Every Queer TV Storyline of 2015, Ranked

30. Arizona finds a new wingman, Grey’s Anatomy

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Arizona is extra cute on this season of Grey’s Anatomy, especially when she revealed to Webber that she brought him out to a lesbian bar to help her get over her fear of dating again.

29. Luisa is a beautiful mess, Jane the Virgin

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Jane the Virgin was my favorite TV show of 2015, and Luisa was one of the best parts of it. She’s an absolute wreck and has been duped now by two crime lords, but gosh, I love her.

28. Cosima and Shay fall in like, Orphan Black

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Bringing on a beloved Canadian sci-fi actor to play Cosima’s new love interest was a brilliant move by Orphan Black‘s writers. Delphine and Cosima will always be my favorite couple on this show, but I don’t mind watching these two flirt and get their smooch on while I wait for Delphine to be resurrected.

27. Max sets sail with Anne, Black Sails

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I’ll always have a soft spot for Eleanor, but Max needs her millions and Anne Bonney is just the pirate to take her where she needs to go to collect that treasure.

26. Root and Shaw smooch with their mouths, Person of Interest

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Person of Interest is one of the very few shows in American TV history that decided to focus on the female characters because they’re better, and also let two of them kiss just because their on-screen chemistry is so good. And on CBS, no less!

25. Bo and Lauren are endgame, Lost Girl

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Suck it, Dyson.

24. Surprise! Tiana is queer, Empire

empire-tianaThough the storyline didn’t really go anywhere, it was an awesome shock when we found out that Hakeem’s new girlfriend also had a girlfriend. I hear Freda Gatz is in the market for a new love.

23. Real friendship between trans women, Transparent

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From Mey:

I feel like this is the kind of trans TV we’ve been waiting for. It’s finally here. From going dancing together, making lasagna, to teaching Maura all about Yaaas Queen and getting cunt, these three showed trans women just being themselves among themselves. And Davina, oh, Davina. There’s this thing she says to Maura in Episode 7 that’s my favorite line in the entire show since “My whole life I’ve been pretending I was a woman.” Davina, you have my whole heart. Ah, and Shea! he’s so wonderful and there’s a really wonderful conversation she has with Maura in Episode 8 that made me just want to hug her. I’m just so in love with these characters and their relationships with each other.

22. Paige McCullers bounces up out of Rosewood, Pretty Little Liars

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Paige McCullers: The only human with a functioning brain in Rosewood, PA. You were too good for that town, McCullers. If staying away means staying alive, I’ll miss you forever, but do it, girl. See the world, fingerbang your way up the PCH, get married barefoot on the beach at sunset to a woman who deserves you. We’ll always have coconut cupcakes. I hated to see her go (HATED IT), but her sendoff was a triumph worthy of her character.

21. Nomi and Amanita are so in love, Sense8

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It was a year of never-before-seen queer romances on TV, and Nomi and Amanita were one of our favorites. A transgender character played by a transgender actor in an interracial lesbian relationship! It was sweet and sexy and fun, and we really do need more of it.

20. Jeri Hogarth is an evil power lesbian, Jessica Jones

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As long as queer characters aren’t evil because they’re queer (a trope as old as time), I am a-okay with them. Take Jeri Hogarth, the ultimate antihero. She was one of the most compelling lesbians on TV this year, on a show with two other marvelously dynamic female characters. There’s no telling how much she’s going to ramp up the bad guy hijinks next season, now that she’s basically started making Horcruxes out of her dead wife’s things.

19. Denise is the best, Master of None

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A masculine of center black lesbian character played by a real life masculine of center black lesbian comic? Yes, please. More of that, please.

18. Delphine sacrifices herself for Cosima, Orphan Black

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Nobody wants to see a queer character die, but if she’s got to go (because she has signed on to headline her own TV show), let her go out like a Slytherin HBIC who’s doing it all for the love of her life, am I right? (And hey, maybe she’s not dead. We never saw a body.)

17. Stef and Lena get their shit together, The Fosters

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It was a rough season for our favorite lesbian moms, but they worked it out in the end, like they always do. It was a relief, I’ll tell ya; I never want to see their lips on other people’s lips as long as I live.

16. Marceline and PB grow old together, Adventure Time

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Finally! Bubbeline is canon on-screen!

