I’ve never grown out of my love for cartoons, and it’s a good thing because I firmly believe some of the best LGBTQ+ storytelling to ever grace our teevees has happened in animated series. When I started writing about gay TV, there were no queer characters on all-ages TV at all, and now there’s more than I can even keep up with. And so I’ve done a deep dive and assembled a list of 30 of the best lesbian, bisexual, and queer episodes of animated TV. I hope you’ll add your favorites in the comments!
Adventure Time, “Sky Witch”
“Sky Witch” confirms what Adventure Time‘s queer fans long believed: that Marceline and Princess Bubblegum are ex-girlfriends whose present day animosity is rooted in broken hearts. PB gives up her most sentimental possession — a t-shirt given to her by Marcy — to get Marcy’s most sentimental possession (her teddy bear!) back from the bog witch who stole it. The episode also features the super gay break-up anthem “I’m Just Your Problem.”
The Legend of Korra, “The Last Stand”
The Legend of Korra‘s series finale is often considered the modern day kick-off of queer animation. Queer fans speculated about Korra and Asami’s relationship for most of the later seasons of the show, and when they walked off together, hand-in-hand, and the show’s writers confirmed it was a gay walk-off, it launched half a dozen more queer cartoon ships and paved the way for Korrasami’s very canonically queer comic book series.
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown
Did you know the flag Peppermint Patty sticks on top of her all-girls team raft in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown is the Women’s Liberation Flag? Which makes perfect sense when you consider that Peppermint Patty’s whole deal was inspired by Billie Jean King, whom Charles Schulz met and said was one of his top three heroes, and whose real life work featured heavily in his Peanuts comic strips and animated series. In fact, Race For Your Life was the precursor to Schulz’s extensive work around Title IX. In case there was ever any question in your mind that Peppermint Patty is gay.
Steven Universe, “A Single Pale Rose”
“A Single Pale Rose” is easily the most heart-stomping episode on this list. It unravels so much of Steven Universe’s backstory, including the long-kept secret of Rose Quartz’s identity, which sends nearly every character on the show into an emotional spiral. It also confirms Pearl’s deep, eternal, and unrequited love for Rose. Something she never recovers from, which is also one of the gayest things on this list.
After (literally) dancing around their feelings for each other for nearly an entire season, Luz and Amity are forced to confront their affection when Hooty sends them on a horrifying / romantic trip through the tunnel of love he builds in The Owl House’s basement. It seems like it’s going to end in disaster, like most of their other psuedo-dates and flirting, but at the last minute they each blurt out their desire to go on a date and even hold hands.
With ten Loud House sisters, at least one of them has to be gay, right? Just, statistically? Yes, actually! Her name is Luna and in 2017’s “L Is For Love” episode, the show explores her crush on a friend named Sam, who just happens to be a girl, and the show just happens to pay off the mystery like it’s no big deal. It’s adorable, and overt in its gayness (which wasn’t true of all cartoons five years ago), and it’s aimed at a younger audience than so many of the shows that have repeat episodes on this list.
Amazon Prime’s series, which was co-created by queer and trans artist and writer Shadi Petosky, features more queer voice actors than any show ever, including: Stephanie Beatriz, Jasika Nicole, Angelica Ross, Cameron Esposito, Rhea Butcher, Tyler Ford, Jazz Jennings, Laura Zak and also Petosky. “Chosen Family,” the show’s Pride parade, also showcases animations of Gaby Dunn and Jen Richards in an episode that focuses on a young trans girl finding her way toward being herself.
Sailor Moon, All Of It Honestly
U.S. networks tried so many ways to make Sailor Moon not gay, but it never worked. Take, for example, Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus here. They’re GAY but the U.S. dubs tried to pass them off as cousins. COUSINS! They also tried to erase Uranus’ and Zoisite’ genderqueer-ness, Sailor Mars and Sailor Venuses declaration that they don’t need boys, and Fish Eye’s trans-ness. The show was so gay in season five, there was no way to dub it out, and so the U.S. didn’t even try to air it.
Steven Universe, “Alone Together”
Steven Universe is in the run-off with She-Ra for being the gayest show ever — not gayest cartoon ever, gayest show ever — and one of the most celebrated characters is Stevonnie, the fusion of Steven and Connie Maheswaran, who appears for the first time in “Alone Together,” bending the heck out of gender and using they/them pronouns. Garnet is delighted, and names them, and they set out on an adventure together. First stop: Donuts!
