The 40 Best LGBTQ TV Shows of the Past Decade You Can Stream Now
By Stacy Lambe
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Since the late ‘90s, there’s been a notable rise in LGBTQ-themed shows and storytelling on TV, especially thanks to early, groundbreaking programs like Will & Grace (1998), Queer as Folk (2000), The L Word (2004), both of which have been rebooted for a newer generation, as well as various installments of The Tales of the City miniseries. And as the landscape has become more inclusive, especially thanks to the rise in streaming platforms and growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community, there’s been an explosion of queer shows, with each new one more authentic than the last.
Over the past decade in particular, audiences have watched Cam and Mitchell get legally married on Modern Family, Santana come out to the powerful rendition of “Rumor Has It/Someone Like You” on Glee, a new generation of teens -- unashamed of their sexuality -- behaving badly on shows like Elite and Euphoria, the rise of trans visibility thanks to Orange Is the New Black and Pose, and Ryan Murphy reimagine what would have happened if Hollywood was more accepting of the queer community in the Golden Era.
In celebration of Pride Month and the continued rise of LGBTQ visibility and inclusion on TV, here’s an updated list of some of the best, most notable and groundbreaking scripted TV series of the past 10 years.
9-1-1: Lone Star (Fox)
Co-created by Ryan Murphy, this GLAAD Media Award-winning procedural about fire, police, and ambulance services in Austin, Texas, has become one of the most progressive primetime series on network TV thanks to its openly LGBTQ cast and characters: Brian Michael Smith as Paul Strickland, Rafael Silva as Carlos Reyes and Ronen Rubinstein as TK Strand.
While the ever-expanding Arrowverse on the CW features a number of out LGBTQ characters, Batwoman is the only one led by an out hero, first with Ruby Rose playing Kate Kane and then Javicia Leslie taking over as Ryan Wilder.
Betty, adapted from Crystal Moselle’s 2018 film, Skate Kitchen, follows a tight-knit group of queer and straight Gen Z girl skaters as they navigate the male-dominated world of skateboarding in New York City.
After breaking out with Girls and Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan created and stars in this acclaimed series tackling the taboos around bisexuality as her character, Leila, follows a 10-year relationship with a girl named Sadie by sleeping with men.
For an animated series about a bunch of tweens going through puberty and discovering their sexuality, the series offers a surprisingly honest and adult take on the most awkward time of anyone’s life. With each new season, the series has become increasingly queer with stories exploring pansexuality and what it means to be gay or transgender.
Initially about the events leading up to the worst stock market crash in history, the series has expanded beyond that, including more time spent in the world of Andrew Rannells’ closeted gay character, Blair, who is in a sham marriage with Casey Wilson and having a secret affair with a politician played by Tuc Watkins.
When Broad City first premiered, Ilana and Abbi, two Jewish American women in their twenties navigating various adventures in New York City, were heralded as feminist stoner icons. But over time, the series became increasingly and unabashedly queer as both characters explored their sexual identities and the show became a hit among LGBTQ fans.
The series created by Justin Simien pulls the veil back on what many believed was a post-racial world following the election of President Barack Obama, offering insight into the Black experience as seen through the interlocking stories of several students, including budding gay journalist Lionel (DeRon Horton), attending the fictitious, predominantly white Ivy League school Winchester University.
Telling the story of Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld), the Peabody Award-winning series offers a sexier, more sophisticated take on the poet’s coming-of-age story and her budding, secret romance with Sue Gilbert (Ella Hunt).
This Spanish-language drama mixes the sexy intrigue of affluent prep school kids of Gossip Girl with the tantalizing murder mystery of Big Little Lies into an addictive tale of interwoven stories about high school students having a bit of naughty fun and getting into all sorts of increasingly amounts of trouble.
Co-created by Lee Daniels, this campy primetime soap follows the ambitious Lyon family, led by tyrannical patriarch Lucious, who dangles control of his company over his three sons, gifted rapper and performer Hakeem, the immensely talented but closeted Jamal, and the business-minded but loose cannon Andre, all while his ex-wife, Cookie, fights for control and influence over the family affairs.
Created by and starring Josh Thomas, who first broke out with the unexpectedly emotional series Please Like Me, his follow-up sees him playing a neurotic twenty-something who must rise to the occasion after his dad’s untimely death and take care of his teenage half-sisters, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
The ensemble drama starring Zendaya, Hunter Schafer and others was initially described by HBO as following “a group of high-school students as they navigate a minefield of drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship.” But, really, that was just the jumping-off point.
Co-written and starring Mae Martin, the British comedy follows Mae, a Canadian comedian who meets George (Charlotte Ritchie) at the comedy club where she performs and what happens after the pair begins dating.
The celebrated multi-generational series follows the lives of police officer Stef Foster (Teri Polo) and her life partner, Lena Adams (Sherri Saum), a school vice principal, as they take care of their multi-ethnic, blended family.
Created by Zelda Barnz and her father, Daniel, who is an executive producer alongside his partner, Ben, the dramedy offers a remarkably authentic portrayal of a diverse group of high school students led by Chester (Justice Smith) and an unashamed exploration of modern sexuality.
Set in 1832, the period drama follows Miss Anne Lister (Suranne Jones), who leaves Hastings and heads to Halifax, West Yorkshire, England to restore her uncle's estate. While there, the newly instated, unusual lady landowner encounters a potentially dangerous romance with another woman (Sophie Rundle), which she records in a cryptic diary that no one can decode.
Another Murphy production, this groundbreaking series follows a school glee club featuring a number of students who identify across the sexuality spectrum as they dare to follow their dreams and passions while navigating the politics of high school.