15. Soso and Poussey hold hands like sea otters, Orange Is the New Black

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After battling terrible depression all season long, Poussey and Soso found a moment of comfort and understanding with each other in the show’s final minutes. Much deserved!

14. Shelly and Maura’s relationship, Transparent

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I think this is the first time this story has ever been told on TV!

13. M-Chuck visits a plantation, Survivor’s Remorse

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Survivor’s Remorse is criminally under-watched (probably because Starz makes it nearly impossible to view its shows). This season, M-Chuck visited a plantation in south Georgia that paid actors to re-create a pre-Civil War atmosphere for tourists. She was outraged, but not outraged enough to keep her from sleeping with one of the actors, the white woman who was playing the plantation owner’s daughter, in the plantation’s master bedroom. Few things on TV surprise me in a delightful way, but this thing sure did.

12. Jill is Annalise’s BFF, How to Get Away With Murder

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From Mey:

There was no shocking reveal [that Jill is trans], no discussion by the show’s main characters on whether or not they should respect her identity, no tragic end, no tragic beginning. Instead, Jill was treated with respect by all the characters that mattered. The only people who were transphobic jerks were portrayed as transphobic jerks, Jill wasn’t murdered and the show talked about real trans issues like transmisogyny in the police and court system and the way men who sleep with trans women often mistreat the women they’re sleeping with.

11. Unique returns triumphant with an entire trans choir, Glee

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Glee never, ever, ever treated Unique right, and this scene had all the makings of the “magical black woman” trope, where she arrives on the scene to guide a white man through his tough times to a place of enlightenment, but damn, it was just so good to see Unique return and SHINE like the star she always was.

10. Brenna will not let her bisexuality be erased, Chasing Life

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Brenna was one of the few bisexual characters on TV to actually label her sexuality and say the word “bisexual” every time someone tried to call her gay or straight. She even threw down in a GSA meeting at her new school, addressing all kinds of bi stereotypes in a way we never get to see on TV, and coming out triumphant. I’m still mourning the fact that ABC Family Freeform cancelled this gem of a show.

9. Raven comes out, Black-ish

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One of the best queer standalone episodes of 2015 was Raven playing Dre’s gay sister on Black-ish. It was funny and sweet and so true to life. When she came out and revealed that her live-in mechanic was actually her girlfriend, her family refused to believe her, but they came around by the episode’s end.

8. Lauren comes out to defend Hester High, Faking It

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Faking It has 99 problems, but Lauren Cooper ain’t one. After keeping it a secret for a season and a half, she came out as intersex in front of all her peers to save Hester High. She continues to be the highlight of this show, one of our favorite TV characters, and the hero Texas deserves.

7. Freda Gatz arrives to take over the world, Empire

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Season two of Empire has caused a lot of frustration among viewers, but one thing we can all agree on is that Freda Gatz is the truth. If only she can stay out from under Lucious’ thumb!

6. Big Boo gets a backstory, Orange Is the New Black

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We hardly ever get to see masculine of center women on TV, but OITNB gave us Big Boo’s story from the very beginning and it resonated deeply with us.

5. Ali and Syd fall in love, breakup, Transparent

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There were more ladies falling in love with ladies stories on TV than ever before in 2015, but Syd and Ali’s felt the most real to us. Carrie Brownstein crushed it.

4. Brittany and Santana get married, Glee

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2009: “Sex isn’t dating. If it were, Santana and I would be dating.”

2015: “I would have suffered it all, just for the tiny chance that I’d be up here, marrying you.”

3. Garnet is really Ruby and Sapphire, Steven Universe

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When Garnet revealed that she is actually two gems fused together in a lesbian marriage, my heart nearly exploded out of my chest. It was so romantic and it was the first animated series in America to really, really go there in a way that required no interpretation of subtext. Truly, Steven Universe is one of the best written and most feminist shows on TV; and this moment was revolutionary in ways we’ll be talking about for a long time.

2. Annalise and Eve sitting in a tree (K-I-S-S-I-N-G), How to Get Away With Murder

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Oh, you know, just Viola Davis playing a bisexual antihero on the most watched night of TV in the United States for a role that made her the first black woman to ever receive an Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama. No big deal. (Just kidding, this is an ENORMOUS deal.)

