One of the most exciting things about TV this year was that there were whole entire episodes that explored queer themes and the queer lives of queer characters. It was more than crumbs and Very Special moments. These were entire TV episodes that paid off queer storylines that had been building, or approached lesbian and bisexual and trans stuff in ways we’ve never really seen on-screen, or expanded queer storytelling into genres where it’d been lacking, or utilized new TV platforms in queer ways. Pretty dang exciting stuff! Here are 18 of the best episodes of LGBTQ TV in 2017.
Our Favorite Episodes of Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans TV In 2017
Master of None Episode 208, “Thanksgiving“
Heather Hogan: Some people — the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, for example — might even say it was the best TV episode of the entire year, gay or not. (Me too. I also would say that.)
The Handmaid’s Tale Episode 103, “Late”
Heather Hogan: We spend a lot of time talking about how we’ve had enough violence against and murder of gay TV characters, but there was something almost essential about the way The Handmaid’s Tale expanded on the queer narrative of the book and forced us to witness the torture against “gender traitors.” This was the story and the show for 2017, in all its unapologetic brutality.
The Bold Type Episode 105, “No Feminism in the Champagne Room”
Kayla: “Kat finds genuine empowerment and awakening on her bike. As the instructor calls out platitudes, the words take on more meaning by scoring Jane, Sutton, and Kat confronting their individual obstacles of the episode. The affirmations resonate in particular with Kat, who realizes she wants to overcome her fears and take a leap with Adena. She cries, smiles, laughs, as she comes to terms with her own desires, and Aisha Dee is resplendent in the scene. Of course The Bold Type would take a setting used commonly for mockery and derision and turn it into a place of healing and self-realization. This show wants its characters and viewers to feel good.”
I Love Dick Episode 105, “A Short History Of Weird Girls”
Riese: “I Love Dick” consistently pushes the boundaries of its format, melding elements of live theater, experimental video and performance art into compact televised capsules, consistently catching you off-guard by slicing obsessive interior monologues into public scenes. “A Short History of Weird Girls” is the apex of this style. It removes us from the present narrative to deliver character histories focused entirely on sexual comings-of-age from narrators we rarely hear such stories from — a self-described hypersexual awkward Jewish girl with cystic acne, a Latina butch cowgirl, a Black girl who worshipped Michael J Fox but also was in love with her mother. These are weird women. Devon’s formative interest in Dick is different than Chris’s. She doesn’t desire the man, but rather the effect he has on women, his swagger, his entitlement to female attention — and something else, too, the awkward racial and class dynamics between the landowner and the immigrants who work the land for him. Plus we get flashbacks to an actual baby butch, and tender college makeout scenes, and relateable, pure heartbreak. Like Master of None’s “Thanksgiving,” “A Short History of Weird Girls” slips the generally untold story of a queer masculine-of-center woman of color into a show that’s already kinda niche, but not nearly as niche as those sweet minutes.
One Day At A Time Episode 113, “Quinces”
Yvonne: “My all time favorite part of the show was the last episode which leads up to Elena’s quinceanera. Throughout the episode, Lydia keeps tailoring Elena’s fancy dress for her big day. Even though Elena says she loves it, Lydia doesn’t believe she’s in love with her dress. Elena admits that she doesn’t feel totally comfortable in it like she does when she wears ties, fedoras and jackets. Apparently, Lydia finally gets the final wardrobe adjustment right because when Elena sees it she’s in tears and even though I didn’t see what she’s gonna wear, I’m in tears too. When Elena walks out for her big reveal, she’s wearing a glitzy, fabulous femme white suit. I busted out crying again, my friends, because her abuela made her a gay little suit. It’s more than just Elena stepping out in this beautiful suit, it symbolizes Elena’s coming out in more ways than one — as a young lady who is comfortable with who she is and with a family who’s by her side no matter what.”
Wynonna Earp Episode 202, “Shed Your Skin”
Valerie Anne: “It’s not A-frame kissing with parkas on, it’s not blurry kisses near some candles in the woods. Nope. It’s a bright room and a clear lens, an unbuttoned shirt and a belt undone. At this point Nicole stops Waverly — with effort, like dragging your feet in the sand to stop a swing — and asks if she’s sure. Waverly says yes right away. She smiles and giggles a little nervously. “The best sex is makeup sex, right?” (Making Nicole go full Paige McCullers head dip.) And listen I know this is silly but hearing adults say the word sex when they’re talking about the sex they’re about to sex is very refreshing! And of course, consent is sexy. So they exchange, “I like yous” and Nicole lifts Waverly’s chin right up. And they kiss and they kiss and then the tol redhead picks up her smol girlfriend and places her gently down on the bed in a beautiful sweeping motion that looked like something out of a ballet.”
