Pride
Justice Smith stars as Chester, an LGBTQ+ character on the HBO Max series 'Generation.'

17 LGBTQ+ Movie And TV Characters Whose Stories Don’t Center Around Coming Out

Give me alllll the nuance.

Warrick Page / HBO Max

It’s not an exaggeration to say that in most LGBTQ+ storylines dreamt up by Hollywood, a major part of the narrative centers on characters coming out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — after all, coming out is still something many people in LGBTQ+ communities have to do at some point, and as such, it’s an important part of the experience that should be represented authentically. However, it’s also important to remember that there’s so much more to LGBTQ+ life than this milestone. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of LGBTQ+ movie and TV characters whose stories aren’t about coming out.

It’s essential to spotlight as many authentic, nuanced stories as possible, because by only featuring stories about coming out or hiding an LGBTQ+ romance in mainstream media, stereotypical, narrow portrayals of people create imbalanced representations of the community with primarily straight people in mind.

Luckily, there are many LGBTQ+ characters who have unique, compelling storylines in which their sexuality is acknowledged and given weight, but is also not the only defining thing viewers learn about them.

From comedy series characters like Schitt’s Creek’s David Rose and Ginny & Georgia’s Max Baker to big screen players like Shiva Baby’s Danielle and Happiest Season’s Riley, here are some great LGBTQ+ characters to watch and enjoy:

1. Amy Antsler, Booksmart

United Artists

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) has already been out to her family and friends for a few years when Booksmart begins. With graduation around the corner, she and her best friend Molly (Beanie Feldstein) attempt to pack all their high school partying into one night. Their wild romp comes complete with Amy’s endearingly awkward first shot at love.

2. Toni Topaz, Riverdale

Toni (Vanessa Morgan) is a proud bisexual girl who balances her on-off romance with it-girl Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and leading the Southside Serpents. While the Riverdale characters have been around for decades, Morgan’s character made history as the franchise’s first bisexual character. In Season 5, she also plays a major role in holding the struggling town together.

3. Carlos Rodriguez, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Carlos (Frankie A. Rodriguez) is more than ready to step into the spotlight. A student choreographer who later took on the role of Lumiere in his high school’s production of Beauty and the Beast, sparks flew between him and fellow thespian Seb (Joe Serafini). Honestly, watching their adorable relationship grow is even more priceless than Carlos’ future Tony Award.

4. Rue Bennett, Euphoria

HBO

Euphoria has become such a massive teen show, it can be easy to forget how major it is that the show’s core relationship is between two girls. Rue (Zendaya) fights with substance use disorder and is learning not to lean into codependency with Jules (Hunter Schafer), and Zendaya portrays her with so much nuance that it’s not hard to see why she won an Emmy. Here’s hoping Rules can grow into a power couple by the show’s end.

5. Danielle, Shiva Baby

If you thought your family gatherings were awkward, imagine going to a shiva and confronting both your sugar daddy and your high school ex-girlfriend. That’s the dilemma that plagues Danielle (Rachel Sennott) throughout the stressful yet hilarious Shiva Baby. Even if you’ve never personally dealt with a nightmare scenario like this, the movie’s exploration of navigating complicated relationships and figuring out your rapidly approaching future are very relatable nonetheless.

6. Max Baker, Ginny & Georgia

While Ginny & Georgia revolves around its titular mother-daughter duo, the show gets a much-needed burst of energy courtesy of Ginny’s (Antonia Gentry) new best friend Maxine (Sara Waisglass). A lesbian teen who’s itching to experience first love alongside her friends, Max has a burgeoning romance with her first girlfriend Sophie (Humberly González). It’s also infectiously fun to watch her take the lead in the school musical — dramatic theater kids deserve that representation.

7. David Rose, Schitt’s Creek

CBC

It’s rare to see a show not only acknowledge pansexuality, but feature a pansexual main character openly living his life. Luckily, the beloved sitcom Schitt’s Creek is that very show thanks to David (Dan Levy). Watching the sarcastic yet lovable Rose sibling find love with his future hubby Patrick (Noah Reid) is simply the best.

