Summer 2017 Gay TV Preview: Some Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Characters For Ya

Summer used to be a lackluster season for television, but that was before we were gifted with ten thousand channels, streaming services and otherwise-notable methods of viewing television programs. Now, summer is full of popsicles, climate change, and solid television programs, including many with queer women characters. Not as many as there could be, but quite a few!

Here’s our list of every show we’re aware of that premieres/d between April 23rd and August 31st that contains lesbian, bisexual or queer female characters. Let us know if we missed anything!


Sundays

Mary Kills People // Season One // Lifetime (April 23rd)

This Canadian import is a female-driven production about an ER doctor with a popular side business as a practitioner of assisted suicide. Mary’s daughter, Jess, is in a romantic situation with Naomi, the daughter of Mary’s ex-husband’s current girlfriend.

American Gods // Season One // Starz (April 30th)

Based on the best-selling Neil Gaiman novel that I for some reason cannot seem to get through, American Gods tells the story of Shadow, a convict given early release from prison following the death of his wife who is immediately enlisted by a strange man named Wednesday to assist him on a cross-country road trip that turns out to be the project of gathering all the old gods to confront the New Gods. Nigerian actress Yetide Badaki plays Bilquis, an Old Goddess of Love, who feeds herself by having sex with both men and women, except that “having sex” means swallowing them with her vagina! Also look out for two Muslim gay male characters and appearances by Gillian Anderson and Kristen Chenoweth. (Read 25 fun facts about American Gods at Black Nerd Problems.)

Twin Peaks // Season One // Showtime (May 21st)

David Lynch will not tell us anything about this reboot, but it seems David Duchovony will be returning for at least one episode as the transgender detective he played in the original. Also, Laura Palmer is kind of bisexual, right? Laura Dern stars and look out for appearances from Stephanie Allyne, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ashley Judd, Amanda Seyfried, Alicia Witt, Naomi Watts, Charlene Yi and Madeline Zima.

Claws // Season One // TNT (June 11th)

Y’all I could NOT be more excited for this one. Claws, a dark comedy starring the always-delightful Niecy Nash, follows a group of five Florida nail-salon employees who end up part of a pill-mill money laundering scheme. Judy Reyes plays Quiet Anne, a former party girl and mother-of-two, who Reyes describes as “a lesbian [and very tough] as I created her. This was a wonderful opportunity to go against anything else I had played.”

Game of Thrones // Season Seven // HBO (July 16th)

Heather’s girlfriend Stacy is confident that Yara Greyjoy and Daenerys are going to make out this season.


Mondays

Still Star-Crossed // Season One // ABC (May 29th)

This new Shondaland series is listed as an LGBT-themed program on Wikipedia, but  we have no idea why! After two hours of research we had to give up and trust the goddesses will reveal everything to us in due time. This adaptation of Melinda Taub’s YA novel is set in Verona diectly after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, and charts the Montague/Capulet drama that ensues. Obviously our money is on the Nurse as the gay character, but it’s bound to be damn good television regardless.

Stitchers // Season Three // Freeform (June 5th)

Camille Engelson is a bisexual computer scientist involved in a relationship with Linus, a male main character. Her bisexuality has not been explored past a mention, but I was told to include this show in this preview so here we all are together looking at that nice photograph.


Tuesdays

Queen Sugar // Season Two // OWN (June 20th)

The talent behind this show, which features Rutina Wesley as bisexual journalist Nova Bordelon, remains just as impressive as the talent in front of it. The Ava DuVernay project is bringing legendary Black lesbian filmmaker Cheryl Dunye and Mosquita Y Mari writer/director Aurora Guerrero onto their Season Two all-female directing team. Also we have somebody on board to write about it for Boobs Tube, bless us all.

The Fosters // Season 5 // Freeform (July 11th)

What will happen in Season Five of The Fosters! I guess we’ll find out on July 11th!

The Bold Type // Season One // Freeform (July 11th)

Hey remember Karma from Faking It? She got a new job, working at Scarlet Magazine, in this show inspired by Cosmpolitan and its former editor-in-chief Joanna Coles. Nikohl Boosheri plays recurring character Adena El-Amin, a Muslim lesbian feminist photographer who becomes close friends with Scarlet’s social media director.


