who departs the House of Abundance to form her own house, the House of Ferocity, with best friend Candy (Angelica Ross). In our 2020 cover interview with Sahar, she said of Pose’s impact: “Pose has really enlightened people to say, ‘I can be smart, I can be beautiful, I can own my truth. I can own who I am and I can be happy.’ It’s given people hope.”

Mae (Mae Martin) – Feel Good

The whole world fell in love with Mae Martin after the UK-based comedian created and starred in the autobiographical Netflix dramedy, Feel Good, alongside Charlotte Ritchie and Lisa Kudrow. After previously resisting to labelling their sexuality, Martin said in 2021 they identify as bisexual and have dated both men and women in the past. Martin, who earned a BAFTA nomination for their work on the series, is also non-binary and has spoken about their gender fluidity at length. In an Instagram post, they said of their pronouns: “I love it when people say ‘they’ but I don’t mind ‘she’ at ALL.”

Marina (Daniela Vega) – A Fantastic Woman

Daniela Vega received critical acclaim for her performance in A Fantastic Woman as young trans woman Marina, a singer and waitress in Santiago whose older boyfriend dies unexpectedly. With its win for Best Foreign Language Film, A Fantastic Woman made history as the first Academy Award-winning film to feature a transgender storyline with an openly transgender actor in the lead role. In 2018, Vega also became the first transgender person to present at the prestigious ceremony. In an interview with The Guardian, Vega said of the relationship between the transgender community and the Republican Party (trust us when we say, it’s a finger-wagging moment): “It actually gives me a physical pleasure to annoy conservatives. I don’t have to be violent, I don’t have to insult anyone – my mere existence shakes those people up.”

Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) – Modern Family

Like Will & Grace, Modern Family has been credited with helping change the perception of gay characters in the United States and popular culture. Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet’s characters, Mitchell and Cameron, were lauded by critics as a stepping stone in the fight for marriage equality, which passed in the US during the mockumentary sitcom’s seventh season. While Stonestreet is a straight, Ferguson is openly gay and has been married to lawyer Justin Mikita since 2013. Their son, Becket Mercer Ferguson-Mikita, was born in 2020.

Noah (Joel Kim Booster) – Fire Island

Joel Kim Booster wrote, produced and starred in Hulu’s Fire Island, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its rejection of harmful queer trauma tropes and its celebration and glorification of Asian and LGBTQ+ culture. Following a group of gay friends who travel to Fire Island for a week-long vacation, Booster’s character Noah is the de-facto leader of the group. In his cover interview for GAY TIMES, Booster – who is gay – says the film stemmed from his need to reassure queer people of their worth. “A big part of wanting to do this project was for me to say, ‘You will find your queer family, and through those people, you will have all of these wonderful experiences and create such an amazing tapestry of joy in your life,’” he explained. “‘Not just “despite being gay”, but because you’re gay.’”

Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) – Heartstopper

Kit Connor was forced to out himself as bisexual by so-called ‘fans’ of Heartstopper, who continuously accused the British actor of ‘queer-baiting’ for not publicly discussing his sexuality. “Back for a minute. I’m bi. Congrats for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself,” he wrote on Twitter. “I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye.” Connor subsequently received support from thousands of actual fans, as well as Heartstopper co-stars Joe Locke, Sebastian Croft and Kizzy Edgell and creator Alice Oseman. In Heartstopper, Connor plays bisexual high schooler Nick Nelson.

Omar Shanaa (Omar Ayuso) – Elite

Since his debut on Netflix’s acclaimed Spanish teen thriller, Elite, Omar Ayuso has garnered millions of followers as a result of his performance as Omar Shanaa and the character’s relationship with Ander Muñoz (Arón Piper), with fans concocting the Brangelina-esque ‘ship’ name “Omander”. His on-screen partner doesn’t identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but Ayuso does: he’s (publicly) been in a relationship with artist Alonso Diaz since March 2020. More recently, Ayuso starred alongside King Princess, Honey Dijon and Isaac Scott Powell in Calvin Klein’s latest Pride campaign.

