Why LGBTQIA+ Representation in TV Shows and Movies Is So Important—Here Are 10 to Watch as a Family

Seeing characters like themselves in mainstream media helps queer kids feel less alone, but it also provides education and understanding for the adults who need to support them.

Five old TV sets showing LGBTQIA+ friendly TV series for families: Steven Universe, First Kill, Owl House, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts and Heartstopper
Photo: AdobeStock / Getty Images / Cartoon Network / Netflix / Disney

For LGBTQIA+ children, growing up can be a lonely experience. Having friends who don't understand them, or having parents who don't accept them can be isolating and detrimental to their mental health. According to The Trevor Project's 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 73 percent of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety; 58 percent reported depression. These are not good statistics.

However, the survey also found that LGBTQ youth who felt high levels of social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who did not have this. Moreover, 89 percent of LGBTQ youth reported that seeing LGBTQIA+ representation in TV and movies made them feel good about being LGBTQIA+. It is evident that queer characters on TV can provide respite which is more impactful than many realize.

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Gloria Calderón Kellett, the executive producer, co-creator, co-showrunner, director, and actress on the sitcom One Day at a Time feels that seeing people who look like you on screen is essential, and can help queer kids feel less lonely. "I know from growing up and not seeing characters that looked like me, how invisible it made me feel," she says.

She adds that shows that are about queer characters, but also explore other aspects of their lives, are very important to help queer kids understand that their identity is not the only thing that's important about them. She says, "I think that seeing positive portrayal, seeing families come around, seeing friendships form, and then also seeing that they're not completely defined by their identity, by their sexual preference, is so important."

TV shows which build accepting worlds for queer children to grow up in can also provide hope and joy to queer children, and help straight children model behavior of kindness and love and acceptance. Forming those allyships in youth is vital.

Moreover, TV shows with queer characters, especially shows created for family viewing, can also be great ways for parents and family members to better understand queer identities and ways to support their queer children. For example, watching Luz and Amity on The Owl House can be a great way for parents to understand a relationship between two women, and get rid of the stereotype of seeing a relationship between two women as overly-sexualized.

Kellett adds that sparking a conversation about queerness and topics which are generally avoided at home was her intention with One Day at a Time, too. "It was meant for co-viewing. It was meant to be that kids can watch it, adults can watch it, and families can watch it together if they so choose. And maybe after an episode, they'll turn to each other and talk about some stuff. Ask 'how do you feel about that?'"

She adds, "We're presenting options so that it's a starting point of conversation in the home."

And it's a great time to start indulging in some queer television too, because the choices are just growing by the day. Across all broadcast networks, a record of nearly 12 percent of regularly appearing characters now identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, according to GLAAD's annual Where We Are on TV report, which is 2.8 percent higher than the previous year. So, without further ado, here are 10 TV shows with excellent queer representation that you can indulge in with your family.

The Owl House

The Owl House is an animated fantasy series created by Dana Terrace which premiered in 2020 on Disney Channel. The show follows the life of teenager Luz, who discovers a portal to the magical realm of Boiling Isles. Here, she encounters and befriends Eda, a witch who Luz becomes an apprentice to, and King, her tiny warrior friend. This is also where she meets Amity Blight, Luz's love interest!

Press images of animated tv series Owl House
Courtesy of Disney / ABC

Terrace confirms that Amity is a lesbian and that Luz is bisexual. The two attend Grom together, their world's version of prom, and eventually start dating. Their wholesome relationship portrays the best of healthy queer relationships. The two girls also represent Disney's first animated LGBTQIA+ regular characters!

Heartstopper

Heartstopper is a 2022 coming of age romantic comedy, directed by Euros Lyn, that follows two teens, Charlie and Nick as they navigate high school. Charlie, an openly gay and shy boy who's had a rough time with fitting in quickly befriends Nick, who seems like a typical jock at the start but eventually worms his way into everyone's heart through his cheerful and kind nature.

The pair quickly catch feelings for each other and the show explores young LGBTQIA+ love through small stories of friendship, exploring aspects of dealing with bullying and navigating coming out.

Press image of TV series Heartstopper
Courtesy of Netflix

The series is based on Alice Oseman's bestselling graphic novels by the same title.

First Kill

A young adult lesbian vampire series, First Kill is a highly anticipated upcoming series, dubbed "lesbian Twilight" after the cult favorite movie series. The series revolves around a teenage vampire, Juliet Fairmont, who chooses Calliope Burns as her target for the first kill she needs to make to solidify her status in her family of vampires. Little does she know that Calliope is a vampire slayer, and is not going to be an easy target.

This enemies-to-lovers story is sure to tug at your heartstrings, as the two realize their true feelings for one another. Stay tuned, as it releases on 10th June!