Wednesday

The Handmaid’s Tale // Season One // Hulu (April 26th)

Is this the year’s best new television program? It just might be! This chilling dystopian feminist drama has given us the gift of Samira Wiley playing a feisty lesbian angel again and has turned Ofglen, a straight character in the book, into a lesbian played by Rory Gilmore. But be warned that the terror is very real, the queer persecution is visceral and terrifying, and it will almost certainly give you nightmares.

Younger // Season 3 // TV Land (June 28th)

Younger is a pretty fun, pretty feminist show that has, on occasion, written some radical storylines for its lesbian character, Maggie. She’s TVLand’s first original queer character. Your grandparents could fall asleep watching Everybody Loves Raymond at 9:30 and wake up watching Maggie organizing a lesbian orgy at 10:00, just for one example. On the downside, Maggie often gets lost in the shuffle. She’s Liza’s roommate and best friend, the keeper of her secret (that Liza’s not really in her 20s), and so she doesn’t fit into the larger storylines that circle around the publishing company where Liza and the rest of the main characters work. But there’s a lot to love about this show anyway. It’s about women and their relationships with each other and their careers, and a dumb boring straight love triangle that Sutton Foster somehow makes less annoying than it sounds.


Friday

Wynonna Earp // Season 2 // Syfy (June 9th)

Your favorite snarky, sexy, reluctant gunslinger will be back soon to fight more demons (literally and figuratively). Joined of course by her sister, Waverly, and Waverly’s bulletproof-vest-sporting girlfriend, Nicole Haught. And a mysterious (but certainly queer?) location called Pussy Willows.


Saturday

Orphan Black // Season 5 // BBC America (June 10th)

“We came to love each other, joined together, and vowed to protect each other,” the clones announce in the intense Season Five trailer. Then, Sarah: “And now we fight.” BBC has released synopses of the first several episodes, which include Cosima reuniting with Delphine.


Streaming

Dear White People // Season One // Netflix (April 28th)

This smart, funny, politically conscious program based on the critically acclaimed film is must-see TV… if only its queer female characters were as good as the rest of it. Nia Long plays Neika, a lesbian-identified professor engaged to her girlfriend Monique and also having an affair with a male student. Cool!

Sense8 // Season Two // Netflix (May 5th)

Sense8, produced by the Wachowski sisters, has a trans woman played by a trans woman in a lesbian relationship with a Black woman, which is pretty f*cking great. Of the differences between Seasons One and Two, Jamie Clayton told NewNowNext, “The biggest difference the fans are gonna see is that it’s a lot bigger. There’s 16 cities, a lot of new characters. You’ll meet other Sense8s. For us that meant it took longer to shoot, and involved a lot more traveling. But you get find out the origins of BPO [the Biologic Preservation Organization] and what they’re doing. Now that the eight of us know what’s going on more, Season 2 really takes off with a bang.” Season Two also sees the entire cast in Brazil for Sao Paolo pride.

Master of None // Season Two // Netflix (May 12th)

Season Two of Aziz Ansari’s semiautobiographical dramedy sees its protagonist living in Italy and living the dream of learning how to make pasta. There was not a lot of kickass black lesbian character Denise, played by Lena Waithe, in the trailer, but we’re holding out hope!

Orange is the New Black // Season Five // Netflix (June 9th)

Season Four fucked up and broke our hearts. Season Five will take place in the immediate aftermath of that fucked up moment when the prisoners rise up against Litchfield’s conditions.

G.L.O.W. // Season One // Netflix (June 23rd)

This ensemble comedy from Jenji Kohan has so many women in it that if one of them isn’t at least bisexual I’m quitting my job. G.L.O.W. is based on the real story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a pro wrestling troupe founded in the mid-80s that toured and had a self-titled show that ran until 1990. The story is focused on Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress who takes her last shot at stardom by joining G.L.O.W. At least one man on one message board on one website on this internet has said, “Expect lots of lesbians and make outs.”


Also

Broad City – August TBD

Broad City debuts this August on Comedy Central, although I’m not sure when. But Ilana will remain bisexually oriented, I’m sure of that.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2689 articles for us.

77 Comments

  1. Waitwaitwait…Ofglen’s gay on the show??!? How do I get my hands onto Hulu overseas?
    Also, Orphan Black might have posted a Cophine Supercut this morning which I might have tried to stealthily watch on the train, surrounded by co workers this morning, and which I might have mightily failed at.

      • Same. I stopped watching Empire last year after I found out they filmed the prison scenes in an actual prison, so the inmates there lost a bunch of access to outdoor areas etc while it was being shot. It’s easiest for me to not even read recaps.

