The LGBTQIA+ community has faced many challenges trying to achieve positive representation in the media—even facing legal obstacles. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment was evident since the early days of TV. The Hays Code, for example, was a list of guidelines that came out in 1930 that outlined what would be allowed on TV. For three decades, it banned any outright portrayals of homosexuality in film and television, as they were seen as 'sexual persuasions' and 'perversion.'
This resulted in poor and subtle representation since productions got around these guidelines through portraying queer-coded characters. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community were often represented as villains, one-dimensional characters, and often as the butt of jokes. Representation has gradually become more open about displaying gay characters, but for decades the community was stuck with surface-level stereotypes and throwaway characters like the 'gay best friend' trope, 'the Sissy,' the 'maiden aunt,' etc.
As society becomes more open and accepting, we have begun to receive more complex and well-developed characters in media, especially with the explosion of Queer cinema in the 1990's. Media coverage of queer artists, actors, directors and plot lines has become more prevalent compared to the past. We're now in a golden age with the popularization of Queer media that openly portrays complex and empathetic queer stories told by voices from within the community.
Below you’ll find a variety of recommendations from the tutors at the Reading and Writing Center featuring some of our favorite Queer tv shows, movies, comics, musicals, books, and artists.
Hannah L. recommends:
Atypical (TV Series)
This is a really great TV show about a teenager named Sam who is on the autism spectrum, and it's all about him and his sister Casey as they navigate everyday life as high school students and eventual college students. Casey is bisexual and eventually starts dating a girl, so that's where the LGBTQ+ representation comes in. It's really cute and has a lot of representation for minority populations AND teaches you a lot about how to treat people on the autism spectrum and not be ableist.
Tags: wlw, neurodiversity / neurodivergent, bisexual representation
Rosa C. recommends:
The Half of It (Film)
The movie is about Ellie Chu, a shy, straight-A Chinese-American high schooler, who is asked by the school jock to help him woo a girl. However, it turns out they both are crushing on the same pretty, smart, popular girl and things get a bit messy. Its a queer coming of age story that touches on themes of love, friendship, and longing. It explores both platonic and romantic relationships between its main cast and also the intersection of Ellie's queer experience with other aspects like her life like being a second generation immigrant.
Tags: LGBTQ+ coming of age film, wlw love <3, POC LGBTQ+ main character, Asian rep :)
Rating: +10/10; it had me in ugly tears of sadness, laughter, and joy :,)
Also, the film was written and directed by Alice Wu, a queer, Asian-American film director; it can be found on Netflix.
Haley S. recommends:
Cherry Magic (Manga and TV Series Adaptation)
Established in a old wives tale, the protagonist gains the power to read minds by touch because he is still a virgin with no love life at 30 years old. This freaks him out in general, but then, he touches the arm of his popular and successful co-worker, and realizes something he never knew about him.
Tags: heartwarming, bi rep, gay rep, positive portrayals of women, comedy, lighthearted, silly, happy endings
Adachi can be kind of a difficult protagonist, because for the first few episodes, he's still dealing with learning he might like another man, and he isn't confident about pursuing that. However, once he and Kurosawa get closer, their love story is really sweet. My favorite character is Adachi's best friend, who also gains this power despite claiming to be experienced -- his actor is super funny.
Annie B. recommends:
Our Dreams at Dusk (Manga Series)
This short manga series follows Tasuku Kaname, a young teen struggling with accepting his sexuality who meets with a small group of people apart of the LGBTQ+ community at a drop-in center where they provide each other support and friendship through their different struggles. This series displays the harsh reality that people of the LGBTQ+ community face when coming out and being open with who they are but also highlights the comfort and relief that could come from finding people who support and accept you.
Tags: mlm, wlw, trans rep, asexual rep, heartwarming, coming of age
Rating: 9/10, I just wish it was longer :,)
Rosa C. also recommends:
Midnight Furies (Comic Series)
A sports comic centered on Zoe, ex-basketball-ace forced to drop out of high school to support her brothers after the death of her parents. Luckily, her mysterious friend Chase can get her into a mysterious, supernatural basketball tournament no one's ever heard of—in a different dimension! One where you play for time added onto your life!
Tags: sports manga vibes, supernatural mystery, straight AND queer slow-burn romance,
Rec 14+ because of language and some physical violence
Its unique art style helps give it badass action scenes and its topped off with some great story development and hilarious character interactions. I don't know anything about basketball but this is currently my favorite comic by far.
You can read this story on Webtoon for free! NOTE: it is still in progress! Its currently at 10 full chapters as of (4/27/2022).
Yuritza N. recommends:
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Animated Series)
Best friends to enemies to lovers story!! The premise of the story is of two girls (Catra and Adora) who were raised in the "evil" Horde. One day, Adora discovers that she is a magical princess and allies with the princesses of the planet to save it. Catra decides to stay in the evil side and tension builds up between the main characters.
Tags: wlw main couple, transgender representation, bisexual representation, nonbinary character, trans woman, and more!
Yuritza N. also recommends:
The Owl House (Animated Series)
Luz is a "quirky" girl who never fits in. One day, she passes a door into a different universe where witches and magical beings exist. She starts studying how to be a witch with the help of Eda, the owl lady, and an adorable demon named King. They go on many adventures together as Luz starts making friends and they uncover the mysteries of the Boiling Isles.
Tags: Latinx protagonist, heartwarming, wlw main couple, nonbinary representation, bisexual rep, lesbian rep, queer characters, and more!
I love all of the fantasy aspects of it and that it is a "children's show" so it helps introduce queer representation into younger generations.
Rosa C. also recommends:
Gourmet Hound (Comic Series)
Lucy, a woman with an uncanny sense of taste and smell, is devastated after she discovers that her favorite restaurant has changed kitchen staff. She's devastated to realize she doesn't know the identity of the chef whose cooking she's loved for years. When a lucky accident leads her to two of the restaurant's former chefs, Lucy decides that she will do everything she can to track down each of their old colleagues in order to rediscover that "perfect taste".
Tags: variety of LGBTQ+ trans and nonbinary rep, POC rep, Muslim rep, incredible mental health representation, diverse cultural rep
Rating: +9.5/10 because I can't eat the delicious food that's shown
It's got fantastic overall representation and storytelling, weaving in themes of food, home, loss, and growth.
Ulysses O. recommends:
Revolutionary Girl Utena (Anime)
A tomboy named Utena by fate gets involved in dueling over the "Rose Bride" named Anthy, as whoever is "engaged" to her will have "the power to revolutionize the world". As Utena fights for Anthy's right to be a person instead of an object to fulfill the wishes of others , the two steadily grow closer.
Tags: wlw, heartwarming, dark content
The show deals with heavy topics such as sexual and physical abuse, grooming, and incest so keep that in mind before watching.
The anime has a lot of symbolism and allegories, with some major concepts like the "Rose Bride" not being fully explained, so there's room for interpretation. I also love the main theme of the show, that two people can overcome trauma and abuse through the love for each other as well as themselves.