All 29 Lesbian and Bisexual TV Characters Who Got Happy Endings

On Friday, Riese compiled a list of all 65 lesbian and bisexual TV characters who have been victims of the Bury Your Gays trope. Every single character we could think of. SIXTY-FIVE of them. Thanks to contributions from our readers (and Riese’s willingness to spend a sleepless weekend filling in the blanks), that list now includes 133 lesbian/bisexual characters. It doubled in size in one weekend.

You asked us to complement that list with one like this that counts down happy endings. Not just “the show got cancelled and the gay lady was still alive” endings, but truly triumphant story resolutions. Lesbian and bisexual characters who received fitting and worthy send-offs that were comparable to the ones the show’s straight characters received.

Making this list was a mixed bag of emotions. It was uplifting to relive this handful of stories, but it was also a reminder that these beacons of hope only make up a fraction of the overall lesbian and bisexual TV canon. What’s particularly striking is that most of these happy endings involve couples — while 29 characters are represented, only 15 total shows made the list. (That’s 15 shows in the whole entire history of television.) It’s also important to note that happy endings and death aren’t the only options for lesbian and bisexual TV characters. We’ll be taking a closer look at this in the next few days as Riese and I work through a comprehensive statistical analysis of the totality of lesbian/bi TV, but according to our research so far, around a third of lesbian/bi characters are written off, disappeared, or not important enough to the show to be gifted a farewell narrative.

Here are 29 TV characters who actually did get their final moments in the sun.


Ellen, Ellen (1994-1998)

ellen

Ellen‘s season five series finale drew ire from critics because it (rightly) predicted a future world in which the sitcom would be heralded as a groundbreaking, watershed series. The finale called back to I Love Lucy, and the fact that Lucy couldn’t say the word “pregnant” on-air, same as Ellen hadn’t been able to say “lesbian” for so long. It created a ’50s-style gameshow called Who’s the Commie, comparing McCarthyism to the family values rhetoric of the ’80s and ’90s. It also drew comparisons to civil rights fights in the ’60s and ’70s. Critics called it “self-important” and “pushing the gay agenda.” My all-time favorite review of the finale said: “She has done more harm than good. Ellen has left the TV a less desirable place for gays.” In fact, everything Ellen hoped would be true about her show 20 years later is true. She’s now the queen of her own creative empire and she hangs out every American’s living room. She did more for gay people on TV than anyone in history, just as her swaggering season finale predicted she would.


Mel and Lindsay, Queer as Folk (2000-2005)

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Mel and Lindsay weren’t exactly a paragon of domestic bliss, but the Queer as Folk finale saw them putting aside their differences and deciding to give it another go. What’s an affair or two, an angry word spoken here or there, an occasional dish thrown at the wall compared to one of your lesbian best friends getting blown up in a hate crime bombing at a gay and lesbian convention. Dusty’s death really challenged them to sort out their priorities. Mel and Lindsay were the only two main female characters on a show made for and aimed at gay men; they could easily have been part of the body count. But they lived and decided to try to love again.


Helen and Nikki, Bad Girls (1999-2001)

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Helen and Nikki’s relationship should have been a disaster that ended in heartache. A lesbian in jail for killing a man who tried to rape her girlfriend falls in love with the straight governing governor. But there’s was a fairytale romance for the ages. It remains, to this day, one of the most satisfying queer storylines in TV history, and it ends with Nikki getting released from jail (after her crime is ruled self-defense) and chasing Helen down in the street, where Helen says to her: “[My boyfriend] Thomas is gorgeous, and he’s everything you’d want in a man. But I want a woman.” The last scene of season three, their last appearance on-screen, fades to black as they make out against a storefront in the middle of the day on a crowded street. Free to just be with each other. Free to be.