        For OITNB, I don’t know if I’ll read the recaps. Like, I’m curious about how awful the season will be, but also I don’t want to feed the fire.

    • honestly, i think that it’s already happening, interest in OITNB-related content seems way down here, which’s one of a few reasons why we haven’t done much of it. but also it’s netflix, so numbers aren’t a huge deal, and we’ll never know them, unless numbers sink low enough that it gets cancelled and then all those actresses, i hope, will find new jobs on shows they like as much as OITNB. but that’s unlikely, as our community is just a small fraction of the viewership. ultimately, who ends up hurt when those shows fuck up isn’t them… it’s us. (more on that in a minute.) and those of us on the team who have the emotional energy to continue talking back to those shows — applauding their successes, criticizing their failures — will keep doing it, because ignoring it altogether will change exactly nothing, and ’cause it still has a more diverse cast of women and more queer characters than anything else on TV, and it has raised awareness about prison conditions in significant ways. do we want them to only be getting feedback from their most die-hard fans, to whom they can do no wrong? no, we want to engage with the issues that are relevant to this community. this show is one of those issues, and we want to pay queer people to write about it.

      it is WAY less fun for us to post about a show that we’re all so mad at, that killed our fave character so offensively. it used to be such a delight because everything about the show (except for its too-white writing team) was in line with our community values and interests. now it’s complicated.

      now, that “more later”: i wanna explain another side to it that i feel people don’t consider when they talk about boycotting our recaps of OITNB, or PLL, or Glee, or Transparent, or whatever queer-ish show has been problematic beyond the pale (all of them) — it sometimes feel like y’all take our existence for granted?

      quality tv shows with lots of queer female characters have always been our bread & butter. we’ve got a very small budget, and also some of the internet’s best lesbian tv writers on our staff, so highly successful TV coverage has been within reach in ways other topics and types of content haven’t been for us.

      when shows like OINTB and PLL fuck up and alienate their queer viewership, the impact on their numbers is far less severe than the impact on ours. in the beginning, the majority of AS’s traffic came from readers of recaps and articles about The L Word, The Real L Word, Glee, Skins and Pretty Little Liars. Readers who might not remember to check in with AS always did the day after their show aired, not wanting to miss the recap! Then they’d catch up on everything else, too. With OITNB specifically, we noticed that days of big OITNB posts, traffic and conversation went up on all of our posts.

      for the past four summers, OITNB-related content has been the bulk of our website traffic. not even the recaps or reviews, but the trailers, the open thread, the thinkpieces, the collections of behind-the-scenes pictures, my “how real is OITNB” post, carmen’s review of the real alex vause’s book, Stef’s legendary Law & Order list. our “things we know about OITNB’s next season” post would be our top post of the month, but this year barely anybody cared about the first trailer of the season, so we probably won’t do it. OITNB has propped up the other work we do, the less popular stuff. plus, it was something everybody could get excited about.

      last year traffic was way down on OITNB content, and we expect that trend to continue. summers are strained times for us, ’cause it’s when a lot of senior eds are out of town (due to how underpaid everybody is, i don’t limit paid vacation time because small perks!), so we really appreciated OITNB. Aside from Glee and The Real L Word, no other TV show has garnered 20% of the attention OITNB has. when they sink, we sink.

      when a summer queer tv preview is as bleak as this one, we sink.

      our loyal readers come no matter what. but we also had a huge readership that came pretty much for our coverage of a specific TV show, and those posts got social media traction we don’t get on more niche topics.

      i just hope people who are boycotting the show are still coming here to read our news articles, photoessays, personal essays, interviews and editorials about the issues those shows didn’t treat fairly. i hope people join A+ so we can continue to pay a team of writers that is way more diverse than OITNB’s writing team, rather than downsizing or shutting down.

      • okay, you’ve put down a lot and i honestly don’t know where to begin.

        It honestly never occurred to me that boycotting these shows would impact autostraddle so significantly, which duh of course it would. However, autostraddle and tumblr are literally my queer world. I’m not out, at all. So please know that you’re a lifeline. I’m really, really frustrated right now because I can’t express how much it means to me to be able to come here and see pictures of queer people’s homes, read painstakingly collected studies,read about a top’s journey, longform articles, style ideas, freakin drink recipes( i don’t drink but you bet i read how to mix cocktails!) And in reading your comment i sensed the anxiety of making this home work when bills have to be paid.

        i feel like autostraddle is getting hit by stray gunfire, which really, really sucks. so yeah, this reader definitely doesnt take any part of autostraddle for granted

    • “I really wish there was an organized boycott of the show.”