Madam Secretary Episode 407, “North to the Future”
Carmen Phillips: “It’s a beautiful tribute of recognition. A moment of that I think we’ve all felt at one time or another. We are just going about our days, and then you look up and something has shifted. You see a glimmer of something that reminds you of your most authentic self. It’s rare for queer women, or women of color. Its even more rare for folks who are butch or genderqueer or masculine-of-center. When those moments happen, we are forced to take stock.
We had one of those moments last month, when Madam Secratary introduced Kat Sandoval in her suit and tie, with her own version of a ring of keys, her just perfect pocket chain, in a photo heard throughout the queer world. We were gifted with another one of those moments last night, when Kat Sandoval came alive on screen in all of her dapper butch, nerdy, avocado farming, policy savant glory.
To be seen. Really seen. It’s a simple, but undeniably power thing.”
Brooklyn 99 Episode 509, “Game Night”
Rachel: “After being kind of outed by Boyle’s nosiness in the previous episode, Rosa decides to intentionally come out to her coworkers and, later, her parents. It’s established that while Rosa’s coming out to others is new, coming out to herself is not — she tells Amy she’s known she was bi since seventh grade. It’s notable how much this arc is focused on sexual orientation as a character trait rather than a plot point — the focus is never on Rosa’s relationship with this new woman (although I do want to know more about that!) but the fact that bisexuality is an important part of Rosa’s identity and always has been, something that’s refreshing to see. Parts of Rosa’s coming out are probably pretty relatable to all queer people, like Amy asking “when did you know?,” Boyle’s awkward overcompensating allyship, and the implication that Hitchcock was going to say something gross and sexualizing if given the chance. Especially in her interactions with her parents, though, Rosa’s coming out arc feels specifically and uniquely bisexual in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen on television before.”
Doctor Who Episode 10×1, “The Pilot” (before we knew what was gonna happen next)
Heather Davidson: “I’m 23 now, and the Doctor Who universe is more queer than ever. Class‘s Charlie Smith can live with his boyfriend while River Song talks about her wives and Bill Potts flirts with every other girl she sees. It’s not perfect – hell, the very exchange in which Bill first outs herself ends in a horrible fatphobic joke – but with Bill as the Doctor’s companion, the representation of humanity on a show that began when homosexuality was illegal in Britain is now a working class, lesbian woman of colour. Bill Potts is part of an explosion in LGBTQ representation in family and young adult focused media over the last few years; on the BBC alone, queer and trans youth can see themselves reflected in shows from Just a Girl to Clique. However, that representation is rarely diverse and frequently challenged – the broadcaster was forced to defend Just a Girl after accusations that it was “encouraging children to change their gender”. And LQBTQ stories everywhere, particularly for lesbian and bisexual women, are still so often made to end in tragedy. Slowly, though, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of including good, meaningful queer representation in their work. Things are getting better.”
Fresh Off The Boat Episode 406, “A League of Her Own”
Heather Hogan: It’s a rare and wonderful thing to get to watch a Very Special Coming Out Episode that’s never been done before. It’s even more rare and wonderful when it makes you laugh and cry with it’s authenticity and good intentions. Nicole joining the Denim Turtles’ softball team, Jessica taking over coaching duties, Nicole’s dad’s flubbed reaction and recovery when he realized she’s gay: It was a perfect 22 minutes of TV.
Doubt Episode 104, “Clean Burn”
Natalie: “Nervous about her new kinda-boyfriend, Cameron (Laverne Cox) does what every other woman who’s ever been nervous about dating someone new does: she calls her girlfriends. Those girlfriends are two other trans women played by actual trans women (Angelica Ross and Jen Richards) and, suddenly, a normal conversation between three friends feels monumental. Beyond the tremendous step forward this scene represented for trans women, there was also part of me that wanted to pull up a chair to that table and share high-fives with Jen Richards and Angelica Ross, because the moment felt so familiar. It was the conversation I had with my friends when I considered getting into my first interracial relationship or the first time I thought about dating a woman who had previously identified as straight. It’s a conversation that Aziz Ansari’s character, Dev, has on his first date with Sona (Pallavi Sastry) on Master of None — when does dating one too many of one type of person cross the line into fetishizing? Anyone who’s ever been othered has had some version of that conversation and it’s a reminder of our shared humanity.”
Danger & Eggs Episode 113, “Chosen Family”
Mey: “My favorite character in the entire show is a young girl named Zadie, played by teen trans activist Jazz Jennings. First of all this kid is an adorable and precocious, recently-out trans girl who gets on stage at Pride (yeah, that’s right, this show has an entire episode that takes place at a Pride day celebration) with a cute haircut and equally cute dress and sings a song about her first day at school as the real her. Plus she’s super smart and explains chosen families to Phillip. This episode, ‘Chosen Family,’ serves as the season finale and is one of the best and most important episodes of any kids show I’ve ever seen. It’s super queer, super sweet and full of love.”