Katie and Jessie, Once and Again (1999-2002)

katie-jessie

Katie and Jessie confessed their feelings for each other in the most authentic queer coming of age moment TV had displayed up until that point. 15-year-old Katie tells Jessie she is in love with her in a note (of course), and although Jessie reciprocates her best friend’s feelings (of course), she’s terrified to do anything about it. After a pep talk from her step-sister (“God, just go for it! No one will care!”) Jessie decides to tell Katie that she feels romantical toward her too, with a couple of kisses right on the mouth. Almost immediately afterward, the series was cancelled. I’m counting this one because it was the first ever multi-episode relationship between two teenage girls, and it ended happily after a season of will-they/won’t-they angst. They will! And they did!


Willow and Kennedy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

happy-willow-kennedy

Despite the fact that Entertainment Weekly has deemed Kennedy one of the 21 most annoying TV characters ever, and despite the fact that she is nearly universally found wanting by queer women, and despite the fact that her presence feels like an inadequate apology for the decision to kill Tara, Kennedy was standing in the end, right alongside Willow. Sure all their friends were dead, but they still had each other. They saved the world and also became the first lesbian couple to have overt sex on primetime network TV.


Kerry Weaver, ER (1994-2009)

happy-kerry

Nobody who worked in the ER on ER had it easy. Everyone saw a loved one come rushing through the doors on a gurney at one time or another, and Kerry Weaver was no exception. The love of her life died right there on the table. And then she got demoted from Chief of Staff to ER Attending Physician. But nothing could keep Kerry down! When a medical documentary crew arrived with a lesbian producer in tow, Kerry fell in love with Courtney, their producer. And Courtney fell in love right back. Dr. Weaver decided she’d had enough drama to last a lifetime, so when Courtney asked her to leave her job and follow her to Florida for a life of sunshine and domestic bliss, she pounced on the opportunity. She got the girl and landed a job being a TV doctor. Kerry Weaver literally stole the show!


Spencer and Ashley, South of Nowhere (2005-2008)

happy-spashley

Spencer and Ashley were a bright light in a dark time for queer women on TV. It was The L Word or nothing back in those days. They engaged in a constant push-pull for several seasons, always loving each other but hardly ever being on the same page about it. In the end, though, Spencer is out and proud (and her formerly homophobic mom is finally proud too), and Ashley has worked through her commitment issues, so they move into a loft in Los Angeles and start their life together. (SoN even offered up a post-finale webisode to prove to viewers that Spencer and Ashley made it.)


Kima Greggs, The Wire (2002-2008)

happy-kima

Kima’s life on The Wire wasn’t easy, and she seemed more destined than Shane McCutcheon to blow up her relationships with awesome women, but at the end of the series — and she was one of the only characters to appear in the majority of episodes every season — she finally got partnered up with Bunk, the best detective in Baltimore besides her. The two of them rode off into the sunset together to keep fighting the good fight in complicated ways.


Bette and Tina, The L Word (2004-2009)

happy-bette-tina

After a whole lot of lying, fucking, fighting, and cheating, Bette and Tina decided that they were right for each other (or, at the very least, that they weren’t ever going to be right for anybody else). Tina was a successful movie producer. Bette was a successful museum curator. And they were packing their bags with Angelica to get the hell out of West Hollywood. Tibette Takes Manhattan. A much better spin-off than the rejected one where Alice goes to jail for murdering Jenny.


Tasha and Alice, The L Word (2004-2009)

happy-tasha-alice

Speaking of that rejected pilot: Tasha came back to Alice right before Jenny got killed! They’d had some good times and some bad times, but the whole world was ahead of them and they were in love and there sure as sugar cubes wasn’t going to be a sequel to Lez Girls to ruin their lives.


Betty McRae, Bomb Girls (2012-2013)

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I think we can all admit that the Bomb Girls movie was a mess, but it did give Betty a mostly happy ending. No one knows for sure if Kate moved into the house Betty bought for her because she finally reciprocated Betty’s big gay feelings, but everyone can say for absolute sure that Betty bought a house, a thing she’d been trying to do since the very beginning of season one! And she did it by winning a boxing match like a regular ol’ Rocky Balboa!


