From Black Lightening to Heartstopper, let’s take a look at the representation these shows serve up
BY NIC CROSARA, STILLS BY NETFLIX/PRIME VIDEO
Growing up, it was rare to find leading Black characters onscreen. And when Black characters did show up, they were one-dimensional criminals, sassy side characters or the white main character’s best friend. And when it came to Black LGBTQIA characters, this representation was almost non-existent.
While there’s plenty of room for more improvement, we’ve come a long way. So join us in looking at some TV shows that serve up Black queer visibility.
Anissa from Black Lightening
It’s Black History Month, so of course we have to celebrate this herstory making moment. We’ll never get over the iconic moment Nafessa Williams played Anissa Pearce, who became TV’s first Black lesbian superhero.
Elle and Tara from Heartstopper
Over the course of its two seasons, Netflix’s Heartstopper has served up wonderful and diverse LGBTQIA representation. It’s great to see the trans rep Elle provides, and how her transness isn’t the focus of her story. It’s also great to see Tara, a Black lesbian, being one of the most popular girls at school. I can only imagine how seeing these characters would’ve changed my life when I was a child.
Hattie from Twenties
Looking for Black butch joy? Lena Waithe’s Twenties is a must-watch. Each episode is packed with conversation starters. The main character Hattie is far from perfect and she’s given the space the be her gloriously messy self.
Cal, Aisha and Eric from Sex Education
We need to talk about the final season of Sex Education. While the show’s third season did a fabulous job of introducing non-binary student Cal, the fourth season put even more care and intention into Cal’s arc. This instalment also introduced viewers to Aisha, a Black deaf Cavenish student who is an astrology lover and certified cool nerd. We also got to see Eric’s journey to self-acceptance as a Black gay young man of faith also come to an emotional and cathartic end.
Max and Bert from A League Of Their Own
Max Chapman is my Roman Empire. I think about her cheeky smile at least once a week. When I find myself in times of stress, I think to myself “What would Max Chapman do?”. I also love the way the series handled Bert’s Black transness, something I have never before seen in a story set during WWII.
The fact that the show got cancelled and I won’t get to see what happens next to these characters is my villain origin story.
Poussay, Sophia and Suzanne from Orange Is The New Black
Can you believe Orange Is The New Black (OITNB) turned 10 this year? A decade ago the show premiered on Netflix and changed the game for LGBTQIA representation. Characters like Poussay and Suzanne offered up Black queer rep. And the authentic casting of Laverne Cox as trans inmate Sophia ushered in “the transgender tipping point”.
Bette, Tasha, Sophie and Pippa from The L Word and The L Word: Generation Q
It’s great to see conversations surrounding the intersectional experience of being both Black and queer on this hit Showtime series.
The cast of Pose
This FX series made history by being TV’s largest transgender cast, many of whom were also Black such as Dominique Jackson, Billy Porter and Afro-Latina icons Michaela Jaé Rodriguez and Indya Moore.
Jaq and Becks from Top Boy
It’s so rare to see Black masculine-presenting lesbians onscreen, especially here in the UK. Which is why Jaq is so refreshing. We loved getting to see Jaq’s soft side when she started her relationship with Becks. These two women served up glorious representation on one of Netflix’s most popular shows.
Tess and William from This Is Us
This impactful show has made many audiences around the world sob, through its portrayal of so many different lived experiences. I loved the powerful representation of Black queer masculinity served up by William and Tess’ moving coming out scene. My only complaint about this series is that we didn’t get to see more of Tess.
Cal from First Kill
This is another show that we lost to the alarming “Cancel Your Gays” trend. It’s rare to see Black queer women in supernatural genres. It was great to see a teen show, where the protagonists’ arcs were not a coming out story. I hope that we can still #SaveFirstKill.
Kat and Oliver from The Bold Type
While I have my qualms with some of the handling of Kat’s storyline, for the most part, it was *chefs kiss*. I especially loved the episode that was dedicated to Kat processing her relationship with her identity as a Black mixed-race bisexual woman. Life between the binary can certainly spark up a lot of emotions.
I also love the rep Oliver serves up as a Black gay man. And every scene these two shared together was iconic.
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