1. Suzanne’s genius is finally revealed, Orange Is the New Black

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The first two seasons of OITNB were brutal for Suzanne, but she finally got a little bit of respite in season three, as she became a celebrity for of her Time Hump Chronicles novel, and she found love in a very sweet new inmate/super fan. There’s a reason Uzo Aduba keeps getting nominated for every acting award on the planet, and it’s because she breathing life into a character we have never see on our TVs before.

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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 1217 articles for us.

65 Comments

  1. #66, WHUT?
    The friend I’ve drudged through the first eps of the last season with is coming by tonight.
    She’ll be happy to hear that our further Lost Girl TV dates have been canceled in favor of HTGAWM.
    I don’t think I could get drunk enough for the second half of that show anymore..:-(

    P.S.: I thought for legit,that “Salem” was a spin off centered around the cat from Sabrina,the Teenage Witch,when I saw the picture and was totally cheering for that, before I read the description.
    I wish I could say that this was my last “blonde” moment of the year, but, if we’re being honest, it very probably wasn’t.
    That said, I really need to get on that second season of Transparent,stat.

  2. Argh, OUAT!!!! So glad I quit that show a long time ago.

    I saw a comment in AE, by CallistosDarkSide, that was so on point:

    “The first 10 seconds of the new The 100 trailer had more lesbian content/intensity than all of Once Upon a Time’s season 5a.”

  3. I remember some years ago spending hours looking for queer characters and ending up watching many terrible terrible shows just for the hope to see my experience (or my possible future) being represented in some way. I’m glad that I don’t have to do that anymore. I can now watch shows that I actually like! With good queer storylines! And good queer female characters! Finally.

    My 2015 favourites:
    – Annalise Keating on HTGAWM and Clarke on The 100 because BADASS BISEXUAL LEADS
    – Nomi and Amanita on Sense8
    – Root and Shaw on PoI

  4. 2015 is the year I allowed myself to become picky. I once would’ve settled for the nonsense in Gotham and AHS. Now I can demand the kind of representation seen in Transparent, Orphan Black, Sense8, HTGAWM, OITNB, and other proven successes with diverse and complex queer storylines. Here’s hoping 2016 will be even gayer.

    And, failing that, I’ll just sit through several more screenings of Carol.

  5. oh man what a great year for television!! I LOVED Maura, Davina, and Shea’s friendship. easily my favorite part of Transparent. And HTGAWM blew me away this season. I only want to see Annalise with her hair wrapped up kissing a pretty lady in the mornings for the rest of my life.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    • Allow me to help you out:
      Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, Transparent, Sense 8, Faking It, Jane the Virgin, The 100, Person of Interest, Jessica Jones and the How to Get Away With Murder and Steve Universe that just exploded onto the top of my list.
      If you’re into superheroes (and only then) and after the above are completed, Arrow (and maybe Flash), to get into the game for The Legends of Tomorrow, which will feature the White Canary, a bisexual lead in an ensemble cast, making it bisexual lead Thursday (with The 100) on the CW starting January 21st, if I’m not altogether mistaken.
      Whatever you watch, I wish you great enjoyment and a Happy New Year!

      • Thanks! The only ones I haven’t seen from your list are the 100, person of interest, sense 8 and Steve universe. I’m watching Jessica Jones just now and loving it! Unfortunately I don’t live in America so have to actively seek out the arrow and flash but I’ll definitely give them a try after I’ve watched all the rest. Happy new year to you as well! I spent mine watching the first 5 episodes of transparent season 2.

  6. This year I have seen more MOC queer woman than I have ever seen in the movies and TV shows that I love and goddamnit if it doesn’t make me feel more comfortable in this skin I thought so foriegn.

    I’m not crying, Jill Soloway, you are crying.

  7. I hated the Denise character in master of none. He made a whole episode about asian stereotypes in television and then had a lesbian character whose only function was to talk about cunnilingus. I think her only function was to be his (only) gay, black, and female friend for diversity points without having too big of a cast.

    (And why isn’t Cosima higher? That relationship involved Cosima. Automatic top ten.)