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Perils of Peekablue”
To be honest, ten more She-Ra episodes could easily fit on this list. What makes “Perils of Peekablue” special is that it’s Scorpia at her sexy, awkward, adorable best, singing the classic hit “I’m a Spy” (shhh!). It’s also our first real look at Perfuma falling for Scorpia, conjuring a flower to toss on stage at her, which makes Scorpia blush. And it features the return of non-binary Double Trouble (who is voiced by non-binary Jacob Tobia), with dazzling one-liners and hints of goodness too.
Harley Quinn‘s season two finale finally finds Poison Ivy confessing to Harley Quinn that she loves her back (after the two best friends hook up repeatedly during Ivy’s bachelorette weekend). Harley accidentally crashes Ivy’s wedding when she shows up to save her from Gordon’s ambush and the two end up riding off into the sunset — er, flames — together in an episode that throws back its visuals to their first meeting in Batman: The Animated Series.
Hey and speaking of Batman, Kate Kane / Batwoman gets her first turn in DC’s animated universe in Bad Blood (which, like Charlie Brown, I am counting as a TV episode ’cause I make the rules). And it’s not just Kate! Her on-again/off-again girlfriend Rene Montoya also makes a major appearance and they go on multiple dates together.
I’m going to go ahead and quote Natalie here: “Putting aside the mechanics of it all, how did ‘The Politics Episode’ work as an episode of ODAAT? Actually, pretty well. One of the things I’d previously been missing from the new iteration of the show was a balance of the serious storylines, like Elena’s coming out, Penelope’s PTSD or Schneider’s alcoholism or Lydia’s near death experience, with the funny. This episode fulfilled that desire beyond my wildest expectations.”
Steven Universe, “The Answer”
“The Answer” is a bedtime story Garnet tells Steven about the way Ruby and Sapphire met and landed on earth and danced and fused together and fell in love. It’s sweet and funny and features Steven’s gayest song, “Something Entirely New,” as well as the actual answer, which, of course, is: love.
Bubble Guppies, “Costume Boxing!”
Oh you know, just RuPaul voicing a characters named RuPearl who judges the fashion of the little fish kids on one of Nickelodeon’s hottest shows aimed at super young viewers, no big deal! (It actually is a big deal, and it led to RuPearl joining a Bubble Guppies video game.)
3Below: Tales of Arcadia, “Asteroid Rage”
Shannon LongHannon has always been coded as gay in a Velma sort of way, and she finally gets her canonical kiss with her best friend as asteroids are heading toward the earth. Her parents are panicked about dying, full stop. Shannon’s just panicked about dying before having her first smooch. So she and her friend go for it. Luckily they also live!
Obsidian is fan service at its finest. HBO Max’s standalone special about Marceline and Princess Bubblegum shows the couple living a life of domestic bliss, and then sends them out on a quest where their relationship deepens as they remember their pre-series past. We finally get answers to so many questions about their relationship, including the origin of PB’s “Sky Witch” t-shirt and Marceline’s very first love song.
Doc McStuffins, “Emergency Plan/What a Quack”
There are lots of lesbian moms on this list because lots of these shows are geared toward super young kids who might know they’re gay or might not, but TV networks still haven’t begun to grapple with the fact that characters can be gay when they’re little without, you know, introducing sex into it. In this case the moms are Edie and Thea (you know, like Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer), and they’re voiced by Wanda Sykes and Portia de Rossi.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, “The Last Crusade”
Not moms this time, but lesbian Aunts! Aunt Holiday and Aunt Lofty — an Earth Pony and Pegasus couple — are Scootaloo’s adoring aunties who basically adopt her so she can stay in Ponyville and continue her work with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, instead of moving with her parents to to Shire Lanka. In the comic books, Holiday and Lofty also serve as the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ Filly Guides camping chaperones. It’s good to have lesbians in the family!
