A Field Guide to Gays and Bisexuals on TV


A new report released by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) brings good news for fans of diversity on TV: The number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters has been steadily rising for the past few years. Representation on cable channels, especially HBO, is also up. And just imagine if the survey had taken into account queers on reality TV, given that they may actually outnumber straights on certain Bravo and Lifetime programming…

To celebrate, and keep the discussion going, we’ve broken down some of the most visible LGB (because we could still use a hell of a lot more “T” representation) characters and personalities on TV into archetypes. Add your own favorites in the comments and let us know whether you think these types of roles are moving gays forward or reinforcing stereotypes.

The “married” with children gays Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett, Modern Family

There is a lot to love about this Emmy-winning comedy, which kicked off its second season last week. Cam and Mitchell are a gay couple in it for the long haul, raising their adopted daughter Lily and serving as perhaps the sanest branch of a wacky extended family tree. One small gripe: Ridiculously enough, we’re still waiting for ABC to let the characters kiss. Word has it that the wait will be over by the fourth episode of Season 2.

See also: David and Keith, Six Feet Under; Susan and Carol, Friends

The out and proud teenage gay who crushes on straight guys Kurt Hummel, Glee

A lovable gay teen who knows who he is — and whose dad has learned to accept and defend him — Kurt struggles with bullying but finds his way to shine as a Glee club superstar. Now, if he could only stop falling in love with straight quarterbacks whose moms happen to be dating his dad…

See also: Lionel, The United States of Tara; Justin, Ugly Betty

The confused teenage gay Marshall Gregson, The United States of Tara

Oh, Marshall. As if being a gay teenager isn’t confusing enough, this adorably nerdy young high schooler is also saddled with a mom who’s dissociative identity (aka multiple personality disorder). So, while his parents are supportive, a few of Tara’s alter egos — namely, macho Buck and old-fashioned Alice — are just not OK with it. Marshall has hooked up with a longtime crush (who also happens to come from an oppressively Christian family) only to find the same guy out back in the family shed, snogging with his mother (as her teen-girl alter, T). And last season, he spent his time bouncing between the influence of flamboyant gay activist Lionel and the so-not-right embrace of his best friend, Courtney, who refuses to accept that they can never be happy together.

See also: Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The glamorous bisexual Dr. Eleanor O’Hara, Nurse Jackie

One of the most wonderful characters on a dark comedy series packed with them, Dr. O’Hara likes the finer things in life. She makes good money and buys herself designer clothes. She has an utterly withering sense of humor. And she just happens to be interested in men and women, although she knows how gauche it would be to make a big deal about it.

See also: Santino Rice, On the Road with Austin & Santino; Marissa, The O.C.

The tough gay who wears eye makeup Lafayette Reynolds, True Blood

GLAAD notes that True Blood is the most inclusive series on TV, with six gay characters. But it was easy to pick our favorite, given that he’s pretty much our favorite prime-time personality, regardless of sexual orientation. Don’t be fooled by Lafayette’s thick makeup or pretty headscarves — he is a tough customer. He works multiple jobs, both legitimate (cook, physical laborer) and otherwise (drug dealer, hooker), and has street smarts for miles. But he’s also a loyal friend with a conscience, who’s always coming to the rescue of his tortured cousin, Tara. And we couldn’t be more thrilled to finally see him find love in this past season, with his crazy’s mom’s nurse, Jesus… even if they are both destined to become witches or shamans or whatever.

See also: Ricky, My So-Called Life

The iron lesbian Cat Cora, Iron Chef America

Who doesn’t love Cat Cora? This accomplished chef kicks ass regularly on Iron Chef America, whipping up elaborate meals that wow judges. But we didn’t realize how awesome she truly is until we saw her episode of the Cooking Channel’s At the Table With… and learned that the first female Iron Chef is also deeply involved in New Orleans and Haiti relief efforts, as founder of Chefs for Humanity.

See also: Jackie Warner, Work Out and Thintervention

The gay best friend Eric van der Woodsen, Gossip Girl

We love Eric, but we have to admit, we’ve been kind of frustrated with his character lately. Originally introduced as a suicidal, closeted young high schooler, he recovered remarkably quickly in the show’s first season, coming out and inadvertently sharing make-out buddies with his future stepsister, Jenny. He’s had a few boyfriends since then, but mostly he’s been Little J’s frenemy and confidant. Eric could be a great character, but the writers need to start giving him his own story lines.

See also: Stanford Blatch and Anthony Marentino, Sex and the City; Tim Gunn, Project Runway; Lloyd, Entourage

The lesbian best friend Ellen DeGeneres, The Ellen DeGeneres Show

She’s out, she’s proud, she appears to the average viewer to be almost entirely asexual… heeeeere’s Ellen! It’s certainly exciting that Middle America has embraced the awkward charm and silly dancing of this talented comedian, making her one of daytime TV’s most popular talk-show hosts. But it would be even nicer if she were able to maintain that approval while speaking more openly about her private life.

See also: Rosie O’Donnell, The View; Isabelle, Weeds

The gender-bending fashion gay Austin Scarlett, On the Road with Austin & Santino

We’ve been captivated by Austin Scarlett ever since we first laid eyes on him, back on the debut season of Project Runway. Glamorous, graceful, and always perfectly accessorized, he’s like the lovechild of Oscar Wilde and Grace Kelly. He seems to live in a fantasy world of gowns and romance. And, on On the Road, when his fairytale aesthetic meets the real, backwoods women of America, it’s pure magic. Also: Do Austin and Santino have a little thing going, or are those wily Lifetime producers just teasing us about it?

See also: Miss J, America’s Next Top Model, 80% of the men who have ever been contestants on Project Runway

The lesbian achiever Dr. Arizona Robbins, Grey’s Anatomy

This head of pediatric surgery at Grace-Mercy West is certainly an accomplished career woman, but she’s also fun and goofy — and who doesn’t love her (realistically rocky) relationship with baby lesbian Callie? Arizona was a great late edition to this ensemble cast, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for the show’s cutest couple.

See also: Kima Greggs, The Wire, Suze Orman