LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream entertainment seemed like a distant dream for the longest time. However, things did get better eventually and the last decade has given the community it’s due and the much needed sensitive coverage.
Animation is an excellent medium to impart crucial lessons in a light-hearted manner with the target audience spanning across all generations. It has proven to be a great place to explore the panorama of sexuality and gender. It is overwhelming to see story writers make good use of the creative advantage for delivering content that is relevant, evolving, and the truest depiction of today’s times.
By carefully using symbolism, magic, and fantasy as tools of representation, LGBTQ+ characters are well-written and well-celebrated. Keeping in mind the ongoing Pride Month, we’ve enlisted the animated characters from the LGBTQ community that the world has seen this year.
1) The Legend of Vox Machina (Vex’ahlia “Vex” de Rolo, Vax’ildan “Vax” Vessar, Scanlan Shorthalt, Lady Kima, Lady Allura Vysoren)
Vex’ahlia and Vax’ildan are half-elf twin siblings and members of the Vox Machina team. Both siblings are bisexual.
Before cementing his relationship with Keyleth, Vax’ildan often flirted with Gilmore and kissed him after officially ending their courtship. He was also in a relationship with a girl named Cyriel in his teenage years, and a man named Thorn a few years before joining Vox Machina. Additionally, Vax stated multiple times his attraction to both men and women, once while masquerading as Scanlan in Vasselheim.
Keyleth of the Air Ashari is a half-elf druid. She has been shown as either bisexual, asexual, or demisexual.
Scanlan Shorthalt is in love with a woman and marries her. He also had a daughter with another woman. However, he has had relationships with people of multiple genders. He was shown to be attracted to both men and women throughout the campaign. In “The Ominous March”, Scanlan is tricked into drinking a love potion by Vax’ildan and Grog, after which he first sees Percy and falls in love with him for the duration of the effect.
Lady Kima is a member of the Tal’Dorei Council. She eventually gets into a relationship with Lady Allura and marries her. Lady Kima is voiced by a bisexual actress, Stephanie Beatriz.
2) Pinecone & Pony (Gladys, Wren)
Gladys is a teacher who is in a relationship with Wren. Her partner Wren is a non-binary person who prefers they/them pronouns. Wren is voiced by non-binary actor Ser Anzoategui.
In episode six, In Plain Sight, Pinecone and Pony show up to magic school and find out it’s plant day. Their teacher, Gladys, is especially excited about the wacky horticulture they’ll be learning because they have a special guest instructor: “They are talented,” Gladys beams. “They are glorious! Their warmth outshines the sun! Please welcome my partner, Wren!” As soon as the announcement is made, everyone cheers on screen!
3) Battle Kitty (Orc, Iago)
Orc is Battle Kitty’s best friend. In the episode Warrior Park, Orc is revealed to be gay as he has a crush on Iago. Orc and Iago eventually become a couple. Iago is one of the warriors at Battle Island and Orc’s love interest. He seems receptive to Orc’s feelings. Iago accepts his feelings and starts a relationship with Orc.
It’s heart-warming to see how overtly and unapologetically gay the two characters are. In the show, queer identity is normalized, celebrated, and gay is synonymous with joy. It’s an excellent example of how creative and fun entertainment can be if we just loosen up a bit.
4) Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout (Hinata Tachibana)
Jinguji Tsukasa’s friend and a frustrated and lonely man, Hinata, drunkenly expresses his wish to become a woman, saying “I want to become a woman so beautiful that I couldn’t possibly exist in this world”. The wish is granted by a goddess who transports the two friends to a fantasy world and transforms Hinata into a woman. Despite her protests and claims not to have made such a wish, her “game stats” list her gender as female, indicating that she is transgender.
With an extremely mature portrayal of same-sex relationship, Life with an Ordinary Guy who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout emerges as a winner when it comes to showing sensitive issues on-screen. The raw human emotions are a heart-winner and the honest depiction with utmost care deserves a round of applause.