      I seriously hope you all are joking. Boycott or stop watching the show cause your favorite character died?
      No one called for a boycott when Vee, Trisha, or Rosa died.

      • It was not some petty ‘how dare you kill my fave”
        The writers killed a black woman to teach white people a lesson, which itself proved THEY are the ones in need of a lesson. Treating a black character as a disposable to teach white people that black lives matter is a disgusting irony.

        Also you should maybe examine WHY Poussey was a fave. She was someone queer black women could see themselves reflected in, a god damned rare experience.

        • Not only did the writer kill a black woman, she killed a queer woman of colour.

          QWOC have commented in the past (here and elsewhere) how little representation they have of themselves, and how good it felt to have Poussey; how betrayed they felt to lose this one character just so white people can learn that black lives matter. What the show is really saying is that the story of their death apparently matters more than the story of their lives…

  2. “which include bisexual clone Cosima reuniting with Delphine.”
    Delphine is bisexual, but I’m pretty sure Cosima is a lesbian, isn’t she? Hence the famous “As a lesbian… supporter” when she’s pretending to be Alison.

    • Apparently early on there were plans to make her bisexual since in interviews for season 1 Tatiana referred to her as such, but nothing on screen ever suggested she’s into guys and since then IN THE SHOW it’s been made clear Cosima is a lesbian.

      Perhaps they came to conclusion that as Delphine is bisexual they should also give representation to gay women.

  3. I could have sworn Cosima was a lesbian? I mean she calls herself a lesbian… (supporter once she remembers she’s supposed to be Alison). Perhaps you meant to call Delphine bisexual?

  4. holy shit, when stitchers premiered, in response to the commercials, i was like, mindy from drake and josh is queer and i feel it in my bones and i will only ever watch this show if they make that happen. HOW DID I KNOW

  5. Has anyone been watching Harlots on Hulu? Terrific show about sex workers in Georgian England, feminist AF, has an interracial wlw relationship between the daughter of a street preacher and a sex worker and they’re super cute, and it’s about to air its season finale on Wednesday. Eight episodes, you can binge it. I think it also aired/airs on ITV in the U.K.

  6. 1st this list…
    YES to Younger, OITNB and Wynonna Earp.
    Also the Fosters cause I have to stick with it and see what stupidity the kids get up to AGAIN.
    I am interested in Claws (maybe), Mary Kills People (it has the Canadian connection so that’s always a plus) and GLOW I remember watching on like Sunday afternoons with Jackie Stallone ringside. Handmaid’s Tale I know people are raving but I’m not sure about it.

    I watched the trailer for the Bold Type and was like hell no. It seems so ridiculous and plus I can’t stand Karma.

    What you missed. Call the Midwife is airing in the US on PBS now. If you haven’t been tuning in, yes Patsy’s been gone for most of the season but Delia is still around.
    Saving Hope not sure if this is airing in the US but it is airing in Canada right now.
    Wentworth a lot of major shit is going down. which I would love to chat about if Boobs On Your Tube was a regular column.

  7. I was a bit weary about Claws when I first read about it (I blame Karrueche for my skepticism) but, increasingly, it’s looking like a show that I just have to check out. It’s also worth noting that trans actress and activist, Angelica Ross, is part of the cast.

    Alan Sepinwall has a review of Master of None up and, while it doesn’t give too many details, it does reveal that there’s an episode in the new season devoted to Denise coming out to her family, over 20+ years worth of Thanksgivings. The episode was co-written by Lena Waithe and guest stars Angela Bassett as Denise’s mom and Kym Whytley as her aunt.

    I can’t wait for Queen Sugar–I am literally counting the days–and I’m looking for forward to seeing the recaps here on Autostraddle.

  8. Sounds like Denise will get a decent feature in the latter half of Master of None: “The best of the lot comes in the back half when Lena Waithe takes the spotlight as a co-star and co-writer. Her story provides a varying perspective on parent-child relationships that Ansari, and many of us, don’t have. Human, moving, and cathartically funny — like a needle popping a balloon — Waithe’s episode serves as a standout of its own accord as well as a respite from Dev’s serialized story.” – http://www.indiewire.com/2017/05/master-of-none-season-2-review-netflix-aziz-ansari-1201811828/

  9. I’m excited as hell to watch GLOW. I used to watch the real thing when it came on late night teevee because I was obsessed with the ladies’ big hair and big boobs and basically everything about the show. It’s completely unsurprising now, looking back, that I’m queer.

