The LGBTQ community has come a long way in the last few decades, and more celebrities are willing to identify themselves as part of the group than ever before. But it wasn’t always that way; many popular actors who could have easily identified themselves as LGBTQ were instead forced to keep their sexual orientation hidden in order to stay in the public eye and gain positive attention from mainstream audiences. Whether it was because of personal choice or studio-enforced mandates, we lost out on some interesting characters and stories as a result. Here are some underappreciated and underrated LGBTQ characters from Hollywood who deserved better than what they got.
Will from Will & Grace
I’m not trying to make a point, but one of the most underrated LGBTQ characters of Hollywood is Will from Will & Grace. I know what you’re thinking: Will was just a gay sidekick! But he was so much more than that. He was smart, funny, witty, and had some serious style. Plus he had his own life outside of the show. He dated other people on the show and even got married (albeit briefly). In my opinion, Hollywood missed out on an opportunity to really showcase how diverse society can be by making him just one facet of who he was or what he wanted in life.
Emily Fields from Pretty Little Liars
Emily Fields was a high school student who became an out lesbian during her senior year. She had to deal with being in the closet, coming out, and keeping her love life private. Her struggle may be familiar to many viewers, but few could have predicted how she would end up. Emily is a character that deserved better than having her life ruined by the A team. Though she began to come into herself after finally telling Paige about their relationship, it all came crashing down when Jenna framed her for pushing Alison DiLaurentis off of a cliff. Her conviction lead to her arrest and deportation back to London. The series ended without giving us any resolution or closure on the fate of one of its most important characters.
Lauren Cooper from Eastenders
The long-running soap opera Eastenders has been a bastion of British culture since it first aired in 1985. Lauren Cooper, played by actress Lisa Maxwell, is a lesbian character who was introduced to the show in 1994 and remained until her death in 1997. Like many LGBT characters on TV at the time, she was killed off when she had no further storyline to explore. However, we’re still left with one of the most iconic gay female characters of all time.
Aaron Diaz from Degrassi: The Next Generation
During its fourteen seasons, Degrassi: The Next Generation dealt with a lot of tough issues. From drug addiction to teen pregnancy, the show tackled them all. But one topic it never explored was homosexuality. In all six hundred and ninety-six episodes, only two people were revealed to be gay or bisexual. This is surprising considering that in real life 16% of Canadians identify as either gay or bisexual and 11% of Canadians are openly gay or lesbian. It’s not just the amount of representation that Aaron Diaz (played by Shayne Leighton) got on Degrassi, but how he himself was represented too. His sexuality wasn’t actually even revealed until late in his senior year (season thirteen) when he came out as bi during his coming out party on YouTube. Even then he had little screen time before graduating from high school and being shipped off to college in Toronto where he had barely any interaction with any other characters.
Alex Danvers from Supergirl
Alex Danvers is one of the most powerful women in the world. She is a scientist, a superhero, and she has played a crucial role in defeating some of the most dangerous villains on earth. And yet, no one knows that she is gay.
She did not come out to her parents until Season 2 of Supergirl and by then it was clear that they were going to be an obstacle for her relationship with Maggie Sawyer. In Season 3 Alex and Maggie finally get engaged and their ceremony will undoubtedly be one to remember. However, there’s a small chance that it will never happen because Maggie is being called back into service for a high-level mission that could take her away from Earth for years at time.
Kevin Pearson from This Is Us
Kevin Pearson, who is played by Justin Hartley on This Is Us, is a gay character who deserves more love. He was introduced during the show’s first season and has been struggling with his sexuality ever since. One of the most emotional moments from the show involved Kevin coming out to his father. After Kevin reveals that he just came out to his dad, we see him sitting in front of a mirror, wiping away tears and patting down his hair as he tries to collect himself before heading back downstairs.
Nomi Marks from Sense8
Nomi is one of the main characters of Netflix’s Sense8, a show about eight people from different cultures who are psychically linked to one another. In the show, she is a transgender lesbian woman and a hacker living in San Francisco. Nomi falls for her best friend Amanita and she becomes the first openly trans lesbian character on television. Her journey to accept herself as both a trans person and a lesbian is paralleled with Amanita’s journey to accept herself as gay.
Nomi is portrayed by transgender actress Jamie Clayton and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2017, making her the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy Award.
Toni Topaz from Riverdale
Toni Topaz is a transgender character on Riverdale. She is introduced in season two as a student at Southside High School, who becomes friends with Jughead Jones and Betty Cooper. She quickly falls for Betty and the two become romantic while Toni goes through her transition.
As time passes, she becomes increasingly uncomfortable with her male body and starts to take hormones to feminize herself. But that doesn’t stop her from being attracted to both men and women.