The British coming-of-age series adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Alice Oseman tells the story of Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), a gay schoolboy who falls in love with his classmate, Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). Renewed for seasons 2 and 3, the breakout romcom also follows the lives of Tao (William Gao), Elle (Yasmin Finney), Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell).
The star-studded limited series follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers trying to make it during the Golden Age of Tinseltown. The lives of these fictional characters overlap with real-life events and personalities that helped define Hollywood at the time: the rise of leading man and closeted actor Rock Hudson, the struggles faced by actors of color Anna May Wong and Hattie McDaniel, the notorious backroom dealings of agent Henry Willson.
Spanning a decade starting in 1981, the five-part series created by Davies follows a group of gay friends -- Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and Colin (Callum Scott Howells) -- and their straight girlfriend, Jill (Lydia West), as they go from chasing their dreams to fighting for survival in a prejudiced society.
Told over two short seasons and a 90-minute film, Looking is creator Michael Lannan's moody and darkly funny story about three gay men -- Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett) -- living in San Francisco, looking for love, lust and meaning in their daily lives.
A spinoff of 2018's Love, Simon, the series follows Victor, who finds himself the new kid at Creekwood High, where Simon Spier once shared a first kiss with his mystery guy atop a Ferris wheel in front of the whole school. However, unlike the happy ending the movie received, the series takes a far more bumpy and realistic journey to coming out and finding love.
The third installment of the series follows Lena Waithe, who reprises her role as Denise, for a season solely focused on the breakout character and her relationship with Alicia (Naomi Ackie) as they navigate the ups and downs of marriage, struggles with fertility, and how they grow both together and apart.
The Emmy-winning ensemble comedy follows the diverse descendants and in-laws of Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), including son Cam (Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband, Mitchell (Eric Stonestreet), and their adopted daughter, as they navigate modern life in suburban Los Angeles.
The Emmy-winning ensemble dramedy created by Jenji Kohan follows the many interlocking lives of women serving out prison sentences at the Litchfield Penitentiary. While featuring a number of bisexual, lesbian and trans characters, the series made history when Laverne Cox became the first transgender performer to earn an acting nomination for her performance as Sofia Burset.
Created and written by former Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, the scripted comedy follows two siblings -- struggling actor Cary and struggling at everything Brooke -- as they desperately seek to make it at something while dealing with the fact that their teenage brother has become an overnight internet sensation.
Co-created by Steven Canals, the groundbreaking series follows the lives of Black and brown transgender women and gay men of the 1980s New York City ballroom scene. Jumping through time, the three seasons show how these chosen families navigated the AIDS/HIV epidemic and faced various tragedies that challenged them as a community.
The limited series explores the lives of queer men and women in the U.K. through eight different monologues performed by Alan Cumming, Ben Whishaw, Russell Tovey and others, with each covering a specific issue such as the HIV crisis or the Sexual Offenses Act.
The Wachowskis’ ambitious drama tells the interconnected stories of eight strangers of different cultures, races, genders and sexualities. As the sensates, Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Sun (Doona Bae), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Kala (Tina Desai), Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre) and Will (Brian J. Smith) all share a collective consciousness that allows them to communicate with each other as well as share language, skills and desires when they tap into their psychic link.
Led by Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn, who becomes something of a sex therapist for his fellow students, Sex Education is a progressively and refreshingly honest series about teens navigating their sexual desires, identities and the pressures of high school.
This charming comedy tells the story of a wealthy family that loses their entire fortune and is forced to rebuild their lives in the titular small town -- their only remaining asset. Over the course of its six-season run, the Roses -- patriarch Johnny (Eugene Levy), his wife and former soap actress, Moira (Catherine O'Hara), and their two privileged children, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) -- adjusted to a simpler life and became permanent fixtures in a surprisingly accepting community.
Created by and starring Ryan O’Connell, Special tells the story of Ryan, a gay man with cerebral palsy stepping out from the protection of his helicopter mom to create a world of his own, which means moving out, making new friends and finding romance.
While its legacy has become complicated by its former controversial star, ignoring the series would erase its impact on LGBTQ storytelling on TV, helping break down barriers for trans representation onscreen and allowing supporting players like Alexandra Billings to shine in some of the best work of their careers.
Created and written by Lena Waithe, the comedy series follows a queer Black woman named Hattie (Jonica T. Gibbs) and her two straight best friends, Marie (Christina Elmore) and Nia (Gabrielle Graham), as they try to find their footing in Los Angeles.
Based on the life of Cristina Ortiz Rodriguez, the Spanish limited series follows Valeria, who is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she meets her idol, the incomparable trans icon “La Veneno,” and begins to write her memoir.
With Vida, creator and showrunner Tanya Saracho introduced a groundbreaking Latinx series about Mexican American sisters Emma and Lyn in East L.A. following their mother's death that opened people's eyes to the complexities of the LGBTQ community, especially for people of color.
From Luca Guadagnino comes an eight-part exploration of youth and identity. Starring Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón, the series tells the story of two American teenagers living on a U.S. military base in Italy, where they are confronted with questions about love, gender, sexuality as they experience the “messy exhilaration” of discovering oneself.
Co-created by and starring Chicago improv mainstay Abby McEnany, the comedy series follows a 45-year-old self-identified fat, queer dyke whose misfortune and despair unexpectedly lead her to a vibrantly transformative relationship.
The sci-fi series follows Wyatt Earp's great-great-granddaughter as she battles demons and other creatures with her unique abilities and a posse of dysfunctional allies. Over the course of its run, it became a queer favorite thanks to several characters, including fan-favorite couple Waverly and Nicole (played by Dominique Provost-Chalkley and Katherine Barrell, respectively).