5) The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder (Michael Collins)
Michael Collins is Penny Proud’s effeminate male friend. He is also established as gender non-conforming. Michael is voiced by a gay actor, E.J. Johnson in the show. The young adult version of Michael is voiced by gay actor Jeremy O. Harris. While there were some episodes in the original series, The Proud Family, that teased a relationship between him and LaCienega, for instance, in the episode Who You Calling a Sissy; in The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, he is explicitly only into men.
The first two episodes portray Michael as more openly expressive in his identity through trendsetting fashion choices, hairstyles and colours, designing clothes for Penny, and offering beauty advice and assistance to his friends. The pilot episodes also advance the series’ overall representation of LGBTQ characters and identities as viewers are briefly introduced to new character Barry Leibovitz-Jenkins voiced by Zachary Quinto. In later episodes, the series also introduced Randall Leibovitz-Jenkins, another LGBTQ charcter and Barry’s husband, voiced by LGBTQ icon Billy Porter.
Having recurring queer characters, including recurring black queer characters, in such a widely loved show is a great achievement for accelerating the acceptance of LGBTQ people everywhere.
6) Human Resources (Nadja el-Koury, Danielle)
Nadja is Natalie’s older sister who plans to go to college. She is in a relationship with a woman named Danielle. Nadja and Danielle are voiced by Sabrina Jalees and Ariana DeBose, who are queer actresses.
Focusing on same-sex relationship positivity, mental health and casually sprinkling queer representation in a fun way, Human Resources does a great job of portraying a rainbow of experiences in an approachable and relatable manner.
7) The Executioner and Her Way of Life (Akari Tokitō, Momo)
One of the protagonists, Akari Tokito is a high school student initially portrayed as clumsy and hot-headed, but also kind and trusting. Her child-like heart made her easily trust her female friend Menou in their first meeting, as Akari believed that their encounter was fate. Akari is deeply in love with Menou.
Momo is a young priestess and Menou’s friend. She assists Menou on anything she needs during a mission by providing support in battles. She has had a crush on Menou ever since they were childhood friends, and hence treasures the hair ribbons gifted to her dearly. With Menou insisting that she hide her presence from Akari, Momo begins to grow jealous at how close the two are getting.
Using compassion to depict a mature and sensitive subject, The Executioner and Her Way of Life handles LGBTQ characters really well. Their interpersonal relations are shown as normal as another other relation would look like on-screen between opposite genders. The emotions are shown as it is without any explanations as to why the girls cannot help themselves but fall for women. Kudos to the series for blending a coming-of-age topic with high-school drama and doing an excellent job with it.
8) Dead End: Paranormal Park (Barney Guttman, Norma Khan)
Series creator Hamish Steele said that he is grateful for showrunners who fought for LGBTQ characters in their shows while describing Barney as a trans male character. He also hoped that the show would help out more trans creators getting their chance to tell their stories. Barney is in a same-sex relationship with Logs and is voiced by trans actor Zach Barack.
Norma is Barney’s Pakistani-American autistic best friend. The audiences were first given hints that she is pansexual, but later it is explicitly shown that Norma likes both genders. However, she doesn’t identify with any specific label yet, which gives the creator the liberty to explore the character further in the second season. She has a crush on Badyah Hassan, her friend of Iranian descent.
9) Harley Quinn (Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy)
As Harley Quinn (girl) and Poison Ivy (girl) speed away from the burning corn factory, they kiss, finally beginning a new chapter in their relationship as super-villain girlfriends. Following this first kiss, there have been a few Elseworlds storylines, including Injustice: Gods Among Us and DC’s Bombshells, featuring their romance, but few in-continuity stories took a deep dive into their newly formed relationship.
The turbulent feelings between Harley and Ivy become the driving narrative for the animated show’s second season. When a show’s leads are super-villains, it’s expected that the writers are going to break a few rules.
Harley and Ivy have long been arguably the most visible queer duo in DC, getting together in both the comics and the recent animated series on HBO Max. Writer Stephanie Phillips is a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself.
~ Kudos to the progressive content; hope you enjoyed the list!