Six of Our Favorite Queer and Trans Black Characters on TV
They may be less prominent than characters in other TV shows, but these queer and trans characters should be acknowledged and critiqued when necessary.
This year FX’s Pose made a huge splash on television as a show that not only features queer and trans Black characters, but puts them front and center with rich and compelling stories. While the Netflix hit series Orange is the New Black gave us something similar, it is Pose that offers us these characters and stories in a way that is not solely focused on the respective and joint trauma(s) of Blackness, queerness, and transness.
There have also been other mainstream and exceedingly popular shows to introduce queer and trans Black characters, such as Empire and How to Get Away With Murder, and we wanted to compile a list of some lesser known shows that are following in those footsteps. Even though some of these characters and their stories aren’t necessarily set forth in the prominent way within the larger narrative of the shows carrying them, it is important to acknowledge where we see them represented and offer critique when necessary.
From the great Ava DuVernay, A Louisiana sugarcane farm is at the center of this story about a southern Black family, and the action kicks off when the three Bordelon siblings return home to claim the farm as part of their shared inheritance from their late father. Nova Bordelon (Rutina Wesley) is a queer woman. There is some contention that the show has failed to properly acknowledge her queerness recently, but we encourage you to form your own opinion about that.
The show also features a Black trans cop in a recurring role as the childhood friend of Ralph Angel Bordelon (Kofi Siriboe). Toine is portrayed by actor Brian Michael, who is vocal about being a Black trans man in the Hollywood machine. His character has given the show the opportunity to address Black masculinity in a way that we have never seen on television before, and leaves room. for even more exploration moving forward.
TV’s first Black lesbian superhero takes the stage in this CW show. Daughter of the titular character, Anissa Pierce (Nafessa Williams) eventually takes on the moniker of Thunder. Having been an out lesbian since she was a teenager, we see Anissa’s sexuality fully on display throughout the story.
Created by former Six Feet Under and Lost writer Craig Wright, Greenleaf is another show about a Southern Black family, this time in Memphis, Tennessee. Central to the series is the megachurch that the family attends and actively participates in.
Kevin Satterlee (Tye White) is the husband of the youngest Greenleaf daughter, Charity, and he is attracted to men. He struggles with this attraction, both openly and secretly, which threatens is his marriage to Charity and his work at the church.
There is also Carlton Cruise (Parnell Damone Marcano), the gay music director, who gets challenged by those around him about his position at the church and he reconciles his work and religion with his sexuality.
Among many other things, Greenleaf is working to normalize queer Black men and also interrogating the relationship of the Black church with queer sexualities.
This dark comedy was abruptly canceled last year, but it still deserves a spot on this list. It follows a Boston-based family dealing with the guilt of having “made it” when the protagonist signs a multi-million dollar contract with the NBA. Mary Charles Calloway (Erica Ash), one of the main characters, is an out lesbian. Described as a “womanizer”, her sexuality is never hidden from view, even as the character grapples with other major events and revelations in her life. The show is still available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Lena Waithe, Master of None actor and the first Black woman to win an Emmy for best comedy series writing for her work on the show, is the creator of this Showtime series. The show has already introduced a couple of Black lesbian moms and it’s not overly ambitious to assume that we will be seeing a lot more queerness on the show, as Waithe herself as said, “I want to see more queer people of color in leading roles.”
Waithe also has an upcoming TBS series called Twenties, about a queer Black woman named Hattie and her two straight friends. Waithe told Deadline: “I wrote Twenties back in 2009. I always wanted to tell a story where a queer Black woman was the protagonist, and I’m so grateful to TBS for giving me a platform to tell this story… Queer Black characters have been the sidekick for long enough; it’s time for us to finally take the lead.”
Trans actress Amiyah Scott portrays Cotton, the trans daughter of Carlotta Brown (Queen Latifah). Cotton’s story, unfortunately, is one that is full of exploitation and trauma, but it is still dynamic and compelling and her parents are supportive of her transition.
Aside from acting, Scott is also a public speaker whose mission is to empower students through talks about bullying, building self-esteem, and embracing their authentic selves, whoever they may be.
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