  10. Am I the only one who find this list really depressing? Misogynistic ideas about scary vaginas, men playing transwomen, bi women who are only depicted in relationships with men with their identities unexplored at best and a joke at worse, a predatory lesbian professor sleeping with a male student, and a bunch of barely-there or only-rumored queer characters, many of whom are bound to be men. (I’m looking at you, Mercutio, in Still Star-Crossed.) Plus the option to be seriously depressed by the well-done Handmaid’s Tale or seriously depressed by the badly-done Orange Is the New Black.

    I know there’s some promising stuff mixed in here, but I was so discouraged by the time I got halfway through that I gave up. I am so, so sick of being told I should be grateful for crumbs on the representation front.

    • I agree it’s a pretty mixed bag here and I’m not interested in most of them.

      Who are the men playing transwomen though? The two shows on this list that I know for sure have trans characters are actually played by trans actresses(OITNB and Sense8).

      I am watching The Handmaid Tale’s though. Yeah, it’s premise is depressing but it’s one of the most beautifully shot and acted tv shows I’ve seen in a long time. It deserves the good press it’s getting.

      And I have to say that it does annoy me a little that OITNB is using Samira Wiley and her image to promote the new season of the show after they did her character last year but at least she’s on a much better show this year.

    • The only one I can recommmend that i’ve seen is Wynonna Earp. Three episodes in Wynonna’s sister has a meetcute with the new deputy who’s a lesbian and later realizes she’s bisexual. Their relationship is given a pretty prominent role and treated very respectfully. And in a later episode, Wynonna helps reunite a star crossed gay male couple. The creator has promised to add even more queer representation in the upcoming season.

  11. That’s how I interpreted the Twin Peaks description, with Duchovny reprising the trans role he played 25 years ago. Maybe I’m wrong, and the character is a transman and not a transwoman, which is (slightly) better, or maybe that character is a cherished icon in the trans community, or there’s other context I don’t know. I never saw the original Twin Peaks, but in my memories of the 90s that the show was all about the “freak factor” and using queer and disabled people in messed-up ways, so I bridled.

    But if I’m not wrong, we should be calling out shows that still do this and not promoting them. (I feel the same way about OINTB for different reasons.) I would love to see a little more coverage here about the shows that cast transwomen, like Sense8 and Star and (it looks like) Claws.

    I probably will check out The Handmaid’s Tale–it’s one of the ones I’m genuinely interested in–and I appreciate your recommending it. I just have a limited TV budget and will have to paid for access for most of these shows, so I’m often cautious before I embrace them.

  12. The queer story line in Mary Kills People isn’t great. Basically one girl toys with her BFF’s feelings while also flirting/making out with a guy in front of said BFF like it’s NBD. The whole thing is pretty trope-y and sad 🙁

  13. The Handmaid’s tale is terrifying! And effing fantastic so far. I am a little apprehensive how they will take Offred’s budding relationship with her Commander in the comming episodes though. Fingers crossed on that.

    Wynonna Earp, Orphan Black- Still almost a month away, but Yeah!! Twin Treats.

    Have a lot to catch-up with Fosters.
    Master of None- Will wait.

    Sense8 is pretty much great, the visuals are stunning (loved the Sao Paolo Pride Parade!), but it is glaring in its obvious exclusion of 2 lesbians in a relationship.

    Stichers- Camille Engelson is a bisexual computer scientist involved in a relationship with Linus, a male main character…Eh?
    Dear White People- Nia Long plays Neika, a lesbian-identified professor engaged to her girlfriend Monique and also having an affair with a male student. Cool! Say What??
    Mary Kills People- Heard the daughter has a girlfriend who may not be into her or is with her and a boy! Seriously???

    Not going to watch the above at all as I am over the bisexual women characters on TV who either get involved with a male character/has an affair with a male character/goes back to being ONLY with a male character after the relationship with her girlfriend falters/goes back to being ONLY with a male character after her girlfriend’s death.

    Orange is the New Black 5- Is a little slow this season, but kinda left without any conclusion/cliff-hanger at 10 episodes.

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