18 2018 LGBTQ Women of Color TV Characters Crushing It

This post was written by Carmen, Natalie, and Kayla. 

2018!! I don’t know if you’ve felt it yet, but we certainly have. This is the year where lesbian, bisexual, queer, and trans women of color are taking over your television screens. Not just in terms of volume (though it does feel like more of us are getting our time on screen), but in terms of quality and depth and agency.

With cable shows like Vida and Pose burning up the summer with lesbian, queer, and trans women of color protagonists, along winter favs like Black Lightning’s black lesbian superhero Anissa Pierce and One Day at a Time’s always perfect Latina lesbian teenager Elena Alvarez keeping us warm through the cold months – it’s time we stand up and pay attention.

Carmen, Natalie, and Kayla have been talking about this trend a lot recently. So, when Heather suggested we put together a list of our favorite queer and trans women of color crushing 2018, we jumped at the chance!

Hope you enjoy!

Eddy Martínez, Vida

Written by Natalie

Where to watch: STARZ, STARZ Add-on on Hulu or Amazon Prime
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 102, “Episode 2“; 103, “Episode 3

It may be hard to imagine, between how season one of Vida begins for Eddy — with the death of her wife — and how it ends — with her laid, battered and bruised, in a hospital bed — that she would be among the list of characters crushing it in 2018. But, what lies between how it began and how it ended is evidence of a love so deeply felt that even death could not diminish it. Eddy devotes her entire self to ensuring that the dreams she once had with Vida all come true: she is remodeling their bar, reuniting their family and, slowly, making things right with Emma.

A love more powerful than death? Yeah, Eddy is definitely crushing it.

Blanca Evangelista, Pose

Written by Carmen

Where to watch: FX, Amazon Prime, iTunes
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 101, “Pilot”; 106, “Love is the Message“

First thing: If you are not yet watching F/X’s Pose then you absolutely should be. It’s produced by Janet Mock (and Ryan Murphy), it has trans women (Janet Mock and Our Lady J) in the writers room, it has trans women directing episodes (Oh look! Janet, again!), and it boasts the largest cast of trans women ever on television. This is what we are talking about when we say that representation matters.

It’s more than just a number’s game. Blanca Evangelista is the kind of character I’ve been waiting my whole life for. She’s an Afro-Latina, Puerto Rican, and fighting like hell to keep her queer chosen family together and make a name for herself in this world. MJ Rodriguez is a breakout star and now that she has your attention, she’s damn sure running with it. I dare you to watch her and try and take your eyes away. You can’t. It’s impossible.

Adena El-Amin, The Bold Type

Written by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Where to watch: Freeform, Amazon Prime, iTunes
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 201, “Feminist Army”; 202, “Rose Colored Glasses”; 203, “The Scarlet Letter

Adena has always been one of the most compelling characters on The Bold Type, even when the show sometimes struggles to figure out where to place her in an episode. She’s confident, talented, and not afraid to push back on others, even challenging her girlfriend’s parents a bit when they try to minimize the power of labels. She has always been proud of being a Muslim lesbian, and she’ll never stop telling people who she is. Her conversation with Kat at the beginning of season two is groundbreaking in its depiction of the complicated, intimate, sometimes uncomfortable conversations that two sexual partners should have in order to have more fulfilling sex lives and relationships. The fact that it happens between two femmes of color makes it all the more special.

Jane Ramos, Jane The Virgin

Written by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Where to watch: The CW, Netflix
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 412, “Chapter 76”; 414, “Chapter 78”; 415, “Chapter 79”; 416, “Chapter 80”

We all felt it. That small shift in the universe when Jane Ramos a.k.a. JR showed up in Petra Solano’s life. The chemistry was undeniable, Rosario Dawson oozing with a sensuality that somehow seemed explicitly queer right off the bat. JR may have made some mistakes—namely, succumbing to blackmail and losing her license to practice law in the process—but the way her attraction and feelings for Petra develop is so pure and tingly, full of the kind of bright but believable romance that this show does so dang well.

