Belonging to the LGBT community has always been difficult. From a young age, when the individual realizes that he or she is different from the majority, normal things start to feel complicated. To begin with, within family circles most parents want and expect their children to marry someone of the opposite sex and provide grandchildren. A lot of the time when they find out their child is gay, a war erupts at home, and in many cases kids begin to feel isolated, or in more extreme cases, they are kicked out. Even in film and TV, it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that LGBT characters started to become more mainstream and find acceptance from audiences. From the rigid, repressive fifties when you had to be aware of the signs to “read” and realize there was a homosexual character in a film, such as John “Plato” Crawford in Rebel Without A Cause (1955), to the more recent Jack Harkness in Doctor Who, an openly gay character who became a role model for young LGBT people in the UK, we have come a long way. On today’s list we remember 25 Most Influential Fictional LGBT Characters In Pop Culture History.
Brian Kinney, Queer as Folk
Love him or hate him, everyone had an opinion about Queer as Folk’s Brian Kinney. Sure, he started out as an arrogant sex machine, but he ended the run of the show as, well, a slightly more complicated arrogant sex machine that needs love just like the rest of us.
Lafayette Reynolds, True Blood
Lafayette is a flamboyant, charismatic gay man. Although partaking in very illegal activities, he’s a good guy at heart and is careful not to harm his customers with the drugs he deals. He takes care of his loved ones, no matter what strange problems they have. He might be a little too suspicious because he has gone through a lot in his life, but he’s the kind of friend you’ve always wanted.
Scotty, Brothers & Sisters
Scotty Wandell is a gay man who grew up in Oxford, Mississippi until he moved to New York and then later to California to start an independent life because his parents, Wally and Bertha Wandell, didn’t accept him for being gay. As stated in the episode “Prior Commitments,” his parents never used the word gay until he told them he was. What a heartbreak it must have been for them!
Emily Fields, Pretty Little Liars
Emily Fields is one of the main characters in Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family. Despite trying hard to hide her sexuality, if you’re a fan of the show then you know she’s attracted to other girls exclusively, and she’s an “expert” in falling in love as hard as it gets.
Aaron (and Eric), The Walking Dead
Aaron is a main character and survivor of the outbreak in AMC’s The Walking Dead. He’s also openly gay and was abused by his mother as a child in that he was forced to go through corrective therapy, such as eating foods he didn’t like to “make [him] more manly.” While working in the NGO, he met Eric Raleigh and the rest is pop culture history.
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Agador, The Birdcage
Do you remember the flamboyant Guatemalan housekeeper with the catchy name Agador in The Birdcage? How couldn’t you, right? For this hysterical role, which Hank Azaria considers his “big break,” he was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, and critically branded “the most hilarious performance in the film,” by Alison Macor of The Austin Chronicle, while Empire wrote that he “[stole] the show.”
Jack McPhee, Dawson’s Creek
Jack McPhee is a character from the WB drama Dawson’s Creek, portrayed by Kerr Smith. Initially introduced in the series’ second season, he dated girl-next-door Joey Potter before discovering his sexuality. Jack later became openly gay and was lucky to have one of the most awesome fathers who accepted his sexuality as every father who loves and respects his child should do.
Jack McFarland, Will & Grace
Jack McFarland is a character on the American sitcom Will & Grace, played by Sean Hayes. A “campy” gay man, Jack has always had a passion for acting and the theater, although his friends, among others, doubt his abilities in this area. He never gets discouraged, though, and changes careers a lot, from cater waiter, Banana Republic and Barneys New York sales clerk, and acting teacher, to student nurse, surfer, and backup dancer for J. Lo and Janet Jackson. An epic character by any measure indeed.
Catherine Tramell, Basic Instinct
Catherine Tramell is the hidden true antagonist of the Basic Instinct movies. She is portrayed by Sharon Stone, and other than being a psycho serial killer, she is also an openly bisexual woman who had many short-lived, empty affairs with people of both sexes which ended when she killed them.
Maya Avant, The Bold and the Beautiful
Maya Avant is a character on The Bold and the Beautiful, who has been portrayed by the beautiful Karla Mosley since January 2013. Despite most fans of soap operas being used to story lines they never saw coming, this one really shocked them. For two years fans had known Maya Avant as a supermodel and fashion industry executive, but a few months ago her sister confronted her about her past, dramatically demanding answers after her birth certificate listed her as a boy named Myron. Yep, you guessed right— gorgeous Maya was born a boy.
Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Willow Rosenberg is a character created for the fantasy television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003). She was portrayed throughout the series by Alyson Hannigan and stood out as a positive portrayal of a Jewish woman, and at the height of her popularity she fell in love with another woman, a witch named Tara Maclay. They became one of the first lesbian couples on U.S. television and one of the most positive relationships in the series.
Kurt Hummel, Glee
The fans of the super-successful show are aware that Kurt Hummel was the first openly gay character introduced in the series. In the beginning, Kurt is in the closet until he comes out to Mercedes Jones and eventually to his father, Burt. He harbors a crush on Finn Hudson and tries to pursue him, despite Finn being straight. He even goes as far as to set his father up with Finn’s mother, Carole, just so he could be closer to him, which backfires when Finn uses a homophobic slur against him during an outburst.