    • I agree! I kept reading about what a well rounded amazing character Denise was… but got to the end of the season and just didn’t see it.
      His male BFFs both got a background story episode but all we got was Denise being a womaniser. We know nothing about her the way we know about Brian’s father’s emigration story and the white dude’s grandfather.

    • I am glad that there is a rise in MOC women representation but why do they always have to be misogynistic womanizers? Sick of that trope. Boo was less so this season. Maybe next season we will see more depth to Denise.

      And at least we see nothing quite so ridiculous as Shane McCutcheon seducing an entire heterosexual bridal party. You know what, I won’t mention any more of that. The L word was fantasy. Glorious fantasy. Deeply flawed fantasy, but I dove into its depths and adored that world in which every single character was homonormative. But nowadays Shane doesn’t even seem butch compared to the representation there is now. She’s more hard femme to me. That was butch in 2004 or whatever. I’m old. Wah.

  8. 1. Soso and Brooke “holding hands like sea otters” made me very happy
    2. Ryan Murphy: Stop making television
    3. The Big A reveal in PLL was a really good reminder for me that even smart queer women we trust to tell our stories (L. Marlene King is a lesbian right? Am I mixing her up with someone else?) can completely and utterly fuck up when they try to tell trans stories, and I mean, they should stop doing that, because it’s just not that hard to NOT fail that spectacularly, but also maybe we need more trans people telling us stories please? So can everyone, like, let them?
    4. Nomi and Almanita forever. Can someone edit Sense8 for me so it’s just them? And while you’re at it, edit Game of Thrones so it’s just Khaleesi?

  9. I was going to say that perhaps the brevity of The 100’s queer content kept it out of the top 30, then I realised that some of these other moments/storylines were just as brief.
    Seriously, the main character just happening to be bisexual, revealed with absolutely no fuss, no big deal, then making out with the gorgeously scary HBIC…and that’s not even taking into account the sexual tension that had been burning up the episodes prior to that.
    In previous years, one or both of Clarke and Lexa’s characters would have been male. And even with both being female, ordinarily their relationship would only have come to fruition through the overactive imaginations of fanfic writers. It’s a big deal.

    • I love the 100 with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, so I agree with all of these things. But I also love scifi in general and loved the show even before the kiss. Which has made me notice that the people who already watched the show and thought it was amazing loved how small and no big deal the Clexa relationship was because it fit the show and the world so perfectly, while people who watched the show just because they heard it had a bisexual lead and a relationship were disappointed that they sat through it all for about 30 seconds of screen time. So while for me it was in my top ten or even top five queer lady storylines of the year, I can understand why some people placed it lower. I think they’re crazy, but I do theoretically understand.

      • For sure. I actually don’t understand Autostraddle’s “blink and you miss it” summary of the Clarke/Lexa relationship at all? Their storyline is a huge part of the second half of the season, not just a random 30 second kiss. I get that in this year’s TV landscape The 100 really isn’t doing anything groundbreaking in terms of LGBT representation, but watching Clarke Griffin Bisexual try to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders is the most invested I’ve been in a television show in years.

        (Not to argue with the list– you guys are great! I just want more people to watch The 100.)

        • I agree, and I really hope that people didn’t take it as a reason not to watch the show, because the relationship between Clarke and Lexa rives the whole second season. It just doesn’t get openly sexual til the end. I actually thought the most sexually fraught moment of the whole show isn’t when they kiss, but when Clarke backs her up against the table and Lexa, who normally doesn’t take shit from anyone suddenly gets so nervous and clearly distracted. That was the moment when I was went, oh my god, is this real and not just my shipper heart?

          MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE 100 SEASON 2 below!!!!

          I also thought the relationship added so much depth the betrayal, and actually made it make more sense why Lexa did it. She was so intent on not letting her emotions overrule her judgement and endanger her people that she made a really bad logical decision. Betraying your allies is not a great way to get people to trust and look up to you. Not taking the chance to destroy your ruthless enemies who see you as less than human and now have the ability to go outside is also not a great choice. But she was so worried that she was doing it for Clarke that she had to prove to herself she was still an impartial leader, and by doing that f*cked everything up. So yeah, the blink and you’ll miss it summary does seem an unfair assessment of the show, but if you are looking for a gooey, old school CW type romance this is not going to scratch that itch.

