Top 15 Queer TV Characters Named Alex

Pictures of the Autostraddle senior editor team are collaged in colors of cobalt and orange with the words "Happy Birthday Autostraddle" and the number 15 strewed all over for Autostraddle's 15th birthday

Autostraddle is turning 15 this week! To celebrate, we’re publishing chaotic and gay Top 15 Lists all week long.


I initially wrote and published this post as Top Five in honor of our fifth birthday (for which we published a series of Top Fives), ten years ago, partially in honor of Alex Vega, co-founder of Autostraddle Dot Com, but also in honor of the popularity of the name “Alex” for queer characters. Since 2014 we have all grown and changed, but Alexes have continued to multiply on television, as addressed briefly in How To Name a Lesbian or Bisexual TV Character.

But, friends, I do believe the tide is shifting. I do believe our period of Peak Alex is over. I have recently become mildly obsessed with playing “baby names” games on Sporcle and have been shocked to witness the slow decline of “Alexandra.” (Girls simply named “Alex” have always been rare and never managed to rank in the top 1000. “Alex” is most usually a nickname.) (A nickname for a lesbian.)

“Alexandra” literally peaked as a baby name in the 90s, after a swift rise that began in the 80s — but it has fallen 252 spots since then, with similar fates suffered by the less popular Alexa and the more popular Alexis. It’s hard to say what lesbians of the future will be named, Perhaps they will be Harpers, Peytons, Addisons, Olivias, Parkers, Emmas and Bradleys. Perhaps they will be Olivias who change their names to “Alex.”

But for now, we live in a field of Alexes, Alexandras and Alexises. They’re especially popular for guest characters, which make sense — it’s the easiest thing to name a random, low-stakes lesbian. But nowhere do Alexes thrive quite like they do on lesbian webseries — LezWatchTV lists a whopping 20 characters named Alex in web-first properties! Today however we will focus on mainstream television. Let us begin!


15. Alex Portnoy, Light as a Feather

2018 – 2019

alex in 'light as a feather'

“The Lesbian Storyline on ‘Light as a Feather’ Ended Up Being Stiff as a Board‘ is one of my favorite headlines we’ve ever published and absolutely ensured I personally would not view this show. It sounds like things were going well for this Alex and then they stopped going well for this Alex, so I am mostly just sorry to this Alex! Brianne Tju is fantastic though and has also played gay in I Know What You Did Last Summer.


14. Alex (Shannyn Sossamon), Mistresses (US)

2013

mistresses-alex

If you’ve ever wondered, “what would Shannyn Sossamon look like in a sunddress?” This storyline from Mistresses in 2014 is your big chance to find out.


13. Alex (Anna Torv), Mistresses (UK)

2008 – 2010

Anna-Torv-as-Alex-in-1x02-of-Mistresses-anna-torv-25934544-1360-768

Before there was the US version of Mistresses, there was the UK version of Mistresses. As with most things, the UK edition was way better. This particular Alex was more into plaid than sundresses, however, as I recall.


12. Alex Bates (Sydney Morton), Manifest 

2018 – 2023

alex in "manifest"

This Alex missed being on the mysterious disappearing-reappearing flight at the center of Manifest by failing to show up for her escape to Jamaica with her girlfriend, Saanvi Bahl, for whomst she planned to leave her husband. But when the passengers return, Saanvi reaches out for help, and feelings remain. Her husband should’ve known when they got married that she was a lesbian character due to her name being “Alex,” so that is sort of on him, sorry.


11. Alexis Simms (Sepideh Moafi), Falling Water

sepideh moafi in "falling water"

I will watch Sepideh Moafi do just about anything, including apparently play a cop at least three times, including her stint as the only non-dreamer in Season Two of Falling Water, a two-season USA television show that never really succeeded either conceptually or critically. I’ve watched nearly the entire series and I am still really unclear on what happened or is happening. To be honest it’s on right now as I work on this though so maybe I should’ve been paying more attention.


10. Alexa (Grace Edwards), Modern Love

2021

teenage girl in a ponytail, t-shirt and denim jacket, playing ALexa in "Modern Love"

I think the world would’ve really fallen for Alexa if she’d had more than five minutes of screen time in the 22-minute installment of Modern Love dedicated to the lesbian experience. Despite being based on an essay about a writer coming out to herself in her late twenties, Modern Love set this self-discovery story in high school. There’s a lock-in and it’s pretty cute.