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is an animated science fantasy series created by Radford Sechrist and developed by Bill Wollkoff. The show is adapted from Radford's webcomic Kipo and first appeared on Netflix in 2020. The series follows Kipo Oak on her search for her father in a post-apocalyptic surface world. On her journey she becomes friends with Wolf and Benson, two human survivors, and Dave and Mandu, two mutated animals.

Press Image of Kipo and The Age of Wonderbeasts
Courtesy of Netflix

Her friend Benson identifies as gay and even comes out to Kipo in an emotional scene early in the show. He also falls for a male character, Troy, later in the series. Benson, a Black gay protagonist, is the second kids' character (after a character in 6teen) to have called themselves gay in dialogue.

Atypical

Atypical is a Netflix comedy-drama that centers around the life of 18-year-old Sam Gardner, who is on the autism spectrum. Created by Robia Rashid, the show's first season aired in 2017 and its fourth and final installment premiered in 2021.

An important person in Sam's life is his younger sister Casey who questions and explores her bisexuality throughout the series. She has a boyfriend at the beginning of the series before falling for a girl, who eventually goes on to be her girlfriend. A family show that explores multiple taboo topics such as mental health and sexuality; the show is a must-watch!

Dating Amber

Dating Amber, a 2020 film, is set in Ireland in the mid-90s. The queer protagonists, Eddie and Amber, decide to fake a relationship to stop speculation about their sexuality.

Eddie, who is keen to follow his dad into the military and Amber, who dreams of moving to the liberal hub of London, make an interesting pair as they explore their sexuality. On trips to Dublin the "couple" begin to understand gay culture, and Eddie is caught kissing another man. Amber, meanwhile, falls for Sarah. The two navigate coming out and being outed to their community and what it means to truly be there for your friend. This is a story of friendship, love, and acceptance.

She-Ra

She-Ra is a reboot of the original 1985 series She-Ra: Princess of Power, and premiered in late 2018 on Netflix. The protagonist Adora is a young girl with a military upbringing, who is being trained alongside her friend Catra to serve and protect an organization called the Horde. They were trained to believe that princesses were the enemy and oppressed the people on their planet Etheria. Adora later finds out the truth when she meets two rebels, and then trains to become She-Ra.

Press images of animated tv series She-Ra and the Princess of Power
Courtesy of Netflix

The show is full of queer characters, and the main characters Adora and Catra also eventually enter a romantic relationship. The show is an amazing portrayal of queer characters whose roles revolve around so much more than being queer.

Steven Universe

Steven Universe is an American animated TV series that ran for 5 seasons on Cartoon Network, starting in 2013. The protagonist Steven is a young boy, half-Gem, who lives in the fictional Beach city with three Crystal Gems—Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. The three warriors and Steven team up to protect the universe from monsters and other evil.

Press images of Steven Universe animated series
Courtesy of Cartoon Network / Warner Media

The show explores several LGBTQIA+ themes, including the portrayal of androgynous-presenting characters, queer relationships, and more via the Gems' ability to fuse, where two Gems can merge bodies and abilities to create new personalities. In fact, all the Gems are genderless; for the sake of convenience they take the form of female humanoids and use female pronouns, whose intimate relationships with one another are explored through flashbacks and other devices.

The Fosters

The Fosters is an American family drama created by Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg, which premiered on ABC Family (later Freeform) in 2013 and ran for five seasons. It centers around the Adam Fosters family consisting of a lesbian couple, Stef Foster, a police officer, and Lena Adams, a school vice principal. The show follows their struggles and triumphs of raising five children together—one biological son from Stef's previous marriage and three adopted children.

The Fosters TV series promotional image
Getty Images

The show features many LGBTQIA+ characters throughout, such as Jude, their foster son experimenting with wearing nail polish, but the main characters are the lesbian couple, Stef and Lena. Their relationship as two working mothers in many ways defines the way the show treats relationships—with love and acceptance regardless of one's identity or blood relationship. The show offers hope to young queer kids that growing up and having a healthy, loving relationship is truly possible!

Andi Mack

Andi Mack follows a teenage girl and her two best friends as they navigate middle school, family, and friendships. Andi receives a huge shock when it is revealed that her sister Bex is actually her mother. The show was created by Terri Minsky, and ran for three seasons from 2017-19.

One of Andi's best friends Cyrus, a lead character, is gay. This show was the first on Disney Channel to have a gay main character—and has been quite well-received by its audience. As the series concludes, it is suggested that Cyrus is about to embark on his first queer relationship, a heart-fluttering moment all queer kids can relate to.

Now get out the popcorn and enjoy your new favorite shows!

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