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Best gay television of 2011

Were there any other transpeople on American television in 2011 besides Chaz Bono?

Since Ellen’s coming out episode in 1997 it has no longer been shocking to have a gay character on TV, but portrayals of LGBT characters in the new millennium can be all over the place. These are some of our picks for the gayest shows, the best shows with gay characters, the most interesting portrayals in a show, or just a show we’d like to highlight for some other gay ass reason.

5 – Teen dramas Skins, Degrassi and Pretty Little Liars

All three of these shows had pretty interesting portrayals of young people with varying queer identities. None of them were perfect but PLL‘s lesbian character has had a few love interests over its 2 seasons and seems to be a pretty fleshed out character (and the interests too), Skins (and I’m talking the UK version here) introduced a more gender ambiguous sexually fluid character, which is pretty revolutionary, and Degrassi is just always introducing and following all kinds of characters. I guess you can do that when you’re on for 11 years though (and that’s not counting the original I was really kind of too young for but watched anyway as a child).

On the less exciting teen dramedy side a thumbs down to the US version of Skins that made the initial gay male character a lesbian who then sleeps with men (not that this doesn’t ever happen or deserve a storyline but it fundamentally changes a story that they otherwise copied exactly from the British version of 5 years ago). Plus, Glee has not been doing nearly as good a job with its lesbian storyline as it did with the gay one, (check out this Dorothy Snarker post that explains it well) and is kind of failing this year where once it soared.

4 – Sci-Fi from Lost Girl and Warehouse 13

Everyone knows by now I’m a pretty big geek so I’m not going to hide my bias that sci-fi and fantasy often do better by queer characters than more down to earth tales. But Warehouse 13 did an exceptional job with their nonchalance toward new gay agent Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore) this year. It wasn’t glossed over but it wasn’t a big deal either. It did seem like they used the lesbian subtext more as press teaser than earnest relationship, especially since we didn’t even get a kiss, only a bad joke or 2, but at least they didn’t make it too stereotypical.

Lost Girl is a Canadian show that will be making its way to the US on SyFy this Spring. And it’s protagonist is a bisexual succubus named Bo. Cheestastic? Absolutely. But the whole show is so the bisexual main character certainly isn’t treated any differently than anyone else and, so far (there have been 2 seasons to our north already) they have treated Bo’s male and female relationships with equal sincerity.

3 – Portlandia

Though Portlandia hasn’t shown explicitly gay couples there’s all kinds of queerness attached to this show. Besides the local and out co-star Carrie Brownstein at the helm, one of my favorite (or least favorite, I can’t really decide) skits featured in season 1 saw Armisen and Brownstein playing opposite gendered roles in a safe word skit that has got to sound mighty familiar in our community.

Prince Renly is groomed by his lover Loras in 'Game of Thrones'

2 – Game of Thrones

This epically messed up story and and gigantic cast of GOT provided ample opportunity for queer characters. In the world of Westeros and Essos LGBT may not be an identity but there is plenty of gay sex to go around, and even the “straight” characters have some different ideas on sexuality. Original writer George RR Martin didn’t shy away from these and it looks like the Globe winning HBO show isn’t going to either.

1 – Dancing with the Stars

I’m not a big reality TV fan but I know much of the world would disagree with me. So it’s a pretty big deal that the first mainstream celebrity to be an out transman got a primetime spot on the tube. (Bono and NBC certainly had to endure a good deal of backlash about him even appearing on Dancing). In fact, Chaz Bono has been in the pop culture limelight a lot this year, whether he’s starring in a documentary, breaking up with his fiance, or looking into bottom-surgery. I’m not sure this level of prurient interest is always a good thing, but it is at least making transpeople more visible. That does seem to be the first (dance) step…

Oh yeah, and more than rumored lesbian Hope Solo was also on the show.

Honorable mention: As I’ve only seen a portion of the first episode I’m not really sure how “honorable” a mention British reality show My Transsexual Summer deserves, but it’s certainly worth noting that this is the first show with an entirely trans cast I’ve ever seen. I have no idea if it will turn out to be respectful or mad but I’m hard pressed to think of any other show with trans actors or real trans people at all (except Dancing with the Stars) so that’s revolutionary in and of itself. If you want to hear from the boys of the show it looks like they’re blogging for Original Plumbing now.

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