Representation on TV: 9 Shows with Black Characters on the LGBTQIA+ Spectrum
Oftentimes, you will hear members of marginalized communities say, “Representation Matters.” For so long, individuals within these groups (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, immigrants, women, people with disabilities, etc.) have been left out of the television spotlight or solely portrayed in stereotypical roles with unflattering lighting.
However, the times are changing and representation on television is evolving and slowly embracing that change. This week’s post aims to highlight Black actors and actresses representing the LGBTQIA+ spectrum through an on-screen character—and some, in real life as well!
1) Master of None: Moments in Love
The Netflix comedy, Master of None, is in its third season (Moments in Love), which stars actress and co-writer, Lena Waithe as Denise. Not only does Lena Waithe play a lesbian character on the show, but she also identifies on the spectrum in real life.
2) The Chi
Showtime’s The Chi, is a drama in its fourth season, which stars transgender actress Jasmine Davis as Imani.
3) Orange Is The New Black
Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black (OITNB) is approaching its eighth season, and stars multiple LGBTQIA+ characters both on screen and in real life: trans actress Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset and Uzo Aduba as Suzanne Warren, who identifies as lesbian on the show.
4) The Handmaid’s Tale
Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood, is in its fourth season and stars lesbian actress Samira Wiley who plays Moira [as well as Poussey Washington in OITNB]. Samira Wiley is married to OITNB writer, Lauren Morelli, and the two recently celebrated the birth of their daughter, George.
5) Queen Sugar
OWN’s Queen Sugar is in its fifth season and stars Rutina Wesley as Nova Bordelon who—in real life—divorced her husband in 2013 and entered a same-sex relationship in 2017. The show also stars trans actor, Brian Michael Smith, as Toine Wilkins, a transgender police officer.
6) Sex Education
Netflix’s British comedy-drama Sex Education is in its second season and stars Ncuti Gatwa as Eric, a gay male from a religious Ghanaian-Nigerian family.
7) Black Lightning
The CW’s Black Lightning is in its fourth season and stars Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pearce, TV’s first Black lesbian superhero.
8) This Is Us
NBC’s This Is Us is in its fifth season and spotlights youth’s navigation of the spectrum with Eris Baker as Tess Pearson, a young teen who ‘comes out’ to her parents on the show.
9) The Fosters
ABC Family’s [now Freeform] The Fosters had a five-season run, ending in 2018. It starred Sherri Saum as Lena Adams Foster who played the second half of the same-sex married couple navigating parenting as they raised their biological son alongside their four adopted children.
While the numbers of LGBTQIA+ actors, actresses, and characters on television pale in comparison to the heteronormative representation we see, the growth is evident, undeniable, and appreciated.
Though this win for the marginalized community provides a lens through which we are able to learn from realistic experiences and even characters living the lives they play on screen, it is still important and necessary that we make the efforts to show up for individuals on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum whom we encounter in our real lives. We should aim to get to know them as best we can in the same way we often become emotionally invested in fictitious characters who we eagerly await to watch season to season.
Meloni Capria is a Wisconsin native who currently resides in Texas with her wife, 10-year-old son, and their three pet Yorkies. Her professional background is in Secondary Education and English Language Arts and Reading. She currently serves in the role of Editorial Assistant at Mango Publishing Group and is a collaborative partner at DOPE Publishing. She enjoys writing, watching movies, and all things related to marriage, parenting, and family.