Pride
Charlie in Heartstopper

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

Because there's so much more to explore.

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Netflix

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 — coming out is something many people who aren’t straight feel they need to do at some point in their lives. For many, it’s an important part of the LGBTQ+ experience that should be represented fairly. However, it’s also important to remember there’s so much more than this one milestone, and that to capture the full spectrum of LGBTQ+ characters, movies and TV shows need to focus not just on coming out, but on the whole picture.

Featuring stories about coming out, or characters hiding an LGBTQ+ romance, is a stereotypical way to portray the LGBTQ+ in movies and shows. It can lead to narrow portrayals aimed primarily with straight people in mind. As same-sex romance and on-screen portrayals grow in popularity, it has become more essential to spotlight authentic, nuanced stories that factor in every kind of experience. After all, the LGBTQ+ community is anything but a monolith.

Luckily, there are many 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. Here’s a rundown of some of the best portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters that don’t center on their coming-out stories, and where to stream them.

01

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.

Booksmart is streaming on Hulu.

02

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

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

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is streaming on Disney+.

03

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.

Orange Is The New Black is streaming on Netflix.

04

Ivan Taylor, The Wilds

The Wilds’ first season focused on eight castaway girls in the Dawn of Eve program. Season 2 introduced their counterparts, the Twilight of Adam boys, including the out and proud Ivan (Miles Gutierrez-Riley). Before the crash, he was an activist, looking to take down those he saw as spreading hate, including one of his fellow castaways, Kirin (Charles Alexander). The two aren’t friends and will probably never like each other; however, they find themselves on the same page when it comes to survival, and their united front sways more than a few of their fellow castaways to get with the program.

The Wilds is streaming on Prime TV.

05

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. Though the couple ended Season 2 on the outs, fans still hope Season 3 will see them find their way back to each other.

Euphoria is streaming on HBO Max.

06

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.

Schitt’s Creek is streaming on Netflix, but will move to Hulu in October 2022.

07

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.

Shiva Baby is streaming on HBO Max.

08

Syd, One Day at a Time

One Day At A Time started with a coming-out story for Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gomez) in this family sitcom. But the series leveled up in a big way when 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!

One Day at a Time Seasons 1 through 3 are streaming on Netflix. Season 4 is expected to arrive on Paramount+ in the summer of 2022.

09

Blanca Evangelista, Pose

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.

All three seasons of Pose are streaming on Hulu.

10

Charlie Spring, Heartstopper

The Heartstopper webcomic was originally a spinoff of author Alice Oseman’s first novel, Solitaire, centered around protagonist Tori Spring. Both the comic and the series Heartstopper follow the story of Tori’s younger brother Charlie (Joe Locke), who has been out for years by the time his story starts. Though his first love, Nick (Kit Connor), struggles with the choice to come out, Charlie’s coming-of-age story is one seen far less, detailing how being out isn’t a magic cure for the problems of growing up.

Heartstopper is streaming on Netflix. Seasons 2 and 3 have been greenlit.

11

Siobhan Sheehan, Mare of Easttown

Mare of Easttown does a great job of exploring how 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 remind her it’s OK to put her own desires first sometimes.

Mare of Easttown is streaming on HBO Max.

12

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. The series has also cast his love interest from Six of Crows for the next season, so fans can look forward to more of his story.

Shadow and Bone is streaming on Netflix.

13

Moira Strand, The Handmaid’s Tale

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.

The Handmaid’s Tale is streaming on Hulu.

14

Eric Effiong, Sex Education

Sex Education initially presented itself as a story of Otis (Asa Butterfield), the awkward kid who turns out to be a great sex therapist to his fellow high school students. But as the show has gone on, it’s become an ensemble series, with Otis’ BFF Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) as one of the central characters. Eric is already long out when he’s introduced in Season 1, but that doesn’t mean his life is easy. As the first generation son of Nigerian immigrants, he struggles with his family’s strict religious beliefs, his desire to be a good son, and how to balance that with being the person he’s already openly embraced

Sex Education is streaming on Netflix.

15

Taissa Turner, Yellowjackets

Showtime

Yellowjackets is about a group of teens lost in the Canadian wilderness who turn to cannibalism after their plane crashes. The show also delves into the “after” phase, 25 years later, when the teens have become adults. It also features LGBTQ+ characters who are too busy trying to survive to worry about telling the world about their sexuality, such as Taissa (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown as a teen and Tawny Cypress as an adult). In both cases, Taissa’s sexuality and her relationships with women are a given – the real mysteries are much more about her survival experience, the PTSD it left her with, and if sacrificing the family dog was really responsible for her winning her campaign for state senator.

Yellowjackets is available on Showtime Now, and will stream on Paramount+.

16

Chester, Generation

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 unapologetically gay 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) gave fans hope.

All episodes of Genera+ion are streaming on HBO Max.

17

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.

Ginny & Georgia is streaming on Netflix.

18

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.

Mean Girls is streaming on Paramount+.

19

Riley, Happiest Season

Happiest Season may center on a woman coming out, but it also features 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?

Happiest Season is streaming on Hulu.

20

Max Wolfe, Gossip Girl

Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

The Gossip Girl reboot may lack Blake Lively as Serena van der Woodsen, but it doesn’t lack for drama or sex. One of the things that has changed in between the generations attending Constance Billard, other than its merger with St. Jude making it no longer all-girls, are the teens who have been able to embrace their sexuality early, like Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty). The pansexual flirt is open about his sexuality when the new series starts, and winds up part of a throuple with Aki (Evan Mock) and Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) before Season 1 is over.

Both the original and the new versions of Gossip Girl are streaming on HBO Max.

21

Toni Topaz, Riverdale

Toni (Vanessa Morgan) is a proud bisexual woman who balances her on-off romance with it-girl Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and leads 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.

Riverdale Seasons 1 through 5 are streaming on Netflix. Season 6 is airing on The CW.

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