Streaming Is For Queers


Many of us can agree that television might be the only thing that can bring a sense of solace after a long day. TV has undergone many changes, especially as we have entered the streaming era. In this new entertainment landscape, consumers can choose the exact type of media they want to enjoy at that moment.

Streaming services give users hours upon hours of media to choose from, and they segment it into different genres and categories to help audiences navigate their interests. One thing that might be seen as novel in the streaming era is the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ section. Loaded with movies, shows, documentaries, and every type of visual media you can think of, this curated celebration of queerness is gaining more and more attention as the decade progresses. So, why is it happening now?

In reality, queer and trans people have existed for centuries beyond this one. However, visual representations in media were nowhere to be found when the Golden Age of Television began. It was a while before we were even featured as side characters. Sometimes, we were included as a plot twist, as if to say, “I bet you didn’t expect this person to turn out gay,” or the infamous “That’s why they were acting so strange.”

It has been over 50 years since the first official appearance of a queer person on primetime TV, and the results of that have not always been favorable. From being portrayed as one-off stereotypes or laughingstocks to being killed off in nonsensical ways, mainstream visibility on a hit show to the average queer watcher became more of a double-edged sword than a basis for accurate representation.

The issues with representation in the past weren’t necessarily due to the lack of queer people in Hollywood—on the contrary, there were loads of queer and trans creatives; we just weren’t given the resources or fair opportunities to tell our stories. Queer media has been more explosive than ever, with queer and trans writers, directors, producers, and actors at the helm. Now, we can finally portray our experiences more accurately by using the connections we didn’t have before. The days of having to watch a gay short film on some non-user-friendly video streaming site are dead. With the advent of streaming culture, queer stories are some of the first things you see when you open Netflix or Hulu.

With this, we are starting to see queer representation in places where previously such creators and their characters weren’t welcomed. Children’s television networks have played an integral part in this new wave of queer media. The big three—Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney—have all reinvented themselves as somewhat queer-friendly spaces for creators to conceive queer and trans animated characters without hesitation. These networks are learning that a gay or trans character in a cartoon won’t have any negative influence on a child. It’ll only normalize something that ultimately is… normal.

An incredible example would be Dana Terrace and her exceptional animated series, The Owl House. The bisexual main character, Luz Noceda, and her lesbian girlfriend, Amity Blight, became Disney’s first animated LGBT female regular characters. Additionally, the British preschool show Peppa Pig recently introduced its first same-sex couple, Penny Polar Bear’s two mothers, in the episode “Families.”

Despite its frequent flaws, Netflix has been the home to a lot of great queer content, especially in the world of animation. American cartoonist ND Stevenson created the incredibly queer She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which ran for five seasons and gave fans multiple queer and non-binary characters, including the fan-favorite romance between friends-to-enemies-to-lovers Princess Adora and Catra.

Another highlight from Netflix’s animation catalog is Dead End: Paranormal Park, focusing on Barney Guttman, who is a gay, transgender boy working at ‘Phoenix Parks,’ an amusement park similar to ‘Dollywood’ named after famous actress Pauline Parks whose real-life drag queen and comedian Miss Coco Peru voices. Throughout the series, Barney finds love with Logs Nguyen, the health and safety officer for the park, makes friends with bisexual film fanatic Norma Khan, and has to confront demons—figuratively and literally.

This show alone is a wonderful sign that television is becoming more positively queer and inclusive. That also made it much more devastating when I found out it had been canceled after only two seasons. Unfortunately, this is one of the many unfair cancelations of a queer show that have happened in recent years.

Luckily, the genre of queer romance has offset the sting of these prematurely canceled shows. Heartstopper and Young Royals on Netflix and Love, Victor on Hulu showcase gay and queer people in their teen years experiencing their first crushes and finding ways to love their identities while navigating the transitional period that is high school.

Along with love, we can laugh and find queer joy in shows like the gone-too-soon sleeper hit Our Flag Means Death, a pirate comedy show focusing on the relationship between the feared pirate captain Blackbeard and “gentlemen pirate” Stede Bonnet. Comedies like The Other Two and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend explore both successful and incredibly misguided queer characters finding their place as adults.

Now, we can finally portray our experiences more accurately by using the connections we didn’t have before.