Anissa Pierce, Black Lightning

Written by Natalie

Where to watch: The CW, Netflix
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 102, “LaWanda: The Book of Hope“; 105, “And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: The Book of Green Light

So this feels a little literal, no? I mean, from the moment she grabs the rim of the porcelain sink in her bathroom, only to have it break off in her hands, Anissa Pierce is, quite literally, crushing it. She repeats this feat throughout the season, donning the Thunder suit, crushing the enemies of truth and justice, with enviable swagger. In a world that insists on reminding us of how vulnerable we are, here comes Thunder, a bulletproof black lesbian, to remind us the bounds of black girl magic may well be limitless.

That said, I wouldn’t mind if Black Lightning found more time in season two to let Anissa Pierce crush it outside her Thunder suit.

Emma Hernandez, Vida

Written by Carmen

Where to watch: STARZ, STARZ Add-on on Hulu or Amazon Prime
Episode(s) where they crushed it: All of Them! But also, 103, “Episode 3”; 104, “Episode 4

Emma Hernandez, Vida’s central protagonist had quite the arc in just six episodes. She was forced to move home to help deal with her mother’s death. Her mother, who ostracized Emma as a teenager because of her homosexuality, turned out to be gay herself and secretly married to a woman that Emma now must share her inheritance with. That’s… ummm… a lot of baggage. She also has to save her family from financial ruin, figure out how keep their business out of the hands of greedy developers, and – SURPRISE! – keep herself together when her old ex-girlfriend somehow becomes her very new love interest all over again. Somehow, Emma finds a way to balance all of those complexities with grit and power you can’t turn your eyes away from.

Also, she starred in the best, most raw queer women’s sex scene ever filmed for television. Ever. EVER. Yeah, I’d call that crushing it.

Annalisa “Quiet Ann” Zayas, Claws

Written by Natalie

Where to watch: TNT, Amazon Prime, iTunes
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 204, “Scream

The Dalai Lama once said, “don’t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance or my kindness for weakness. Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” Few characters embody that as well as Quiet Ann Zayas. Slowly but surely, Claws continues to peel back the layers of Ann to reveal Ann, the young mother, forced to give up her child at 17, and Ann, the college-educated polyglot who was once married to a male professor, and Ann, the unapologetic dyke who gave up the love of her life to protect the family she’d chosen. Ann might not be saying much, but there’s strength in her silence and we’d all do well to pay attention.

Angel Evangelista, Pose

Written by Natalie

Where to watch: FX, Amazon Prime, iTunes
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 103, “Giving and Receiving”; 106, “Love Is the Message”

Soon after Pose first premiered, Ryan Murphy sent out a since-deleted tweet bemoaning that, as Angel climbed into the car with a john, the audience seemed frightened for her. He wouldn’t do that to one of his characters, he assured us, seemingly ignoring that for years, depictions of sex featuring trans women on television — especially trans women who are sex workers — have been tied to danger. Pose, and especially Angel Evangelista, are rewriting everything we’ve been programmed to believe about trans women and sexuality, and it is glorious.

There is no greater example of Angel absolutely crushing it than in Pose‘s most recent episode, where she stands unapologetically in her truth, as she’s confronted by her ex-boyfriend’s wife. She is unbothered and unbossed and encourages us to be the same.

Arthie Premkumar, Glow

Written by Kayla

Where to watch: Netflix
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 208, “The Good Twin”; 210, “Every Potato Has A Receipt”

Arthie and new girl on the GLOW squad Yolanda Rivas become roommates during season two and, well, crushing-on-a-roommate is a queer tale as old as time. Arthie is still in the very early stages of her coming out journey, but even their idiot director Sam can see the hearts in her eyes for Yolanda. They share a dreamy dance in one episode (and we all know how I feel about the concept of two women ballroom dancing together), and Arthie even shows up at the strip club to support her gal pal and appears to be having the time of her little baby queer life there. It’s still incredible rare to see South Asian queer women on television, and I’m beyond excited by the prospect of Arthie’s sexuality journey (Spoiler alert: They kiss in the season finale!) being explored more next season.