9. Alex (Ashley Romans), Shameless

2019

shameless alex

Shameless had a rocky road with lesbian characters and we braced ourselves when Debbie Gallagher seemed to decide she hated men enough to become a lesbian — and it was Alex who ended up being her first experiment in sapphistry. The thing about Alex is that Alex was really hot, and the writers really blew it with their whole narrative. But Debbie meets Alex on the job as a welder, where Alex passes as male to earn respect on the job. Such a classic Alex trope: playing with the androgyny of the name like that. She’s also one of three Alexes on this list we’ve seen in overalls.


8. Alex Neilson (Zoe Ventoura), Home & Away

2019 – 2020

alex in home and away sitting in a restaurant

I’m not personally privy to the universe of legendary Aussie soap opera, Home & Away, but the relationship between Dr. Alex Neilson and Willow Harris aka #willex was certainly beloved by the program’s fans, who were of course devastated when Alex left Summer Bay for a new job in 2020. But the couple’s most notable scandal was when fans realized a kiss between the two women that aired in New Zealand had been edited out of its Australian broadcast version (the network disputes this intentionality). More important to us all here now is that the YouTuber who first reported these differences was, of course, also named Alex.


7. Alex (Rosie Dwyer), The A-List

2018-2021

alex in the tree with petal

The A-List is one of those teen shows that landed here without much fanfare — about a summer camp on an island that holds dark secrets, with its first season on the BBC, and its second picked up by Netflix. But Alex, who loves ghosts and shies from attention in their flannels and hoodies and toques and overalls and plaid, was one of a very small cohort of non-binary characters when the series debuted. Their sweet romance with the more popular and outgoing Petal made the whole series worth watching, and its abrupt cancellation more devastating. It also addressed another key element of the name Alex: it’s a name that works for every gender!


6. Alex Nuñez (Deanna Casaluce), Degrassi

2003 – 2007

Alex-season4-HQ-2

I had real actual feelings about Alex Nuñez and Paige on Degrassi and I really wanted Alex and her hoop earrings and white tank-tops to swoop into my life and bring me danger and intrigue. She transformed and challenged Paige. It was so unusual to witness a high school storyline like Alex’s when this one happened. South of Nowhere and The L Word had just entered the world and transformation of the entire television landscape felt imminent. Degrassi has always been a pioneer in representation, and despite multiple missteps in that area over the years, they remained committed to you know, always going there.


5. Alex (Ally Xue), Creamerie

2021 – 2023

a girl in a gret sweater, alex in a flannel and overalls, pip in a pink top

Alex is in the middle in the overalls and flannel shirt, obviously

Alexander may be a consistently more popular name for men than Alexandra is for women, but a world without men does not mean a world without Alexes. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Creamerie, a dystopian comedy from New Zealand set eight years after a virus that wiped out all men. Now under the thrall of an allegedly feminist organization called Wellness. Alex, who lives on a dairy farm with her two best friends, is an outspoken critic of Wellness who is perpetually causing trouble, as Alexes are wont to do.


4. Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), Orange is the New Black

2013 – 2020

o-laura-prepon-orange-is-the-new-black-facebook-e1376611443893

Tall and mean and hot and honestly usually pretty terrible (though rarely as terrible as her beloved Piper), Alex Vause came into our lives like a wrecking ball, inspiring an entire community to want to smuggle drugs internationally in a bad wig. Ultimately, Vause absolutely goes down in history as one of the most legendary queer Alexes to ever appear on television, likely tied with the #2 character on this list for that particular honor. Furthermore, Piper and Alex’s shipper name #Palex unfortunately overlapped with Paige and Alex’s shipper name from Degrassi. That’s what happens when you get an embarrassment of riches like this many Alexes.


3. Alex Eastern (Janelle Monáe), Homecoming

2020

alex in the wilderness

The second season of the psychological thriller based on a podcast originally starring Julia Roberts gave Janelle Monáe their first lead TV role, and although the writing often disappointed, it was thrilling to have them there. As Natalie wrote: “Aside from the fact that you’d be hardpressed to find someone as imminently likable as Monáe — which endears you to her character before you even know anything about her — this type of story is one that Monáe’s been telling for years.” In Homecoming, her possession of the generic Alex lesbian name, like her white v-neck tees and oversized button-up chambray shirts and her ponytail, is a blank slate for the mystery inside, one she herself spends the series trying to truly understand.


2. Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), Supergirl

2015-2021

Alex smirks at Sara

For 126 episodes of network television, the iconic lesbian sister to Supergirl, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), made and remade herself, fell in love and lost it, found it again, and ended the whole run with a gorgeous wedding, a happy family, a thriving sister. She protected her sister and protected the earth. Ultimately she is amongst all Alexes, the most Alex, the longest-running Alex in queer television history. She did extraordinary things.


1. Alex Kelly (Olivia Wilde), The O.C.

2005
alex-olivia-wilde

I’m ending this epic list of Alex’s just as the original ended, because birthdays are a time for looking back. When this girl and her hairdo and her belts arrived on our television screens there were no Santanas or Emily Fields, let alone the 100-175 TV shows a year with queer characters we get these days  — but for like five episodes, we had Alex Kelly and Marissa Cooper, kissing in the rain! We had Marissa discovering her new confusing feelings! Alex was unapologetic about her bisexuality in a way so few were or could be in their real actual lives, back then. She wasn’t a brand new queer figuring her shit out in high school or Cook County General Hospital, she was a cool, worldly babe with an ex-girlfriend and everything.

She was Peak Alex.


Pictures of the Autostraddle senior editor team are collaged in colors of cobalt and orange with the words "Support Queer Media" and the number 15 strewed all over for Autostraddle's 15th birthday

Thank you to our members for keeping Autostraddle here and queer for 15 years! Become an AF member today to help keep media queer AF.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3223 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. Oh my god I have to go with Alex Kelly. I had so many queer feelings about her and Marissa in high school, back in those confusing, heady days when I’d never seen ladies kissing before. Oh, the memories.

  2. My friends in high school tried to convince me to watch The OC, and I only gave in once I heard about Alex’s character.
    (And now I may or may not own all 4 seasons on DVD, and I may or me not be in the middle of re-watching the series, and may or may not currently be on season 2, smack in the middle of the Marissa/Alex storyline…)

    • Yes girl! Anna Torv’s version of Alex on Mistresses is far superior to the US version IMO. And don’t forget that Anna Torv is going to be playing a lesbian again on Ryan Murphy’s new HBO show. Let us all pray that it doesn’t turn out to be as offensive to lesbians as my mind is telling me it’s going to be with Murphy in charge.

      • I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one who gets a little flustered whenever Anna Torv is on my teevee.

        Also, they have cuts of just the Alex and Jessica storyline on youtube if you don’t feel like watching (or tracking down) the full episodes.

  3. I may or may not have moderated a Livejournal community dedicated to Marissa and Alex. I also may or may not have been way too old, even back then, to have been doing such a thing. Ahem.

  4. I always loved Alex from Degrassi and not until years later did I realize why I had so many feelings about her, looking back I think she was my first girl crush so she has a special place in my queer heart

  5. Alex Vause. Very confusing because I don’t feel like I’m supposed to like her (and she is problematic sometimes), but I like her. And also, damn she looks good in glasses.

  6. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME RIESE. MARISSA AND ALEX DRIVING IN THE CAR AND LISTENING TO RILO KILEY WAS ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING TO ME, A SOLID 4 YEARS BEFORE I EVEN KNEW I WANTED TO KISS A GIRL. PORTIONS FOR FOXES IS STILL A REALLY MEANINGFUL SONG TO ME. THAT IS ALL.

  7. i was so convinced every tv show with queer characters needed an alex that i fully believed alice’s name WAS alex for the first 4 episodes of TLW i streamed at a low volume in my dorm room

  8. I had a huge crush on Alex from Degrassi. I remember staying up super late to watch the show, and sitting in my living room with one hand on the remote and an eye on the door because I knew my mother would have a fit because *lesbians*.

  9. My name is actually Alyx with a “y”. Do I get bonus points for an unconventional spelling?

    Also, I had a hopeless crush on Olivia Wilde growing up that I didn’t realise was a crush until I’d come out. I just thought she was really pretty and fascinating and I didn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t constantly obsessed with her every action on-screen!

  10. I would also like to remind people that a very popular lesbian name is Frank(y/ie). See: Franky Doyle from Wentworth and Frankie Alan from Lip Service. (To be honest I prefer the Frank(y/ie)’s to the Alex’s listed above…

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!