8 LGBTQ+ Characters Who Teach & Inspire Us

Mj Rodriguez Pose Isabella Gomez One Day at a Time DeRon Horton Dear White People
FX; Netflix; Pop TV

The lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community are as diverse as the community itself.

Thanks to a number of innovative TV shows, the small screen is bursting with characters who represent and teach about queer history and the lives of LGBTQ+ folk today, from One Day at a Time‘s Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gomez) to Pose‘s Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) to Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher).

Greg Berlanti Looks Back on Breaking LGBTQ Barriers on TV (VIDEO)See Also

Greg Berlanti Looks Back on Breaking LGBTQ Barriers on TV (VIDEO)

Which character from his many television series is actually closest to the prolific producer himself?

Scroll through the gallery below for a look at eight characters who break all known tropes and inspire us through their personal triumphs.

Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gomez) poses for a selfie with two others

Elena Alvarez (One Day at a Time)

Over the last four seasons of One Day at a Time, Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gomez) has been a fantastic role model for LGBTQ youth. She is a passionate advocate for social justice and environmental awareness. She is unafraid to push back against injustices that she sees in her own family as well, such as referring to God in gendered terms and accepting the “boys will be boys” mentality. Most inspirational of all is her relationship with Syd (Sheridan Pierce), her non-binary partner since Season 2. Elena and Syd’s queer love story’s visibility and depth have been critically acclaimed and recognized through a nomination for a GLAAD Media Award.

Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa) leans forward to speak in an orange outfit

Eric Effiong (Sex Education)

Despite growing up in an ultra-traditional household, Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa) is unafraid to present himself as he sees fit. With confidence and spontaneity to spare, Eric is the yin to Otis’ (Asa Butterfield) yang, especially through his killer wardrobe choices. He does not compromise when it comes to living an authentic lifestyle, whether it’s dressing in drag or wearing makeup while also donning traditional Ghanaian attire. Above all, Eric shows that it’s okay for men to be expressive and confident in their queerness.

Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) holds her hands to her hips in a tense moment
Michael Parmelee/FX

Blanca Evangelista (Pose)

What makes Pose such a dynamic show is that it is written by and stars gay, trans, and POC actors. Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) is the epitome of the series’ exploration of the resilience, power, and strength of the LGBTQ community in the 1980s. As a trans woman, Blanca had to overcome verbal abuse from a conservative household, rent discrimination from racist landlords, and condemnation from within the ballroom culture because of her inability to “pass.” Despite this, Blanca creates a legacy by forming her own house (family) and becoming the nurturing “mother” for Damon Richards (Ryan Jamaal Swain), Angel (Indya Moore), and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel). No wonder she’s crowned “Mother of the Year” at the end of Season 1!

Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) looks up from his very important looking work

Captain Raymond Holt (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

From his backstory alone, Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) is someone to look up to. He worked his way up the NYPD ranks as an openly gay man at the peak of the AIDS scare in the 1980s. Fighting consistent discrimination, homophobia, and slander, Holt defied all odds to become the first openly gay police captain in New York City. He is well respected for his advocacy as well, being the founder of the first publicly funded support group for Black LGBT police officers: the African-American Gay and Lesbian New York City Policeman’s Association (A.A.G.L.N.Y.C.P.A.).

Todd (Aaron Paul) poses with a photo of himself on a phone

Todd Chavez (BoJack Horseman)

The lovable slacker roommate from BoJack Horseman comes out as asexual in Season 4’s “Hooray! Todd Episode!.” Todd (Aaron Paul) dispels the biggest misconception about ace folk: being asexual means that one cannot experience romantic attraction or have a partner. Todd’s relationship with Yolanda Buenaventura (Natalie Morales) defies this preconceived notion and showcases TV’s first animated asexual relationship. Todd also gives the most accessible description of aromanticism versus asexuality in any television show: “Think of it this way: One could be a.) romantic, or b.) aromantic, while also being a.) sexual, or b.) asexual… Even within the one percent of the world that’s asexual, there’s an even smaller percentage that is still looking for romantic companionship.”

Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton) looks off into the distance

Lionel Higgins (Dear White People)

Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton) is still trying to find his place in the world. As a young Black queer man, his struggles to find his unique subculture in the LGBTQ community is super relatable. Watching Lionel put in the work (and not always succeed) in social and romantic situations is a positive reinforcement of the adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Lionel’s determination to put himself into uncomfortable situations pays off when he meets Wesley (Rudy Martinez), his future partner, at a party in Season 2. In the end, being young is all about learning from failures, something that Lionel inspires in the rest of us.

The Gems pose with Steven Universe in a promotional shot for Steven Universe
Cartoon Network

The Gems (Steven Universe)

Described as “non-binary women” by creator Rebecca Sugar, Pearl (Deedee Magno), Garnet (Estelle), and Amethyst (Michaela Dietz) radically changed the landscape of children’s TV programming. The three gems, hailing from an alien planet known as “Homeworld,” break many cultural conventions with no questions. They raise the titular character, Steven Universe, without gender roles such as “mother” or father,” perform the first same-sex wedding in a kid’s cartoon, and, in Pearl’s case, are involved in a polyamorous relationship. Above all, the Gems prove that queer issues such as identity can and should be understood by young audiences.

Mac (Rob McElhenney) poses as a woodsman in a promotional still for 'Its Always Sunny...'
Patrick McElhenney/FXX

Mac (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

Hear us out. Mac (Rob McElhenney) starts off It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as no role model. He is dominated by feelings of self-loathing and homophobia that manifest in several inexcusable fashions. In Season 11, however, Mac undergoes a journey of self-acceptance that helps him re-evaluate his highly conservative religious beliefs and bravely come out to his friends. Coming from a household that deemed gay men weak and not masculine, Mac’s most significant triumph comes when he unabashedly comes out to his homophobic father through a beautiful interpretative dance. Though his father rejects him, Mac achieves something much greater through his artistic declaration: self-love.