Kat Edison, The Bold Type

Written by Carmen

Where to watch: Freeform, Amazon Prime, iTunes
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 201, “Feminist Army”; 205, “Stride of Pride”; 206, “The Domino Effect

Do you know who has been really growing as a person lately? The Bold Type’s Kat Edison. She’s just been sprouting all over the place, like the new buds on a spring tree. She went down on a woman for the first time. She’s confronted her own internalized bias and blind spots about race. She’s introduced her girlfriend to her parents. She’s held her friends accountable about their privilege, even when that meant having the tough convos. I just feel so proud of her, you know? And sure, growth is not always pretty. It’s often downright messy, I think Kat is learning that the hard way right now. But hey, even at her messiest she’s making out with hot girls on the dance floor. There are worst places to be.

(I love #Kadena, ok! And I believe they will make it through this rough patch! Please don’t fight me!)

Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn 99

Written by Carmen

Where to watch: FOX, Hulu
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 522, “Jake & Amy”

The legend of Rosa Diaz will be spoken of in hushed, reverent tones throughout queer women’s television folklore for years to come. First, Stephanie Beatriz came out as bisexual. Then, just 18 months later, so did the character she plays on TV. And if that wasn’t enough, somehow in 2018 Stephanie Beatriz threaded the needle just right so GINA FREAKING RODRIGUEZ could play her potential new love interest!! How did she work such bruja magic? Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t care. In the Brooklyn 99 season finale, Rodriguez’s character hopped out of that Lyft she was driving and into our hearts.

Anyone who can pull such a hottie deserves to be on this list. Four for you Rosa Diaz, you go Rosa Diaz.

Hen Wilson, 9-1-1

Written by Natalie

Where to watch: Hulu, iTunes
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 108, “Karma’s a Bitch”; 109, “Trapped”

In her TV retrospective last year, Riese pointed out that only 16 of the 204 lesbian, bisexual and queer female characters, were masculine-of-center so adding a dapper butch like Hen Wilson to a diminishing MOC roster is a welcome treat (especially when she looks like Aisha Hinds).

On 9-1-1, Hen is allowed to do what straight women on primetime television have been allowed to do for years: crush it in their professional lives — Hen literally saves a homeless man from being crushed by a trash compactor in one episode — while being all kinds of messy in their personal lives. Thankfully, by the end of the season, Hen’s come to her senses and made her wife and son her priority.

Kat Sandoval, Madam Secretary

Written by Carmen

Where to watch: CBS, Amazon Prime, iTunes
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 414, “Refuge

Kat! Kat, Kat, Kat. She’s brilliant, passionate, and her swag can be seen from outer-fucking-space! I could write a thousand love letters to Sara Ramirez’s most recent television turn as policy advisor Kat Sandoval (and thankfully because of my job at Autostraddle, I have), but perhaps no moment on network television has thus far better exemplified a queer woman of color “crushing it” in 2018 than Kat coming out as bi and queer to her work colleague Jay:

“I [used to have] long hair. I wore dresses and heels. And, sometimes it felt like me? And sometimes it felt like a costume that I had to wear in order to survive – to gain access. Now I don’t have to fit in to play the game. Now I make my own rules. And number one is being my authentic self.”


Yolanda Rivas, Glow

Written by Kayla

Where to watch: Netflix
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 202, “Candy Of The Year”; 208, “The Good Twin,” 210, “Every Potato Has A Receipt”

The most glaring issue with GLOW’s first season is its lack of lesbians. Season two adds out wrestler Yolanda, who, when Alison Brie’s Ruth asks her if she likes girls, matter-of-factly replies “I LOVE girls.” She’s super out and super confident, quickly becoming a part of the tight-knit GLOW sisterhood.

Elena Alvarez, One Day At A Time

Written by Natalie

Where to watch: Netflix
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 113, “Quinces”; 208, “What Happened”

Television likes to tell certain stories about queer teens — either everything is awful or everything is great — but the truth of that lived experience often falls somewhere in between. Few characters have reflected that reality better than Elena Alvarez. Her first crush has a boyfriend but she awkwardly falls into a loving relationship, nonetheless. Elena knows who she is and even who she wants to be with but she doesn’t have everything figured out. She stumbles trying to make her relationship work.