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Return to the Fright Zone”
One of the best things about She-Ra‘s queer couples is they’re all so different! Spinnerella and Netossa, for example, are are a married couple, so they gently clown on each other and console each other in ways no one else can; they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses; and when Netossa makes plans to rescue her wife from Horde Prime’s mind-control, she works out a way to make sure Spinnerella also always has to do the cleaning for the rest of their lives! In the end, though, she is able to rescue Spinny through the power of her love. One particularly adorable thing about “Return to the Fright Zone” is that all of Netossa’s journal illustrations are done in showrunner Noelle Stevenson’s classic doodle style.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, “It’s a Trap”
Non-binary actor and comedian Rhea Butcher voices non-binary character Asher in Netflix’s animated musical masterpiece. They start off looking like their twin, but then get going with an alternative lifestyle haircut, and after that they’re an unstoppable force in the fight to co-exist peacefully with the earth’s mutants!
Cleopatra in Space, “Wednesday”
Hey, it’s more lesbian moms! This time, Pothina and Theoda, Akila’s moms who work as scholars at the Savior Institute where they study the prophecy about Cleo being their, well, savior. Pothina’s the cool mom. Theoda’s the dorky mom. But both of them agree that they’d happily get eaten by a snake to prove their love for their daughter.
Mysticons, “The Princess and the Pirate”
Zarya Moonwolf and Kitty Boon are childhood best friends who’ve loved each other for forever. One’s a princess. One’s a sky pirate. And while Nickelodeon fought off the show creator’s repeated attempts to allow the two to kiss on-screen, the two did confess their feelings for each other, Star Wars-style. “I love you. I always have.” “I know you do.”
OK KO! Let’s Be Heroes!, “Red Action 3: Grudgement Day”
Enid, one of the main characters of OK KO! Let’s Be Heroes!, is bisexual. She’s had a relationship with a guy character on the show, and she’s had a major crush on Red Action for basically ever. They go jelly surfing together. They visit The Danger Zone. And in “Red Action 3: Grudgement Day” they finally kiss right on their cartoon lips. Enid’s also got a real soft spot for Mommis.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, “Heart”
When Catra says, “She’s never going to want me, not like I want her,” it’s confirmation that she’s in love with Adora, and it’s also a giant sucker punch! I gasped out loud! I couldn’t believe the show was really going there! Years later, I still can’t believe they went there! Noelle Stevenson did, in fact, give the gays everything they wanted. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is epic fantasy and sci-fi on par with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars with a queer love story was at its heart. The climax of the entire series is Adora’s confession that she loves Catra too. As a bonus, their love saves all of Eternia.
The Owl House, “Eda’s Requiem”
Raine Whispers is The Disney Channel’s first non-binary character, and they’re voiced by non-binary Latinx actor Avi Roque. When they arrived to help Eda break her curse, they also quickly became a fan favorite, because even though they’re a little timid and easily flustered, they also remind Eda that sometimes “you gotta punch your fears in the face.”
T.O.T.S., “Seas the Day”
About Disney Junior’s animated series, which is aimed at kids ages two to seven, Mombian wrote that while these lesbian mom dolphins were “only onscreen for about 30 seconds and the episodic nature of the show means they’re unlikely to come back as part of a longer story arc—Disney deserves praise for including them in a series built around the idea of family formation.” They’re the only gays on this list who appear on a show for toddlers.
The Dragon Prince, “Breaking the Seal”
The former queens of Duren and the mothers of Aanya are unfortunately already dead when The Dragon Prince start, but, you know how YA stories are: parents gotta get murdered so the orphans can save the world alone. We meet Annika and Neha in flashbacks and they are deeply in love, and brilliant and fair rulers who love their daughter very much and inspire her young queenship throughout the show.
Victor and Valentino, “Band for Life” / “Escaramuza”
Xochi is one of my favorite gay disasters on this list. She’s cool and collected, surly and closed off, and very much in love with Annabel, which she only finally admits when she sees someone else trying to make a move on her. Their love story is only a small side story in Victor and Valentino, but it will be familiar to any gay who’s ever fallen in love with their best friend. So, you know, every gay.
Steven Universe, “Reunited”
Masc Gems in dresses, femme Gems in tuxes, Bismuth in her armor because it’s the nicest thing she owns, Together Breakfast as a wedding cake with literally perfect cake toppers, Peridot wearing a dress she very clearly fashioned on top of her regular Peridot clothes, Peridot executing her flower girl duty with gusto and reporting to “wedding commander” Steven that all the flowers had been deployed, Greg strumming “Stronger Than You” on his guitar for the wedding procession, and Ruby rushing down the aisle so fast she leaves a trail of literal fire behind her, which Amethyst has to rush to stomp out. And the most beautiful treatise on queer love I’ve ever heard on TV.