Matt Fielding, Melrose Place
Matt Fielding is a character in the American television series Melrose Place, portrayed by Doug Savant. Matt was an openly gay man working as a social worker in LA. In contrast to the promiscuous sexual behavior and relationship issues that drove the stories of Melrose’s straight characters, Matt’s story lines tended to be about subjects like gay bashing and workplace discrimination. Matt occasionally became romantically involved with another man but was never shown in any sexual situations.
Will Truman, Will & Grace
Will Truman is a character on the American sitcom Will & Grace, portrayed by Eric McCormack. He is a homosexual lawyer who lives on the Upper West Side of New York City with his best friend, Grace Adler. The series also portrays his relationship with the two other main characters, Karen Walker and Jack McFarland.
Mitchell Pritchett, Modern Family
If you’re fan of the show then you definitely know Mitchell is the exact opposite of his boyfriend, Cameron, which usually causes disagreements. Mitchell is also known for suffering from a strange phobia named ornithophobia, which is the fear of birds. He’s also “famous” for cooking chicken better than Gordon Ramsey, which he then feeds to the people he loves.
Cameron Tucker, Modern Family
Cameron has been Mitchell’s life partner for almost nine years. The two men are opposites in personality because of their contrasting upbringings. Cameron grew up on a farm, was good in athletics, had a supportive family, and isn’t afraid to be flamboyant, which contrasts greatly with Mitchell’s conservative, contemporary childhood. However, they seem to be perfect for each other, and that’s good enough for us.
Ellen Morgan, Ellen
Ellen Morgan is the lead character in the TV series Ellen, played by Ellen DeGeneres. Although neither Ellen Morgan nor Ellen DeGeneres are very masculine, this was a hint as to both the character and actress’s sexuality long before anyone imagined either could possibly be gay.
Leon, Dog Day Afternoon
Back in the mid-1970s when society wasn’t as open-minded and progressive as it is today, the great Chris Sarandon was nominated for an Oscar in a supporting role for his portrayal of Leon, an openly gay character in the epic Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino in the lead role.
Andrew Beckett, Philadelphia
The incredible performance of Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett isn’t just another great gay character in pop culture but a role that literally changed Hollywood. Philadelphia was probably the first mainstream film to openly acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor, which was the first time an actor won an Oscar for portraying an openly gay man.
Loki, Marvel Universe
In Norse myth, Loki is a shape-shifting god who enjoys the occasional turn as a woman. The gender bender doesn’t discriminate; sometimes he’s even a female animal. In fact, Loki was once mounted by a stallion. He then gave birth to an eight-legged horse. So when comic book writer Al Ewing wrote on Tumblr that the character would be bisexual (both in comics and films) and that he would “shift between genders,” it wasn’t a huge surprise.
Ennis Del Mar & Jack Twist, Brokeback Mountain
Ennis and Jack go together, and no matter how hard we tried to separate them into two different entries, we just couldn’t do it. In what might be the greatest (and possibly saddest) gay romance in film history, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal realistically portray their characters, which convinced even some of the most closed-minded people that homosexuals fall in love too. In addition, the story of the “forbidden” and secretive relationship between the two cowboys made Ang Lee the first Asian to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
Jack Harkness, Doctor Who
Captain Jack Harkness is a character played by John Barrowman in Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood. Jack became the first openly non-heterosexual character in the history of Doctor Who. The popularity of the character among multiple audiences directly influenced the development of its spin-off. The character became a figure in the British public consciousness, rapidly gaining fame for John Barrowman. As an ongoing depiction of bisexuality in mainstream British television, the character became a role model for young gay and pansexual people in the UK.
John “Plato” Crawford, Rebel Without A Cause
In this American classic that is most remembered for best presenting the talent of the young charismatic legend James Dean, there’s an emotionally disturbed teenager named John “Plato” Crawford who happens to be gay. Remember now, we’re talking about a film from the mid-1950’s, so this fact wasn’t in your face, but if you watch closely and pay attention, you’ll certainly understand that Plato was, well, in love with James Dean’s character. Just follow Mineo’s eyes and the mirror on his locker with the photo of Alan Ladd; They are like giant hairpins dropping.
Xena, Xena: Warrior Princess
Xena first appeared in the late ’90s television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys before going on to star in Xena: Warrior Princess and the subsequent comic book of the same name. Xena has enjoyed a particular cult status in the lesbian community. Some of the lesbian fan base see Xena and Gabrielle as a couple and have embraced them as role models and lesbian icons. For that matter, a group called the Marching Xenas has participated in many pride parades.
Professor Albus Dumbledore, the Harry Potter books and films
Professor Albus Dumbledore is a character in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. For most of the series, he is the headmaster of the wizard school Hogwarts, and something that many fans ignore is that he’s gay, too. On October 19, 2007, Rowling was asked by a young fan whether Dumbledore finds “true love,” and she said that she had always thought of Dumbledore as being gay, and that he had fallen in love with Gellert Grindelwald, which was Dumbledore’s “great tragedy.”