          • Great comments. I agree wholeheartedly. I’m a huge sci-fi fan and The 100 is one of the best (if not the best) sci-fi shows on TV right now. I understand that this list is about queer content, but I think merely passing off that queer content as ‘Clarke and Lexa smooch for a little bit’ does the show a disservice.

  10. I never saw the show before, but I did when I saw a commercial that the TV show Royal Pains had a trans girl character. It was done mostly well if I remember correctly. A few days later I found out the actress playing the trans girl was in fact trans and not a cis, which made it all the better! I’m was Autostraddle never mentioned it. http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/television/2015/06/18/trans-teen-nicole-mainess-acting-debut-royal-pains-has-impo

  11. Per #23: Although I’m glad two trans actors found employment through this (very small) arc in Transparent, I’ve never found Maura’s relationship with these two realistic in the least. In my experience, there tends to be very little connection between trans people who came up through the gay community and those who came up from what were viewed as straight relationships… especially older transitioners. I find the age difference between these 3 even less credible… there are huge generational gulfs within the trans community. That Shea (or Divina for that matter) would ever be caught dead in public with someone like Maura just isn’t credible. What is it about Transparent that they couldn’t just show Maura having friendships with other ‘non-passing’ older transitioners… too embarrassing, not sexy enough, not believably women enough?

  12. “How has she (Emily) not made the other three Liars completely homosexual by now?”
    Because she knows if Hanna kissed her, then Mona would kill her. Not torture her. Not psychologically mess with her. Just flat out kill her. And we all know who Spencer and Aria have eyes for.

  13. “31. Clarke and Lexa smooch a little bit, The 100”

    I have the feeling that they’re gonna do a lot more than kiss a little bit in S3. They’re shown together in the S3 trailer, and in those 5 seconds alone Clarke seems to go from wanting to cut Lexa to wanting to take her to bed. It’s awesome. And it looked like that was just their first meeting since S2.

  14. “To make it even worse, Maya is the first and only trans character on daytime TV.”

    I don’t know if even she was the first trans character on daytime TV, but All My Children had transwoman Zoe *eons* ago.

  15. I really appreciated how Annalise and Eve’s relationship was handled in HTGAWM. It was actually relationship and not meant to be salacious or a stereotype. In the plot, it served to show a softer side of Annalise.

    The Hulu series Casual ended with the brother character’s bisexual girlfriend sleeping with his sister. The betrayal was disappointing and even though the girlfriend character was already up front about being polyamorous, it relied on the trope that bisexuals have no morals.

    And, Lena Waithe as Denise on Master of None was my favorite lesbian character of the year! She wasn’t pigeon-holed as a stereotype and her sexuality didn’t dictate her story arc. And she’d bust out hilarious comments, like “Look, I don’t have time to explain lesbian shit to you, okay?” Ha!

  16. I just finished watching all of Person of Interest season 4 during the holidays , and I’m pretty annoyed at #26. Because Shaw aka Carmen dela pica morales got shot by Samaritan goons right after! Come on!

  17. PLL has left such a hole in my life and my heart – having said that – I’m watching it with great trepidation next week when it comes back with the Time Jump – Heather, I’m pretty sure you’re the only person who is going to help me make any sense of it whatsoever.

    BTW I never got the Delphine thing. I never trusted her.

  18. hi all,
    I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for the work you’re doing with this website and this community. television is what brought me here in the first place – I found it thanks to Riese’s L word recaps – and I’m very happy for that. I think this site actually has served the same function as that show for me, namely to offer a sense of belonging in a queer space at a time when I had few queer friends of my own. plus it’s the only website I know where I thouroughly enjoy reading the comment section. so once again, thank you, all of you! <3

  19. How come Angelique from Penny Dreadful is on the Violence and Visibility/Transgender Women On TV in 2015 list but not this one~? Surely she counts?
    I mean, I’m actually so mad about her storyline I’m put off watching the show for the indefinite future (SO MAD), but I absolutely love love loved her :(

    • Yeah, you’re totally right. What happened, actually, was that this piece was done and scheduled before we finished the trans TV piece, so I actually didn’t know about her until after this was up and since it was the height of holiday bustle I just forgot to go back and add her. I will do that, though; thank you for the reminder.

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