“I’m moving on with my life. I’m gonna be fine,” Elena tells her unsupportive father during ODAAT‘s second season. “I’m just really bummed out for you. You’re gonna miss stuff and that sucks, ’cause I’m pretty great.”

We know, Elena, we know.

Toni Topaz, Riverdale

Written by Kayla 

Where to watch: The CW, Netflix, Amazon Prime
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 214, “The Hills Have Eyes”; 215, “There Will Be Blood”; 217, “The Noose Tightens,” 222, “Brave New World”

Toni’s relationship with Cheryl Blossom was one of the most exciting developments of Riverdale’s last season, but I think it’s important to note that Toni also very much stands on her own as a character. Her loyalty to the serpents and her convictions in her beliefs are strongly felt in all of her actions. She calls out the whitewashing of the town’s history and takes a stand. She’s also fun and flirty and a supportive force for Cheryl, who doesn’t have many people in her life she can trust. She also literally executes a conversion therapy camp rescue mission like a goddamn Bisexual Batman. I’m thrilled that Vanessa Morgan has been upped to regular status for season three.

Cruz (I’m Too Sexy for a Last Name), Vida

Written by Kayla 

Where to watch: STARZ, STARZ Add-on on Hulu or Amazon Prime
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 102, “Episode 2“; 104, “Episode 4“; 106, “Episode 6

Cruz might not be the biggest player on Vida, but her presence is electric from the start. She bursts back into Emma’s life like a flash flood when she appears in the pilot, and even though very little is said, it’s clear right away that these two women mean something to each other. The sexual tension persists, finally boiling over when Emma ends up partying with Cruz and her crew of hot qpoc at a bar one night. Cruz challenges Emma, but she also sees her. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of her in season two.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Lena Adams Foster, The Fosters

Written by Carmen

Where to watch: Freeform, Netflix
Episode(s) where they crushed it: 513, “Line in the Sand”; 518, “Just Say Yes” ; 522, “Where the Heart Is

2018 has thus far been banging for queer women of color on television. I would go so far as to call it a landmark. A breakthrough, even! But, there was a time when our waters were much more choppy. There was a biracial black lesbian on TV who had to hold it down almost entirely by herself. That lesbian was Lena Adams-Foster.

This year The Fosters gave her a happy ending fit for a social justice queen – gorgeous as ever, Lena’s out there making her mark in the world, skinny dipping with her hot wife in the Caribbean and running for California State Assembly.

So, this one’s for you, Lena! Thank you for your effortless boho style, your giving heart, your generous spirit. You crushed it for five long years. We will never forget you.

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The TV Team

The Autostraddle TV Team is made up of Riese Bernard, Carmen Phillips, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Valerie Anne, Natalie, Drew Burnett Gregory, and Nic. Follow them on Twitter!

The TV has written 231 articles for us.


  1. I AM HERE FOR THIS ARTICLE and also to create a summer watchlist of every show on here I have yet to watch.

    • AWESOME! That’s one of our hopes, that people get to discover shows that maybe weren’t yet on their radar or shows that they haven’t had time/ a chance to watch yet.

    • Cruz instead of Eddy though. The bar scene between Cruz and Emma is one of the best lesbian scenes I can remember. Maria Elena Laas does a lot with just looks, very little dialogue. The acting behind Eddy is so flat.

  2. This list makes me very happy but I’m also sad that there’s no East Asian queer women on here, which isn’t a jab at AS or the writers of the article (you guys do great work!) but more so just disappointment at the lack of those characters on TV.

    • Kit! I definitely share in that disappointment. This has bee a big year in so many ways, but there’s also a lot further to go. It’s not enough until everyone’s represented.

      In the meantime, if you’re looking for queer East Asian woman on the tv, Anissa Pierce’s girlfriend on Black Lightning, Grace, is bisexual and played by Chantal Thuy:


      Sadly, she doesn’t have nearly enough to do on the show, which is why she ultimately didn’t make this list. But, she has plots in episode 103 and 104.The show runners have promised a more expanded role for her character in the second season.