Korra and Asami, Legend of Korra (2012-2015)

happy-korrasami

We’ve seen some pretty intense subtext between female friends in all-ages media over the last several years. Korra and Asami from Legend of Korra were up there with Marceline and Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time when it came to passionate shippers believing their love was real. But the strangest thing happened in the Legend of Korra series finale: The writers confirmed that queer fans were right, that Korra and Asami weren’t just friends, that they were in love. They held hands and gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes and walked into the Spirit World together. It was a shocking, groundbreaking moment in queer TV history.


Brittany and Santana, Glee (2009-2015)

happy-brittana

For all the missteps Glee made over the years, they got one thing right in the end: They threw a wedding and let Brittany and Santana say “I do.” It was a triumph not only for the characters inside the show, but also for but for lesbian fandom out here in the real world. This group of dedicated, resourceful women learned how to use social media to their advantage long before any other fandom, and they refused to back down in the face of mockery, criticism, and scorn from the show’s creative team. Fandom fought for every touch, every kiss, every declaration of love or identity. And they won, big time.


Cricket, Hart of Dixie (2011-2015)

happy-cricket

After Cricket surprised everyone by coming out as a lesbian at her own (straight) wedding, Hart of Dixie didn’t exactly know how to continue to fold her into the larger narrative of the show. To their great credit, though, when it became obvious the CW wasn’t going to bring it back for a fourth season, the show made a point of spending two episodes sending everyone off on their own happy endings, including Cricket. She moved in with her girlfriend, Jayceen, and everyone was surprisingly excited for them both.


Margot and Alana, Hannibal (2013-2015)

happy-hannibal

It seemed highly unlikely that Margot and Alana were going to make it out of Hannibal alive. They’d defied one of fiction’s most terrifying serial killers multiple times, and Alana took it upon herself to humiliate him repeatedly in the final season of the show. Hannibal kept threatening them; their demise seemed inevitable. But in the series finale, the two of them and their son boarded a helicopter, flanked on all sides by armed guards, and flew the fuck away forever. Honestly, more lesbian characters should probably implement this tactic for staying alive. Armor, machine guns, and a chartered flight to a private island.


Bo and Lauren, Lost Girl (2010-2015)

happy-bo-lauren

Either one of them could have died. They both could have died! They could have decided not to try again, that they were doomed, that there was no way to really forgive and forget everything they put each other through. But Bo and Lauren’s love was too strong; not even literal Hades could keep them apart. After five seasons and a love triangle that could have easily tipped the other way, Bo and Lauren chose each other. For better or for worse. In hellshoes or in leather. For so long as they both shall live.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1123 articles for us.

356 Comments

  1. Back in 2000 (maybe 2001?), there was a British mini-series – Metrosexuality, and while the lesbian couple in it were minor characters, they were happy and alive when the show finished it’s 6 episode run. That show was great and overall happy and I really wish I had it on DVD.

  2. As of the end of season 5 of Call the Midwife, Delia has recovered from her unfortunate car accident and she and Patsy are out to her mother, living together (in a nunnery with the other nurses/midwives, to be sure, but they’re shown sharing a bed) and going on holiday to Paris together. Happy ending for now?

  3. Patricia & Lucia (Las Trampas Del Deseo) from Mexico. Patricia and Lucia are neighbours who become good friends and end up making out and then Praticia leaves her husband and has a terrible crush on Lucia who is grieving her dead husband. The writers initially intended this to be a dalliance with Patricia ending up with a random woman and Lucia being alone and probably hetero but due to their popularity they kept them together. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxJZkHxLHQA

    Also Kathrine and Robin from Desperate Housewives. It’s short and they imply they go to Paris. One of the actresses got a bigger role on another TV show and so to the credit of the show, they decided to have them ride off into the sunset as opposed to breaking them up/killing them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fxkk5fYQ9E&index=1&list=PLCC9ECE3E5072DC19

    Loving all the stories of happy endings coming out. It’s shaping up to be a nice list. It of course doesn’t negate the other dead lesbian list and I think there are a number of other problematic tropes around that impact the lesbians that don’t die (Marbecca’s sleeping with a man anyone? Otalia’s non kiss?) but I love that Lexa’s death is sparking the interested in documenting our representation so we can point to it and show people what is actually happening.

