Back in the dark ages known as the 1990’s there was barely a queer character to be found in popular media. All us baby gays were forced to read queerness into every potentially LGBTQIA character with rabid desperation. While the turn of the millennium and the rise of the millennial has brought an increase in queer representation to the big and silver screen alike, we are still a long way off from complete media saturation.
Which is why we are celebrating 10 iconic fictional queer characters. Did we miss your favorite? Comment below to let us know who your favorite icon is and why they’re so special to you.
Cosima Niehaus - Orphan Black
Cosima is a nerd, genius, lesbian and one of the main character clones from the scifi series Orphan Black. Cosima’s sexuality is introduced early in the show when she expresses attraction to her monitor, Delphine. Despite the fact that the show queers Cosima in the first season, it’s not written as a critical part of her personality. In fact, Cosima sets hella boundaries around her sexuality as a core part of her personality when in season two, episode two she says, “my sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me.”
Elena - One Day at a Time
Elena is the fictional embodiment of why us millennials are so excited about Gen Z. She is an openly gay Lantinx brainiac who eschews aesthetics in favor of political activism, much to the chagrin of her Abuela. Elena's intersectional identity makes up a central part of her character as she navigates both her race and sexuality throughout the series. She is also dating the non-binary Syd who's mere presence on the show is noteworthy. Sadly, Netflix recently cancelled One Day at a Time for unknown reasons, though there are rumors circulating that the creators will attempt to find a new home for One Day at a Time's fourth season, and that ABC All Access has made a bid for production rights.
Willow Rosenberg - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Willow starts off the Buffy series as the quintessential quiet, computer nerd, wallflower type who goes on to have an epic glow-up as the show progresses. Willow finishes the season as a lesbian babe and powerful witch. One of the most relatable parts about Willow’s journey is her initial attraction to men and later infatuation with women, an arc that has some viewers questioning if Willow is actually bi. However, Willow states that she is a lesbian and even though Willow is a fictional character we have to take her at her word.
Lexa - The 100
Lexa is the strong leader of the Ground clan, and a character who was written for the show version of The 100 but who was not in the original books. She views love as a weakness after the death of her girlfriend Costia. While adored by critics and fans alike, Lexa’s plot line has been critiqued for being overly tragic especially as it concerns her relationship with Clarke, a main character and one of the original 100. Lexa’s death comes almost immediately after she and Clarke sleep together and has been cited as a key example of the bury-your-gays trope. In reaction to Lexa’s death, the convention ClexaCon was established as a means for developing meaningful conversations about LGBTQIA characters in the media.
Rosa Diaz - Brooklyn 99
Detective Rosa Diaz is one of Brooklyn 99’s main characters, a total badass, and our new favorite bisexual crush. In the 99th episode (“Game Night”) of the series Rosa breaks from her tight-lipped, tough-gal demeanor and reveals that she’s bisexual and currently dating a woman. Later in the episode she also comes out to the rest of the squad, but also her parents, with only her father taking it well. Bi coming-out stories are few and far between and we’re thrilled to see an honest look at the experience.
Bill Potts - Dr. Who
Bill appears in the 10th series of Doctor Who as a companion of the Doctor, the first openly gay companion. The first openly gay and Black companion. Intersectionality babies, it’s happening! Beyond Bill’s extraordinary adventures with the Doctor, her sexuality is treated as nothing short of ordinary. As showrunner Stephen Moffat attests, he didn’t want kids watching the show to see Bill’s sexuality as something unique, frightening, or like they’re some kind of special case. Bill’s queerness is portrayed as part of her whole, not her only talking point.
Nomi Marks - Sense8
Nomi Marks is one of the eight principal characters on the Netflix original series Sense8 where she plays a transgender political blogger and hacker. Better yet? The actor Jamie Clayton is actually trans. As we all know from the ScarJo controversy, casting trans people in trans narratives is not something Hollywood has been very open to. Beyond that, the series is directed by the Wachowski sisters, both trans women. Nomi’s character arc is deeply intermeshed with her lesbian love interest, Amanita Caplan. Together the two form an sapphic adventure team filled with love and the desire to rip holes in societal norms. The Nomi/Amanita arc is easily one of the best parts of an otherwise problematic show.
Moira - The Handmaid's Tale
In the Hulu adaption of Margaret Atwood’s iconic dystopian classic Moira plays a central character. Within the first few episodes we learn that Moira is a lesbian, and that during the revolutionary takeover of the Sons of Jacob, her girlfriend was sent to the colonies where those who are undesirable in the new order go to die. Moira, along with fellow lesbian Emily, are counted on for their resilience as they go through numerous atrocities and traumas at the hands of men.
Thunder - Black Lightning
Black Lightning is another superhero TV offering from the DC universe and airs on CW. The narrative revolves around the Pierce family with Thunder aka Anissa Pierce stealing the show. Not only do Thunder’s powers differ dramatically from both her father (Black Lighting) and her sister (Lightning), she is also an out and proud Black lesbian. Showrunners have said that the development of Thunder’s sexuality will be more than a passing mention as she is slated to get a love interest in the form of fellow queer POC Grace Choi who is portrayed as bi in both the comic books and show.
Villanelle - Killing Eve
Killing Eve is a spy vs. spy thriller featuring two fiercely intelligent babes on opposite sides of the law. Eve is the law abiding MI5 officer tasked with tracking down the international assassin Villanelle. Meanwhile Villanelle lives on the darker, amoral side of the narrative. What makes Villanelle so engaging is that her sexuality is not explicitly spelled out, nor is a relationship the center of her narrative. Instead, Villanelle and Eve spin around each other in a sometimes romantic, sometimes vengeful game of cat and mouse.
TomboyX is going to be at ClexaCon this year. While we're there we'll be running a special contest where you can vote on your favorite fictional queer character for the chance to win 5 pairs of TomboyX underwear. Be sure to stop by our booth and enter.