      We (Kayla, Natalie, and I) also spent a lot of time going back and forth about whether or not to include the always amazing (AND EMMY NOMINATED!! WOO-HOO!) Sandra Oh for her performance as Eve Polastri in Killing Eve.

      In the end we decided that her character’s queerness in the first season is only implied rather than fully developed or realized on screen, which is why we felt she wouldn’t quite work with the group we selected here. But, Killing Eve is a fan favorite show around these parts. If haven’t seen it, and if you enjoy watching complex female relationships, a meditation on obsession, (and don’t mind blood) – it would be the first thing I recommend!

      Fingers crossed that Eve’s sexuality is more fully explored on screen in next season! Until then, the fan fiction is (excuse the pun) killer.

      I know it’s not enough! It’s so far from enough! But hopefully that gives you a few places to start.

      • Thanks for the reply, Carmen! I do already watch Black Lightning and while I’m excited about Grace, she really disappeared after a couple of episodes so I understand why she didn’t make the list. I also watch Runaways and I love Nico. Killing Eve is also on my to-watch list! Although not for any queer content but just because of Sandra Oh haha.

    • I can only think of one, and that’s Nico on the Runaways. But considering only two or so episodes aired in 2018, I’m not sure it counted.

    • there is Grace Choi (played by Chantal Thuy) who plays Anissa Pierces love interest in Black Lightning.

  3. I literally start tearing up every time I think about Arthie from GLOW, it’s becoming a problem. We so rarely get people of color or queer people in period pieces, let alone a whole South Asian queer woman!

    • there is Rana Habeeb (played by Bhavna Limbachia) who plays a Muslim lesbian on ITVS’s Coronation Street. She should have made this list. Go check out her story if you haven’t already.

  4. I love this, especially for hanging in tight to the concept of crushing.

    (Insert rock smashed to smithereens gif here)

    • HAhahahaha! I wondered if anyone was going to pick up on that! Thank you, we have fun.

  5. I love all of this so much! So many characters on shows I love and follow, and also on shows I’m so excited to start watching soon!

    Also, as someone who gave up on The Fosters a few seasons ago, I really appreciate the update on Lena’s life – I’m glad she ended the series in such a good place!

    Finally, please don’t answer with spoilers, but I haven’t seen season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale yet (I’m so behind!), so I’m very worried about the fact that Samira Wiley’s character isn’t on this list!?

    • I just watched all of the Samira Wiley plots this week specifically, and I can confirm – without spoilers – that her character is still alive and she’s still on the show. Sadly, they are under utilizing her talent, which is why she didn’t quite make the list.

      (What a crazy embarrassment of wealth that we can even say something like that? Just a few years ago, EVERYONE would’ve made the list, regardless of the quality of their story, just because there were so few to start with! It boggles my mind)

      Anyway, also – no spoilers – but I’m hopeful that she’s moving more close to the central plot of Handmaid’s next year in season 3!


      • Hi Carmen!!!

        I’ve been so MIA recently and I’m so sorry – I miss our Queen Sugar Fan Club, and talking about so many other shows, but life has just been so busy lately I don’t have time to keep up anymore, and by the time I’m caught up, everyone’s moved on the the next thing! It’s obviaouly good that I went out and got a life but I miss you!!! Thanks for the update on the Handmaids Tale, I’m gonna get to it soon, hopefully!

  6. What a travesty that Bhavna Limbachia who plays Rana Habeeb as TV soaps first Muslim Lesbian is not on this list.

    • @JustSayin Thanks for the comment. I thought about including Rana, as I love the character (and Bhavna), but ultimately decided against it as I’m not sure she can be described as “crushing it,” given everything she and Kate have gone through. Corrie’s not really given Kana storyline that focuses on them as a couple. It went from Luke’s murder at the start of the year to the break-up to the business arrangement with Rana’s parents to the Rana reconnecting with Kate to the attempted kidnapping to Aiden’s death to the confrontation with the homophobe to Zee’s departure and now, Rana’s parents are coming back for the money their owed…

      In short, they’ve been through a lot of things but “crushing it” is not a phrase I’d used to describe it.

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