    • “One of the actresses got a bigger role on another TV show and so to the credit of the show, they decided to have them ride off into the sunset as opposed to breaking them up/killing them.”

      Then they brought Dana Delany back for the finale just so Katherine could tell everyone she’d broken up with Robin because she wasn’t actually a lesbian. Worst finale cameo EVER.

  4. Ok but why is “happy ending” being defined by being in a relationship? By this definition if Grey’s Anatomy ended today Arizona wouldn’t make this list even though she said herself she is happy and loving playing the field and “being slutty” as she called it. But to y’all she isn’t happy because she’s technically single.

    • There are a couple of them in the list that ended the show single. Like Kima. The fact the others were in relationships is incidental. If you have an example you wish to add please do so, but don’t perceive bias where there isn’t any.

      • just to add that happy ending was defined as “Not just “the show got cancelled and the gay lady was still alive” endings, but truly triumphant story resolutions. Lesbian and bisexual characters who received fitting and worthy send-offs that were comparable to the ones the show’s straight characters received.”

        The ending as couples was mentioned in saying that it was the majority of them.

  5. One relationship that wasn’t on popular TV was Clara and Marina from the Brazilian soap “Em Familia”. Clara started off married to a man, a decade long marriage, and they had a son too. She met Marina and what began as a one sided infatuation, blossomed into love between them both and Clara dealt with coming to terms, as a 30+ year old woman, with being bisexual and telling her mother, her family, her husband and her child. After MANY fights with her husband, her avoiding Marina and them parting ways for the betterment of Clara’s life, they made their way back to one another, their love too strong to be apart. Clara eventually left her husband, or well, he left her after fully realising she was in love with Marina, and they got together. And because it was Brazilian, they didn’t kiss for a long while until they did. A few times.

    These two made plans to move in together, with Clara’s son too, and they even got married in a beautiful scene and made plans to have another child. The show ended with them happy and together and most importantly, alive.

    But then again 27/28 happy lesbian and bisexual female characters who ended up happy isn’t much at all. Not compared to the now 147 and counting lesbian and bisexual female characters who have died on TV.

  6. Could we say that xena and Gabrielle got a happy ending as well? Because even though Xena died in the series finale we know they were cloned in the 21st century with all their memories intact. So they could’ve gone on to live happy domestic lives…

  7. I’ve read a discussion about the bisexual trope where female bisexuals often end up with males at the end. I was wondering where this trope comes from. Of course, I heard about it many times, but I can’t think of specific instances.

    So I brought up this list because this basically should prove the point. Or so I thought. But then people told me, that it focuses on f/f happy endings only. I know we had this discussion before and I was of the impression that whichever gender the character ends up with is not a criteria to be included in this list. Is that so?

    And I am not doubting that the bisexual trope exist, I was just wondering how it came about.

    • Well, now I want to know what the criteria for a happy ending are too! :)

      I suspect that the “bi women end up with men” trope would come from the same source as the “bi women who get labeled canon lesbians” trope: straight guy writers/showrunners who want to imagine, in the former example, that the bi women are all going to end up with THEM, and in the latter example, that lesbians are also somehow available to them.

      (If you take a character who has been with a guy or guys and clearly was passionately into them, a la Carol on Friends or Willow on Buffy, and then go “she met a woman and now she’s a lesbian!” you’re not only perpetrating bisexual erasure, but you’re pretty clearly doing it because you specifically fetishize lesbians and want some way to pretend that lesbians totally sometimes fall passionately in love with men and that that lesbian character would totally do it with you if you met.