Paul Strickland (Brian Michael Smith) – 9-1-1: Lone Star

Brian Michael Smith made history with his 9-1-1: Lone Star character, trans firefighter Paul Strickland, as the first out Black trans man in a series regular role on network television. The actor, also known for roles in Ava DuVernay’s Queer Sugar and Showtime’s The L Word: Generation Q, continued to break boundaries for his community when he became the first trans man named in a People’s Sexiest Men Alive list. In an interview with Pride Source, Smith credited “trailblazers” such as Laverne Cox with allowing him to realise, “‘Maybe I can be a trans actor and maybe I can play a trans character. And not just a trans character who’s a victim or the butt of a joke, or a villain, or a side character. A whole series regular.”

Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) – Orange is the New Black

In 2017, Samira Wiley married writer Lauren Morelli after meeting on the set of Orange is the New Black and earlier this year, the two welcomed the birth of their first child, a daughter called George Elizabeth. Wiley received praise for her depiction as gay prison inmate Poussey Washington, whose death in season four sparked outrage amongst the fandom. In a 2018 interview, Wiley revealed that she wasn’t initially out to the world and that one of her fellow cast members, who she didn’t name, outed them to another publication. “First season [of Orange is the New Black] I wasn’t out at all,” she admitted. “Someone from my cast actually, during the interview they were talking about out gay actors in the cast. They mentioned my name and I saw it in print, and I cried. I cried a lot.”

Pray Tell (Billy Porter) – Pose

Billy Porter marked a first for the LGBTQ+ community in 2019 when he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance on Pose, becoming the first openly gay Black man to be nominated and win in any leading category. His character, Pray Tell, emcees the balls in New York and mentors younger members of the community such as the aforementioned Angel (Indya Moore), Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), Candy (Angelica Ross), Lulu (Hailie Sahar) and Ricky (Dyllon Burnside). One of Pray Tell’s most prominent storylines is his HIV/AIDS diagnosis, which hit close to home for Porter following his own diagnosis in 2007. In a powerful essay for The Hollywood Reporter, the star wrote: “The brilliance of Pray Tell and this opportunity was that I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate.”

Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) – Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was lauded for its depiction of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly for Stephanie Beatriz’s tough-as-nails detective Rosa Diaz, who comes out as bisexual in the show’s fifth season. Although she was out to her friends and family for a long time, Beatriz confirmed her bisexuality on Twitter in 2016. Later in an essay for GQ, Beatriz penned an essay about how bisexuality “needs an explanation” and how her nuptials to a man doesn’t erase her attraction for women. “We’ll make vows that I will take very seriously—till death do us part,” she said. “But I’ll be bi till the day I die, baby, and I vow to myself to always sing that truth.”

Ricky Evangelista (Dyllon Burnside) – Pose

Dyllon Burnside starred in 20 episodes throughout Pose’s three-season run as Ricky Evangelista, the ex-boyfriend of Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) and a former member of the House of Evangelista who joins the House of Wintour. Ricky was at the centre of several prominent storylines on the show including his relationship with Pray Tell (Billy Porter), his career as a back-up dancer for Janet Jackson and HIV diagnosis. Speaking with Men’s Health in 2020, Burnside described his identity as “queer, not gay” and said he’d had “relationships — romantic and sexual — with women as well as men.” The star also said, for him personally, queerness is “about understanding that I exist outside of the sexual binary of just gay or straight”.

Ritchie Tozer (Olly Alexander) – It’s A Sin

Best known for his musical career as a member (now the sole member) of chart-topping synthpop group Years & Years, Olly Alexander continued to flex his acting skills last year in Russell T. Davies’ acclaimed Channel 4 drama, It’s A Sin, which chronicles the rise of HIV/AIDS in 1980s London. Like his beloved character Ritchie Tozer, Alexander identifies as gay. He has advocated for various LGBTQ+ causes throughout his career including safe sex, HIV prevention and mental health. After winning at the 2020 British LGBT Awards for BBC documentary Growing Up Gay, Alexander spoke for all of us when he vowed: “I want to make you proud and continue being very gay in whatever situation I find myself in.”