8. Riley, Happiest Season

Happiest Season may center on a woman coming out, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feature LGBTQ+ characters with a variety of experiences. One memorable figure is main character Harper’s (Mackenzie Davis) undeniably cool ex-girlfriend, Riley (Aubrey Plaza), who takes Harper’s current girlfriend, Abby (Kristen Stewart), under her wing during a stressful holiday season. Who doesn’t want to watch Plaza and Stewart enjoy a Christmas drag show?

9. Jesper Fahey, Shadow and Bone

Although the heist vibe of the Crows’ storyline in Netflix’s Shadow and Bone can be intense, Jesper (Kit Young) gives off effortless charm as the group’s wisecracking sharpshooter. While he’s not immune to the occasional tumble in the hay with a stable boy during a mission, he’s a reliable asset to his found family through thick and thin. If Shadow and Bone comes back for a second season, let’s hope to see sparks between him and fellow Six of Crows book character, Wylan.

10. Sophia Burset, Orange Is the New Black

Nuanced trans representation in mainstream media is slowly but steadily improving, and one massively important character in that push for better storytelling is Sophia Burset (played by an Emmy-nominated actor Laverne Cox). As the hairdresser at a women’s prison, Sophia becomes a close friend to many. All the while, she attempts to maintain her bond with her son in the outside world.

12. Siobhan Sheehan, Mare of Easttown

Mare of Easttown does a great job of exploring how main character Mare’s (Kate Winslet) Pennsylvania hometown can shape its residents for better or for worse and provides a rich tapestry of the townspeople in doing so. One crucial character is Mare’s teenage daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice), a filmmaker who’s torn between her desire to pursue her dreams and what she sees as her responsibility to stick around town after her brother’s death. As she struggles to make a decision about her future, her new girlfriend, Anne (Kiah McKirnan), helps reminder her it’s OK to put her own desires first sometimes.

13. Chester, Generation

HBO

While it used to seem like every gay teen character’s storyline revolved around coming out, Generation’s Chester (Justice Smith) shows how Gen Z is challenging those outdated archetypes. An openly gay, unapologetically flamboyant presence, Chester is also a star student and a popular water polo player. He got his heart broken crushing on his guidance counselor, but a romance between him and his bisexual classmate Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) could be in the cards.

14. Arizona Robbins, Grey’s Anatomy

Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) came out as a lesbian to her supportive family years before her character was introduced as the new board director of Grey Sloan Memorial. When she wasn’t heading up the fetal surgery ward, Arizona struck up a romance with fellow surgeon Callie (Sara Ramirez). Although they had their ups and downs, they went on to raise their daughter together and continue killing it in the operating room.

15. Blanca Evangelista, Pose

FX

One of the most beautiful elements of LGBTQ+ culture is the importance placed on chosen family members. In Pose, Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) is the iconic matriarch of her own found family: The House of Evangelista. Acting as a mother to many other members of New York City’s trans community of color, she’s the beating heart of this show.

16. Syd, One Day at a Time

After outspoken teen Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gomez) comes out as a lesbian in this family sitcom, she meets her match in her endearingly nerdy non-binary partner Syd (Sheridan Pierce). The two share a love of activism and all things fandom, leading Elena to refer to them as her “Syd-nificant other.” More non-binary sitcom characters (and non-binary characters, period), please!

17. Damian, Mean Girls

Damian (Daniel Franzese) is literally introduced in Mean Girls as “too gay to function.” While he does fall into the “gay best friend” trope that was even more prevalent when Mean Girls came out in the early 2000s, Franzese’s impeccable comedic timing makes Damian a memorable comedy character for the ages. Please give him his pink shirt back.

18. Moira Strand, The Handmaid’s Tale

Hulu

Moira (Samira Wiley) is a proud lesbian who has a strong sisterhood with Handmaid’s Tale protagonist June (Elisabeth Moss), even when they’re forced to endure the horrors of Gilead together. After she escapes, she fully embraces activism and plays a key role in helping refugees make their way to freedom. Here’s hoping Moira’s budding relationship with coworker Oona (Zawe Ashton) can really take off in the future.