School pride: The best LGBTQI teen characters of all time
On April 27th, the annual Day of Silence takes place, highlighting the issue of the bullying of LGBTQI students in schools and colleges across the country. The day was invented to help spread awareness about the proclivity and impact of bullying against LGBTQI people in a bid to create safer spaces for them to study and enjoy their education.
In the past few decades we’ve seen some amazing examples of queer teen characters who have stood up to school bullying or refused to feel shame for their sexual preferences and identities. These are characters who are here, queer, and (quite rightfully) proud as hell of it. With that in mind, here’s our ranking of eleven of the best LGBTQI teen TV show characters of all time.
11. Brittany Pierce: Glee
Played by Heather Morris (Spring Breakers), the bisexual character enjoyed one of the most satisfying character arcs and relationships (with best-friend-turned-lover Santana) of the entire show.
10. Eric van der Woodsen: Gossip Girl
Producer Joshua Safran (Mixtape) once stated one of the only things he regrets about Gossip Girl was there not being much “representation for people of color or gay storylines” on the show. Though Eric (Connor Paolo) was given a coming out storyline and was even shown enjoying (somewhat) healthy relationships with other guys, he was also slowly phased out as a character at the convenience of a boarding school subplot.
9. Danny Māhealan: Teen Wolf
Considering how wonderfully homoerotic Teen Wolf gets, it’s wonderful that the show so openly incorporated a gay character from the start. Danny (Keahu Kahuanui) isn’t solely defined by his sexuality and is a refreshingly crucial and compelling part of the first three seasons of the show.
8. Alex Kelly: The O.C.
Sure, Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Ryan (Ben McKenzie) are soulmates or whatever, but Bait Shop manager Alex (Olivia Wilde) is the one we secretly hoped Coop would wind up with. (If she would have gone with her sapphic instincts the character might even have survived the series!) Alex was beautiful, badass, and bisexual as hell and we still absolutely adore her.
7. Toni Topaz: Riverdale
Riverdale features some wonderful LGBTQI representation including Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), but Southside Serpent’s bisexual babe Toni Topaz is our particular favorite. Remember, this is the girl who shrugged off a rejection from Jughead Jones by saying that she’s “more into girls” anyway.
6. Elena Alvarez: One Day at a Time
Spirited, outspoken Elena (Isabella Gomez) has one of the frankest and most realistic coming out conversations with her mom (Justina Machado) ever shown on the small screen and continues to offer one of the freshest depictions of being gay and proud on TV.
5. Jack McPhee: Dawson’s Creek
Writer and creator Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries) was so adamant he wanted Jack (Kerr Smith) to be gay, he initially kept the plotline a secret from the writing team (which might explain why Jack’s coming out episode feels so sudden and out of the blue). Dawson’s Creek was such a trailblazing drama, it featured the first male gay kiss on US TV.
4. Emily Fields: Pretty Little Liars
Emily (Shay Mitchell) was one of the few lesbian lead characters of this type of mainstream show who was (more or less) out from the start and whose sexuality was celebrated and maintained straight through to the show’s end. The character even got to marry and have kids with Alison (Sasha Pieterse) and enjoy a (gasp!) happy ending with her honey.
3. Willow Rosenberg: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Spellbinding queen Willow (Alyson Hannigan) enjoyed a literally magical character arc in discovering her sexuality over experimentations in witchcraft with friend-turned-lover Tara (Amber Benson).
2. Lionel Higgins: Dear White People
The expanded version of Justin Simien’s 2014 movie saw all of the same characters explored with even more depth in the Netflix show. As such, Lionel (DeRon Horton) is given a broader arc around which the show explores the character’s experiences with coming to terms with being a gay black man. The depiction went deep and (awkward though some scenes could get) offered a raw depiction of an often rarely explored character.
1. Ricky Vasquez: My So-Called Life
Ricky’s sexuality was barely addressed or defined in the beloved teen show’s only season, but it didn’t matter. The way in which My So-Called Life framed the character and developed him ensured audiences knew Ricky (Wilson Cruz) was unabashedly queer without making his sexual identity the absolute core of his character.
Ricky hung out in the women’s toilets, got mad when Angela made a play for the same cutie he was crushing on, and did the best dance moves known to mankind to Haddaway’s “What is Love?” In 1994, when the show was first released, he was absolutely groundbreaking.