      Although to be fair, I have a hard time accepting anybody being passionately into Ross.)

  8. Maca and Esther from Spanish drama “Hospital Central”. 2000-2011, some 174 episodes both together and apart. Had an INCREDIBLE story and ended their run happy, healthy, and alive. A shame they didn’t make the list!

  9. This is really good!

    How about Jocelyn/Maggie from Broadchurch as another couple who made it? (There’s at least one more series of Broadchurch to go, but no confirmation either of them will be in it). And Vastra/Jenny is a quite interesting one because Jenny did die, twice in one episode in fact…and both times returned five minutes later barely any the worse for wear.

  10. Also Bea and Ana from the spanish tv show Aquí No Hay Quien Viva, they are not married at the end of the series but they live together and have a son, and they are a really cute couple

  11. Doris Wolfe from Guiding Light got a happy ending – she came out to her daughter after being in the closet and finally started to build a real honest relationship with her and was able to date women and introduce them to her daughter. Def a happy ending, along with Natalia Rivera and Olivia Spencer on the same show :)

  12. I decided to have a chuckle at a low-budget sci-fi “Martian Land” (2015/USA) due to the crushing ratings (ie. wanted to see how bad it was). It all started with a chuckle but I was soon met with unexpected lesbian undertones between two of the main characters and had to watch on. Turns out, there was much more than just undertones. Being a realist, and very familiar with the bury-your-gays -trope, I then spent the rest of the movie waiting for one of them to bite the dust.

    Anyway, the low-budget shows, the movie is unintentionally funny, but Ellie and Ida actually pulled through and I’m slightly floored – I didn’t go looking for gays and I certainly didn’t prepare for a happy ending.

  13. Faith & Amy from UnREAL. Faith comes onto the show Everlasting to marry Adam and please her super religious family but with the help of Rachel and Adam she leaves the show to start a relationship with her best friend Amy who she’s always been in love with .

  14. I don’t know if you’re updating this list like the death one is being updated but the writer of the death one included Laure from Les Revenants so I feel like Julie and Ophélie should be included on this list because they got an explicitly happy ending. The show ends (well it hasn’t formally been announced that the show has ended but there has been no news of a season three and the show pretty much wrapped itself up sooo) with Julie and Ophélie spending the day at the beach with Julie’s kind of adopted son (?? i guess thats what you would call him) Victor. I was a very sweet ending to the show and to be honest I just want more people to watch Led Revenants.

  15. There’s at least one and maybe two more from this season of American tv, I think. I don’t really *like* either of the endings, but given how many bi and lesbian characters have been killed off this year already, I guess the bar for happy might be really low.

    First is Callie from Grey’s Anatomy. I’m not sure if this list includes characters that are from shows that aren’t over, but for now at least Callie is happy and alive.

    The one I’m less sure about is Shaw on PoI. Her situation is more complicated, but she lives and I think has the tools to build a life that is right for her.

  16. Dixie and Jess from Casualty should be added to this list!

    Kathleen “Dixie” Dixon and Jess Cranham were last seen driving off together to live together in Cornwall with Jess’s young daughter Olivia, who Dixie had bonded with. It was beautiful, after 9 years of nonsense and pain and torment happening for Dixie, and after months of Jess and poor little Olivia living with Jess’s abusive previous girlfriend, they deserved a happy ending, and when they all finally became a happy little family and drove off into the sunset, there was much rejoicing among the fans.

  17. I feel like kelly and yorkie from the ‘san junipero’ episode of black mirror should be here, and nikki and vix from waterloo road (although i havent watched the full storyline, i know that the ending is happy)
    Also for ongoing romances, bernie and serena from holby city (the writers have promised a good ending so fingers crossed)

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