We here at Autostraddle have been feeling mighty cozy this holigay season, how about you? And really, nothing says cozy quite like snuggling up in front of your television or laptop and getting lost in the warm, holiday feelings that swirl around you. Maybe even add a cup of hot cocoa, perhaps?
To help you get in the mood, I’ve gathered up all the gay holiday TV that I could find! 13 Christmas and three Thanksgiving episodes full of lesbians in matching two-piece pajamas, bisexuals in endearing sweaters, and a trans woman dressed up as a literal Holigay Angel. Get ready for singing carolers, snow falling, tables full of comfort food, and as many warm kisses as you can handle! These episodes aren’t ranked, because that’s not quite in the holiday spirit, now is it?
Bake a batch of cookies and enjoy.
Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas! We’ll Have a Gay Old Time!
Oh, Glee. If you’ve never watched Ryan Murphy’s magnum opus of a comedy-musical parody, here’s the thing you need to know: Glee LOVED Christmas. They loved Christmas like no show that came before, or no show that we’ll ever see again after. They loved the cheese of it, they leaned into the bright colors and childhood tales and ALL THE CHRISTMAS CAROLS.
I have such fuzzy, happy memories of this show at Christmas time! Then I went back to re-watch the episodes for this list and I’ll be honest with – when it comes to gay girls, they are NOT great! Brittany and Santana are iconic, obviously. But it turns out they weren’t together much at the holidays! In season two they hadn’t yet started dating, in season three Santana was fresh out of the closet, and by season four’s Christmas they were already broken up! Still there’s lots of good singing to be had if that’s your thing (I would recommend Amber Riley’s “All I Want For Christmas,” which includes a lot of cute Britany/Santana dancing, among other highlights).
It’s probably best to watch these episodes while you’re busy decorating your tree or baking treats. Then you can happily sing with the characters without closely following the plot, just in case. And because this glorious work of art was cut from its original episode, I will now present to you Santa Lopez singing “Santa Baby.”
The best kept secret gay sing-a-long of the holiday season.
Pretty Little Liars will never make sense out of context (it barely makes sense even in context). I won’t even try. Instead I’d like to point you to The Internet’s Leading PLL Expert, our very own Heather Hogan, who said this about Emily Fields’ girlfriend Paige wearing a pair of Santa boxers just to make her smile after a long day of almost being murdered:
“Never, ever did I ever think we’d get to a place in my lifetime where a lesbian TV character would be treated with so much affection and dignity and respect that her girlfriend would fit in as seamlessly as all the boyfriends on the show. It’s sweet, yes. But it’s sexy, too. And it’s no big deal in Rosewood, and that’s a big fucking deal in the real world.”
Episode: 3.06 “If We Make It Through December”
Where to watch: Amazon
Get ready to have so many emotions about chosen family and feeling like you’re finally good enough – even when that very wrong, but sometimes very loud, voice in your head says that you’re not! Take it from Valerie Anne: “Mama looks around at this table and tells Waverly that see? Her birth father doesn’t matter. Look at this family she’s made. They built this family their own selves and Mama couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve created in her absence.”
Plus? A CHRISTMAS LAP DANCE!
Episode: 1.03 “Giving and Receiving”
Where to watch: Amazon
If you haven’t seen Pose yet, the first thing I’m going to tell you is to see Pose. In my opinion, it’s the most important piece of queer television this year, and because it’s the holidays, I wouldn’t want you to miss out.
The next thing I’m going to tell you is that Pose’s Christmas episode is going to make you weep, but only because you are going to feel so full of love and hope, and the stubborn possibilities of what queer families make for ourselves even when the world around us tells us we can’t. This episode is triumphant when it could otherwise choose to be self-pitying or sad. That fearlessness? That’s the spirit of our people. Honor it by watching.
Episode: “Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale”
Where to watch: Netflix
I don’t know much about the Christmas episode of Sabrina because it hasn’t even aired yet! Netflix has it set to premiere on December 14th, so mark your calendars! The special is going to explore the Spellmans celebrating Winter Solstice, while Sabrina’s human friends get excited for Santa (you know, as opposed to Satan). Given how Sabrina’s first season went this fall, I’m going to assume that you can expect lots of goth glam, more than a little bit of blood, and dark hallways lit with creepy flickering candles.
Plus! Who wouldn’t want to see Susie Putnam as the cutest little gender queer elf the world has ever seen?
Christmas with the gayest Brady Brunch on television, the Adams-Foster clan! Jesús and Mariana get into a battle with their neighbor over lawn decorations, Jude and Callie try to get comfortable celebrating the holidays with their new family, and Stef gets in it with her mom about the appropriate “size” of presents to give the grandkids.
Really though, we’re here for watching the Mamas in their matching velvet pajamas on Christmas morning! They are monogrammed for crying out loud! Could anything be better? I think not.