Halt and Catch Fire Episode 406, “A Connection Is Made”
Riese: “A Connection Is Made” is when Haley really steps into her own as a character, despite being present in some iteration since the series’ start. Particularly I think of the lunch scene with Joe, when Haley’s explaining to him what she likes about the then-new internet. It seemed boring at first, but eventually she realized it was also a space to be your authentic self. Joe’s interest is its own kind of rapture, it’s penetrating and flattering all at once, but Haley’s almost unfazed by it, because she’s a teenager and she’s good at her job so of course. When the waitress Haley’s obviously crushing on drops in to geek out over Bratmobile with Haley, Joe — who is bisexual, which posits him consistently as an outsider nobody can clock at first glance — sees exactly what’s happening here. And maybe in some way, grasps in that moment the power of the internet, too. Joe later sticks up for Haley to Gordon when he wants her off Comet until her grades get better, and in his care to avoid outing her ends up rupturing his friendship with her father. Everybody here is looking for their safest space, after all, be it real or virtual or a real space building a virtual space, and Haley is one mere episode away from acquiring an alternative lifestyle haircut.
Loud House Episode 215, “L is for Love”
Valerie Anne: “There’s a little girl out there who watched this, who will continue to see more and more cartoons with storylines like this, who will grow up to be like Wonder Woman in the patriarch’s world. No matter how evolved our culture becomes, there will always be people who try to tell her she’s wrong for liking girls. But her foundation of self was built on Saturday mornings when she was seven years old. Built on characters like Luna, whose entire family helped her get ready for what they thought was a date with a girl. She’ll barely hear the noise. It’ll be bullets pinging off her wrist cuffs. Instead of thinking ‘I can’t have a crush on a girl,’ she’ll say, ‘I’m like Ruby and Sapphire. I’m like Luna Loud.'”
Degrassi: Next Class Episode 406, “Facts Only”
Riese: “Never had I ever seen an episode of television attempt to tell the story of a teenager realizing that they are non-binary. I’ve read and heard and seen a lot of personal narratives, but there’s something special and different about how those stories are crafted in fictional visual storytelling. Apparently, Degrassi writers decided to tell this story after visiting a local high school’s queer-straight alliance to get ideas from their experiences. (This episode also contains within its walls a catastrophic boy/girl/girl threesome that later reveals itself to be part of Esme’s rising mental breakdown, but for a few minutes of “Facts Only,” the whole situation was new enough to still feel like it could be something more and also something very queer for Frankie and Esme, and I was pretty stoked about that ’cause I love a bad girl / good girl high school matchup I’ll tell you what!)
DC Crisis of Infinite Earths Crossover
Heather Hogan: Having the two queer women on Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl fight together and drink together and sleep together during DC’s biggest TV event of the year is something I’m still not over. It’s not just that Alex and Sara hooked up; they had a story that helped Alex grow as a person and a lesbian! Their story was centered during a TV event in an industry that has historically been dominated by white men (and the dead women who fuel their manpain).
Transparent Episode 409, “They Is On The Way”
Riese: “This season more than any other resonated with me as a Jewish lesbian, poking and prodding at our cultural neuroses and political contradictions. Judith Light killed it this year as her overbearing Jewish mother was forced to take a messy personal inventory she’d hoped to avoid all her life, as familiar as it was painful and traumatic. As a people, we often refuse to leave well enough alone or to let each other be, which often leads to catastrophe at worst and hurt feelings at best, but this season the world turned its vigilant curious eye upon Shelly in a way that enabled actual revelation and beauty. Nowhere does that happen as much as it happens when the family hits up the Dead Sea in “They Is On The Way.” I cried through the whole damn thing.
One Mississippi Episode 206, “I’m Alive”
Heather Hogan: The entire second season of One Mississippi was a marvel, but the episode where Kate finally accepted that she and Tig are more than just a good team of platonic gal pals was a payoff for the record books. It was sweet and funny and sexy and I still swoon just thinking about Kate’s little coming out/I’m in love with you speech.
Honorable Mention For a Webseries Episode: Strangers Episode 106, “Getaway”
Heather Hogan: Who really knows where our TV will be coming from in five years. Maybe Facebook? The company unveiled Facebook Watch this year, and already analysts are predicting it will become more popular than YouTube. One of Watch’s original series’, Strangers, was a collaborative project with Refinery29 and it was gay as all get out. In fact, it was gayer in six episodes that most shows with queer characters are in their entire lifetimes. “Getaway” saw the main character, Isobel, and her first girlfriend enjoy all the swelling scores, well-lit sex scenes, and swoony kisses that are so common for straight couples but still so very lacking in the canon of queer representation.