According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, around 8% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+. This may not seem like a large percentage, but this number encompasses at least 20 million people in the United States who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or another identity that falls under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.

Because of heteronormativity, which is the idea that everyone in society is cisgender and heterosexual, many queer people grow up not knowing or understanding their queerness. One way that queer individuals can see their stories get told and their identities expressed is through characters in television. Watching fictional characters with canonical queer identities in TV shows allows for LGBTQ+ people to find community and discover themselves. As a queer person myself, it is comforting and uplifting to see LGBTQ+ characters in the shows I watch because it reminds me that I am not alone in my queerness.

While there is a lot of poor representation for queer people in television or an absence of queer people at all, there are still shows out there with relatable queer characters that members of the LGBTQ+ community can identify with. In the upcoming sections, I will be highlighting three of my personal favorite queer characters from my favorite TV shows and why they are so meaningful to me.

Isaac Higgintoot from Ghosts

Ghosts is a comedy show on CBS about a couple, Samantha and Jay, who inherit a haunted mansion called Woodstone in upstate New York. After Sam sustains a head injury, she gains the ability to see and communicate with the ghosts that haunt the house. One of the ghosts who haunts the mansion is named Isaac Higgintoot, who was a captain in the American Revolution who died of dysentery on the Woodstone property.

From the beginning of the first season, there are hints that Isaac is a closeted gay man who is not very good at hiding his feelings. He develops a crush on Jay and will say things like “I mean, did you see his shoulders? And that V-shaped back?” and “I watched Jay sand for hours, getting sweatier…and sweatier…”

Later in season one, we are introduced to Isaac’s main love interest on the show, who is a British officer ghost from the Revolution named Nigel Chessum. Throughout the show, we see Isaac and Nigel navigate their feelings which eventually leads to a confession scene during the season one finale, their first kiss during the season two Christmas special, and Isaac proposing to Nigel in the season 2 finale.

What I find most appealing about their relationship is how naturally it progresses throughout the show. Since they both lived during an era where being gay was highly criminalized, it makes sense that it would take them a while to accept who they are as well as their feelings for each other in the afterlife. The writers of Ghosts did a good job of pacing their relationship so that they got together in a realistic manner. Isaac’s growth is incredible to watch and means a lot to me as a queer person.

One standout scene with Isaac’s growth is from season one, episode 15 where Isaac comes out to Hetty, who is a Victorian ghost. The secondary plot of the episode revolves around Isaac flirting with Hetty in an attempt to appear as a straight man. Everyone else in Woodstone except for Hetty sees right through his act, but after one of the other characters can make a revelation about their past, Isaac gains the courage to be honest with Hetty and tell her about his feelings for Nigel.

One line that jumps out at me every time I watch Isaac’s coming out scene is when he says, “And I guess I just felt that if I ever spoke of these matters out loud, it would mean that everything that came before it was a lie.” For many queer people, we have to hide who we are, which makes us feel like we are wearing a mask and being fake towards other people. However, queer people are not intentionally being untruthful; our environment is often too hostile and unwelcoming towards us that we feel we have to lie about our feelings. Seeing Isaac be accepted by Hetty and later by the other ghosts shows that queer individuals can be accepted for who they are, which is very inspiring to see.

Crowley from Good Omens

Good Omens is a show on Amazon Prime Video that is about an angel named Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley who must work together to thwart the start of Armageddon. The first season is based on the book Good Omens written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and the second season is a continuation of the story.

While Crowley is not labeled with any specific LGBTQ+ identity, Neil Gaiman has confirmed that Crowley is queer in a multitude of ways. For instance, while for most of the show Crowley presents as male and is referred to with he/him pronouns, there are a couple of instances in which Gaiman has confirmed that Crowley presents as a female and uses she/her pronouns. One instance is when Crowley dresses up as a female nanny in order to keep an eye on the Antichrist child. Another instance is during a flashback to Christ’s crucifixion on the cross and Crowley is there dressed in traditionally feminine attire.