This is probably my favorite Christmas episode, if only because it is so damn adorable! Teenage Nicole, newly out from the closet, hasn’t had much time to learn how to flirt with girls. She recruits her best friend Eddie, who in turn recruits his little brother and first girlfriend. Together, the foursome spend their holiday break hanging out in the new coffee chain in town (a subtle dig at the ubiquitous sprawling of Starbucks in the late ’90s that continues to this day) and helping Nicole work up the nerve to ask out the girl of her dreams. It’s funny and sweet and perfectly teenage without laying it on too thick, you know? Also, watching the young teens get hopped up on caffeine comes with some excellent sight gags!
I won’t spoil it and tell you if Nicole wins the girl at the end, but I will say that your cheeks are going to hurt from smiling and laughing. Better to prepare yourself now.
I’m including this episode because it’s Buffy and by definition BUFFY IS G-A-Y. How could I not? It is for the culture.
At the same time, I feel like I should warn you upfront that in this very specific episode, our foremother Willow Rosenberg has yet to come out. In fact her major plot point involves her deciding whether the “love of her life” is going to be Xander, the boy next door best friend that she grew up with, or Oz, her first real boyfriend. This is all false because we already know that the love of Willow’s life is going to Tara, but since we haven’t actually met Tara yet, I suppose it’s not fair to hold a young Willow to such a high standard.
Episode: Series Seven Christmas Special “The Snowmen”
Where to watch: Amazon
I’ve never seen an episode of Doctor Who in my entire life! I am sorry. But, here to save the day is Heather Hogan!
“From the moment they showed up in the mid-season six finale, ‘A Good Man Goes to War,’ Madame Vastra and Jenny were fan favorites. They cemented their iconic status in the 2012 Christmas special, ‘The Snowmen,’ when they arrived at the front door of a Victorian manor, covered in show, and Vastra cordially announced, ‘Good evening, I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife.’ The episode finds Vastra and Jenny (and their buddy Strax) helping the Doctor investigate the origin of some monstrous and destructive sentient snowmen. Jenny shows off her ninja skills, the two of them kiss right on the mouths, and they’re also the first to meet the Doctor’s new companion, eventual Jane Austen lover (take that how you like) Clara Oswald.”
Thank you, Heather.
Episode: 1.13 “Can’t Fix Crazy”
Where to watch: Netflix
I have a personal policy of never giving Orange is the New Black more than basic media attention, because I don’t believe in rewarding racist behavior. That said, I simply couldn’t compile this holigay list without including Samira Wiley singing “Amazing Grace” from Litchfield’s Annual Christmas Pageant. This was the moment that I fell in love with Poussey. And therefore, this moment cleared the way for Orange is the New Black to one day break my heart.
Want to skip the entire episode? No worries, I don’t blame you. I’m including the song here for that very purpose:
Looking for more OITNB holiday cheer without actually having to watch the show? Then may I suggest Danielle Brooks and Uzo Aduba’s “Holly Jolly Melody”? You will love it.
And a Holigay Thanksgiving to You and Yours
Yes, I know that technically Thanksgiving is in our rearview mirror, but here me out about this: Coming out at Thanksgiving is a gay national pastime. In that grand tradition, some really great gay television takes place over Turkey Day. Plus, if you squint hard enough, a lot of the themes from Thanksgiving carry across the holiday season: food, family, hiding secrets, high anxieties, and finding love through it all.
I don’t think there is anyone who loves Alex Danvers the way that Valerie Anne loves Alex Danvers. Her writing about the DEA Agent is a joy:
“At first she denied being gay, then she thought maybe she was just gay for Maggie, but now she realizes it — and can even say the word — she’s gay. Super gay. This is her life now, and she’s discovering she’s more than just okay with it, she’s happy about it.
And man oh man can I relate to that fear that there’s no turning back. That feeling that once you say you’re gay, everything is gay, and you’re going to have to put on your gay shoes in the morning and walk your gay self around this not-usually-as-gay-as-we’d-like world. But then once you realize that you like your rainbow chucks better than those boring flats that hurt your feet, or that combat boots give you the swagger you’ve been wishing you had, or that your high heels make for a great gay catwalk strut, you find that you wouldn’t want to turn back, even if you could.”
Kiss the Girls That You Want to Kiss.
Short of Sabrina’s Midwinter Tale – which hasn’t happened yet! – this is our most recent episode on the list, airing just a little over two weeks ago! It also happens to star the youngest member of our gay girl gang, ten-year-old Tess Pearson. Tess comes out to her Aunt Kate on the same day as getting her first period. It’s beautiful for a lot of layers and reasons, none the least of which is that she gets to remain young and ten the entire time! This Is Us resists any urge to “mature” Tess, even as adulthood pressures are pushing in all around her. Conversely, they also don’t treat the tween with kid gloves. They take her fears and nervousness seriously. That makes all the difference.
Episode: 2.08 “Thanksgiving”
Where to watch: Netflix
WHAT CAN I EVEN SAY? “Thanksgiving” is a game changer in every sense of the word. A critical darling – this episode made Lena Waithe the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. It’s already a cult classic in gay households, despite only airing less than two years ago. It’s masterfully written, smartly funny, and filled to the brim with Lena’s heart. It’s the most solid 30 minutes of storytelling on this list.
This time, I absolutely saved the best for last.
Which episode are you going to start with? Grab a blanket and your remote!
I’ll see you there!