Along with queer joy, it’s important to note that not every story has a happy ending. That’s why it’s imperative that these narratives are treated with care by queer and trans creators who won’t “bury your gays” or have characters denounce who they are. Despite many of the apparent issues that come from some of Ryan Murphy’s casting decisions, he is responsible for pushing a lot of our modern queer stories on primetime television, including past juggernauts Glee and American Horror Story, and more recently, Feud: Capote vs. The Swans.

One show that has been regarded as Murphy’s crown jewel for accurately emphasizing trans lives and struggles on television is Pose. The series Pose focuses on New York ball culture in the 80s with queer and transgender characters of color taking the lead, who also happens to be played by actual queer and trans actors. This show was unafraid to demonstrate the ups and downs of our communities of marginalized individuals, obviously highlighting the trans and queer joy but also giving attention to more intense issues like HIV and sex work.

Another show that contained exceptional queer POC representation is The Fosters spinoff Good Trouble, centering on a group of twenty-somethings navigating relationships in the current political and social climate of Los Angeles. The main cast included gay, bi, and poly representations and recurring trans and non-binary characters. The original series, The Fosters, also made incredible strides in normalizing queer family dynamics and remains a central piece of queer television history. Stef and Lena Adams Foster will always be the lesbian interracial moms every child deserves.

Queer television has even dipped into the supernatural, fantasy, and horror genres, giving us a new and proper rendition of Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire. In this new series, Louis and Lestat are finally given an appropriate space to show their queerness, unlike in the 1994 film, which was lightly insinuated and much less inclusive. Another notable entry in this genre is the short-lived sapphic vampire Netflix series First Kill, which only received one season despite stellar ratings. In First Kill, we see vampire Juliette and teenage monster-hunter Calliope fall in love despite being on opposite sides of their family’s long-standing battle.

Aside from the abrupt cancelations for shows like First Kill, queer horror fans appear to have something to look forward to every couple of years with Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting anthology series, The Midnight Club, and the more recent Fall of the House of Usher, each supplying prominent queer leads. There is no doubt that another queer horror series is in development by Flanagan for the coming years.

It is also essential to highlight the queer influences behind the camera. Bisexual writer, comedian, producer, actress—you name it—Abbi Jacobson, known for co-creating Broad City, made waves by co-creating the new A League of Their Own, a short-lived series on Amazon Prime that focused on the formation of the Rockford Peaches baseball team, including several sapphic characters. In addition, writer Brittani Nichols brought us endless laughs on Abbott Elementary and Tanya Saracho, who co-created the critically acclaimed Vida. And who can forget Emmy-winning actress, writer, and producer Lena Waithe, who is constantly associated with acclaimed Black shows like The Chi, Them, and Twenties?

Now, something that will continuously irk me is when these beautiful queer stories that we get so excited about are continuously cut short. Too often on streaming platforms will, queer television shows be canceled after one or two seasons. This is all too familiar, especially with shows displaying women loving women. So many examples come to mind from the past few years, including First Kill, A League Of Their Own, and Disney’s Willow.

As a fan of shows like Heartstopper and Young Royals, I can see why the media is more likely to push these shows for renewal. Essentially, a ‘gay TV show’ is more palatable, with Hollywood still being so incredibly focused on cis white men. These two examples also showcase more white men at the forefront, which is a huge reason why these gay stories were allowed to be made in the first place.

Ironically, these stories have opened the door for more queer representation, but it still leaves so much more inclusion to fight for. Queer POC stories, especially ones involving queer women, are the next step, and it’s imperative to support and share these stories so that they don’t immediately get canceled. Shows like the new Australian hit Heartbreak High and Amazon’s Harlem include diverse casts with mostly queer people of color, so change is here.

From this point on, television will see even more queer stories. The reason is that they are relevant and vital and offer something unique and exciting that the same straight, white Hallmark love story seems to be lacking. In short, they actually have something to say.

Being able to finally see oneself on a television screen, incredibly accurately, is reason enough to continue this phenomenon. And with more and more queer folks finding comfort in their identities and reaching out to achieve their dreams within show business, it’s safe to say the age of the straight, cis, white narrative is up. The era of more LGBTQIA stories is upon us, and this era isn’t going away anytime soon.

Enriko Pratt

Enriko Pratt is a fantasy/mystery novelist, performer, and songwriter. You can find him here.