Because Crowley appears to switch genders or at least gender presentations, he is considered by many fans to be genderfluid. However, other fans consider him to be agender because of some information that Gaiman and Pratchett included in the book version of Good Omens. According to the book, angels and demons are sexless beings. This then begs the question of if they do not have a sex, can they have a gender and/or multiple genders?

While we do not currently have an answer to that question, there is no doubt that Crowley is a queer individual. During season two, a lady says to him “You’re a good lad,” to which he responds “I’m not actually either. But thank you.” This at the very least is an indication that Crowley is not a man and is instead something else, like perhaps agender, genderfluid, nonbinary, or unlabeled. The reason Crowley is such a good representation of queer identities is because his own sex and gender is ambiguous, which allows for fans to headcanon or project their own identities and experiences onto him.

Not only is Crowley himself excellent representation, but his relationship with Aziraphale is also queer in a plethora of ways that many people can relate to. Neil Gaiman has confirmed that Crowley and Aziraphale’s story is a love story between the two of them. While there are many hints throughout seasons one and two that they have feelings for each other, Crowley eventually admits his feelings for Aziraphale and kisses him in a devastating ending scene during the season two finale. Like Crowley, Aziraphale is not a man, but rather a male-presenting being, so while the love between them appears to be gay love, describing it as queer love or just love on its own is a more accurate description.

Neil Gaiman has also confirmed that he wrote Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship as an asexual one, meaning that their love and connection with each other does not depend upon sex but rather upon acts of romance and other acts of love. Just like with Crowley’s gender, Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship can be labeled in many ways, and it is up to fans to interpret what exactly their relationship is. No matter what way it is depicted, however, it is always a queer romance between two queer individuals.

Elle Argent from Hearstopper

Heartstopper is a TV show on Netflix based on web comics of that same name. It mainly follows the love story between Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring, who are bisexual and gay respectively. However, there are other queer characters in the show who also have some intriguing storylines. One of those characters is Elle Argent, a transgender girl.

During the first season, we follow Elle as she adjusts to attending the girl’s school instead of attending the boy’s school she previously was at with Charlie and their friends, Tao and Isaac. She mentions how hard it is to not only be the new girl, but also the new trans girl. However, eventually she meets Tara and Darcy, who are a lesbian couple, and they help her feel welcome at her new school.

While Elle’s trans identity is not discussed very much in the show, I think this is actually a good thing. Queer characters in TV shows are often tokenized, meaning that they are added just to say that the show is inclusive. However, these characters are often caricatures of queer people that are based on harmful stereotypes. Trans people in particular face stigmas in the media, and they are often dehumanized. Heartstopper does a good job of making Elle more than just her transgender identity. She is a fleshed-out character with problems other than just transphobia.

Despite her trans identity not being brought up very often, the times that do address it are very meaningful. For instance, there is a scene where she mentions that Harry, a boy who often bullies Charlie, also used to be transphobic towards her when she was still at the boy’s school. There is also a scene in which Tao mentions a teacher at the boy’s school who refused to call her Elle.

These instances address the transphobia that Elle faces without reducing her character down to “the trans girl.”

In season one, we start to see the development of a romantic relationship between Elle and her best friend Tao, but they don’t get together until season two. While their relationship appears to be a heterosexual one from an outsider’s perspective, it is still meaningful to show a trans girl in a healthy relationship with a cishet man. Just like being transgender in general, there is stigma surrounding relationships involving trans people. What I like best is Elle and Tao’s natural slow-burn romance and how it is not depicted as weird that Tao or Elle have feelings for each other because Elle is trans. Overall, the normalization of queer and trans identities and relationships in Heartstopper is what makes this show stand out in the crowd.

Why Queer Representation is Important

Seeing queer characters in the media is important because it helps LGBTQ+ individuals discover who they are and help them find community with each other. All forms of diversity and representation are important to include in shows because it more accurately reflects society. It’s imperative that people recognize that not everyone is cisgender and/or heterosexual and portraying individuals who do not fit into these categories helps to educate people on the variety of sexual orientations and gender identities. Whether you are queer or not, I highly recommend checking out these shows if you are interested in learning more about LGBTQ+ individuals and their journeys.

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