Ryan Hayes (Ryan O’Connell) – Special

Ryan O’Connell based his Netflix series Special on his 2015 memoir, I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, which tells his story as a gay man living with cerebral palsy. The first season was met with widespread acclaim and received three nominations at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly prior to the second season premiere, O’Connell said his aim as a storyteller is to tackle “anything that still has a stigma attached to it” such as gay sex, adding: “I’ve had to suffer through so many straight sex scenes and now everyone else has to pay.”

Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) – Glee

The late Naya Rivera memorably portrayed Glee’s antagonist cheerleader Santana Lopez for six years between 2009 and 2015, which catapulted the actress to superstardom and garnered her a devoted LGBTQ+ following, particularly amongst queer women. Following her tragic death in 2020, a fan said in their tribute: “As a young queer Latina myself watching her fighting and supporting the LGBT community saved my life, I felt seen, the way she portrayed and fought for Santana Lopez impacted me.” During one of her guest stints on The View in 2015, Rivera said she “might be bisexual” and after hearing from Rosie O’Donnell that bisexual women face higher mental health struggles than lesbians, she added: “Rosie, no wonder I’m crazy. This just solves it all.”

Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox) – Orange is the New Black

Since Orange is the New Black burst onto our screens in 2013, fan-favourite transgender inmate Sophia Burset has been hailed as one of the most groundbreaking LGBTQ+ characters in television history, and for good reason: Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to be nominated at the Primetime Emmy Awards in a leading acting category. Following her third nomination, Cox noted the impact of Orange is the New Black and her character on the television industry, telling IndieWire: “Transparent happened after our show premiered, Pose happened after our show premiered. So much progress has been made around trans representation on television [since] the premiere of our show. So, maybe we had a little bit to do with that.”

Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Although Tituss Burgess’ character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is as boisterous as they come, the actor insisted in an interview last year that he’s “probably the most boring of the rainbow gay men” and when he meets people who expect him to be like Titus Andromedon, he apologises. He told The Guardian: “It’s not been the easiest thing to navigate. I like to try and remind people that there’s a public persona and that there’s a private persona.” For his performance as Titus, the star received five nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Theo Putnam (Lachlan Watson) – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Lachlan Watson became one of the youngest non-binary actors in Hollywood when they were cast on the first season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In the fantasy drama, Watson plays Theo Putnam, a trans male student. Their storyline in the second season, in which Theo comes out to his friends – including the title character – was met with critical acclaim. The actor, who is also pansexual, has since become an advocate for the non-binary community and spoke about their identity on the Netflix-produced talk segment, What I Wish You Knew: About Being Nonbinary, alongside other non-binary stars such as Jacob Tobia, Liv Hewson and Shiva Raichandani.

TK Strand (Ronen Rubinstein) – 9-1-1: Lone Star

9-1-1-: Lone Star’s Ronen Rubinstein, who plays gay firefighter Tyler Kennedy “TK” Strand, came out as bisexual in an interview with Variety and credited the procedural drama with helping him come to terms with his sexuality. “The fans, especially the Tarlos fans, it’s one of the biggest reasons that I finally felt safe and comfortable to talk about it and to finally embrace it and be happy about it,” he explained, adding that he wants struggling queer youth to “know that this is a hopeful and happy story” and that “they’re not alone”. In August 2022, Rubeinstein married his longtime girlfriend and Canadian actress Jessica Parker Kennedy in a small Jewish ceremony in Canada.

Vanya Hargreeves (Elliot Page) – The Umbrella Academy

After initially rising to fame with their performance as a pregnant teen in Juno, for which they received an Academy Award nomination, Page starred in several acclaimed dramas and blockbusters including Whip It, Inception and X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, their most cherished role is arguably as trans man Viktor Hargreeves in Netflix’s smash fantasy drama, The Umbrella Academy, a superhero with the power to convert sound into energy. Page came out as a transgender man last year, and subsequently made history as the first transgender man to cover TIME.