America Chavez from Young Avengers, Judith
America Chavez was first introduced as part of the Teen Brigade in Vengeance #1, though it wasn’t until Young Avengers Vol. 2 that she made a real splash in the Marvel fandom.
America is a no-nonsense badass with a penchant for solving things by literally punching them into the next dimension. She’s a very low-key type of superhero, going out and saving the world not covered head to toe in spandex nor in a fully-armored suit, but rather in a hoodie and booty shorts.
And that relatability is what makes her so appealing. She can travel through dimensions, sure, and she’s also practically invincible. But she’s also young and vulnerable in other ways, though it isn’t immediately obvious. She’s an orphan – her mothers died trying to save the Utopian Parallel. She was disillusioned when she learned that the Demiurge, the person she practically hero worshiped as a child, was no more than a teenager with more power than he knew what to do with. She has the stereotypical Latina temper (even if she isn’t one), and though it serves her well during battle, it also makes her more impulsive and prone to decisions with dire consequences *coughSharknadocough*.
She’s a superhero, yes, but she’s also Just Like Us.
So where does her sexual orientation fit in? Everywhere and nowhere. She identifies as lesbian, though it’s not revealed until near the end of Avengers Vol. 2. What’s interesting, though, is that there’s no big reveal; sexual orientation is such a non-issue in their universe, so much so that her sexuality is never explored in-depth. Others may view this as a disservice to LGBTQ characters everywhere – especially in an almost-all-queer team as the Young Avengers – but it’s rather refreshing to see what it’s like in a world where no one cares and people can just be. And in the end, isn’t that what we would want for our own world?
Sailor Uranus/Haruka Tenoh from Sailor Moon, Rika
If there ever was a poster boy– er, poster girl for lesbians in anime, it’s definitely Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. Don’t be deceived by the US version of Sailor Moon— these two are definitely in a relationship and NOT cousins! But since we’re only going to focus on one character per person, let’s focus on Sailor Uranus, aka Haruka Tenoh.
So why isn’t Uranus just androgynous? Well, she is, technically. She’s too pretty to be stereotypically male, but she’s too boyish to be the girly-girl. Naoko Takeuchi once explained that her inspiration for Uranus was the Takarazuka Revue. She describes Uranus as, “the female best friend and the fairy tale prince in one.” Her open relationship with Michiru (Sailor Neptune) is blatant throughout the series, and she is fond of teasing pretty girls. Haruka even goes as far as kissing Usagi at one point, and calling her pet names (Dango, or Dumpling, depends on which translated version you’ve seen or read). Michiru also goes on to explain that Haruka is both a man and a woman, in the sense that she possesses the strength of both genders. In the manga and the recent Sailor Moon Crystal series, people go as far as to comment that she and Michiru make the perfect couple. No judgement that they’re both girls, no homophobic slurs. Ah, to have such reaction in the real world is a dream…
While not going around as Sailor Uranus, Haruka is the homme to Michiru’s femme. Tall, sporty, with short blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, she opts to wear the male school uniform most of the time. Her hobby is racing (back in the 90’s it was really popular in Japan– hence Initial D), and she’s also track and field in her school. It’s very stereotypical “butch” lesbian, if you ask me, but hey– it works: she’s the total contrast to Michiru’s ladylike demeanor.
Now, why am I writing about Sailor Uranus? Well, she’s not just openly a lesbian in the series. She’s also the very reason I discovered that I’m not as straight as my parents and grandparents think I am (Hi, Mom!). Not just that, most of the ladies in this series taught me that hey– it’s okay to be who I am because I’m a strong and independent mahou shoujo. Okay, so maybe I’m not really a magical girl, but Sailor Uranus has definitely been an influential character that helped shaped myself and many other girls out there.
Also, if you’re still not convinced that Sailor Uranus is gay for Sailor Neptune, here’s Sailor Moon Crystal season 3’s ending theme, which, coincidentally, is sung by Uranus and Neptune. It spells B-L-A-T-A-N-T-L-Y G-A-Y.
Connor Walsh from How to Get Away with Murder, Danzy
In a show populated by beautiful but terrible characters, Connor Walsh from ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder has capitalized on the utter chaos of the series’ premise to hit the lowest point he can possibly achieve within his lifetime – and this, surprisingly, is a good thing.
Up front: Connor is hardly an obscure choice for a favorite LGBTQ+ character, but the popular reasons for liking him tend to be expanded versions of “he’s hot, he’s gay, and he’s got an onscreen rimming(!) scene.” This writer’s reasons for liking Connor are different, though not discounting the previously given reasons as valid: he is indeed hot, he is indeed gay, and oh boy is he the most candid about where his genitals have been. However, in spite of his token pretty white boy status in a Shonda Rhimes production (not an easy feat), Connor isn’t treated the way one might expect. He receives the brunt of several misogynistic stereotypes while keeping the consequences of said stereotypes – his sleeping around isn’t appreciated or celebrated by friends or family, his histrionics aren’t excused as examples of frustrated male outburst, and in a stroke of inspired writing, his inheriting the mantle of “over-invested not-girlfriend” includes all of the unnecessary drama that it entails. If the show hadn’t been so explicit about his being gay – and gods bless us, it very much is – the MRA types probably dislike him on principle for subverting traditional male power roles.
Not that this will stop people from hating him simply for being gay. Connor is a very specific type of “gay man” portrayal – hypersexual, demeaning, over-competent – that is typically relegated to comic relief. This is a role that his characterization refuses to occupy. Thanks to a combination of witty writing and fairly competent acting, though, Connor Walsh makes his otherwise despicable character work.
See, the character’s actions are layered over by the unique perspective of being young, entitled, and – most dangerously of all – capable. He’s smart, but he’s not infallible. His first instinct when it comes to danger and risk is to run in the opposite direction as fast as he possibly can, and when he can’t, his first reaction is to freak the hell out. In spite of the terrible decisions he’s made (and continues to make), Connor makes it out okay by equal measures of luck and sheer tenacity – at least, for as long as it takes for things to get worse than he started out with. To anyone who’s ever screwed up at work, relationships, or both at the same time, Connor’s state of being is very familiar in his ability to get himself in and out of trouble like he’s getting paid for it. Already an overloaded personality, being gay just happens to be the crowning piece of his crappy profile as a character.
He’s flawed, is the thing. He’s not perfect. He’s not a dreamboat, and he’s not the kind of date you bring along for a family dinner. Connor presents infidelity as it is: acts of thoughtlessness that ruin relationships. The show doesn’t forgive him for it easily, either. There isn’t some profound insight on his behavior delivered via monologue, as is often the case in a lot of drama shows (you have to wonder what some writers think of as normal speech, sometimes). He’s made, unmade, and remade, several times over – and you see the damage pile up on top of each other, just like they would in real life.
Sometimes, your favorite character doesn’t have to be a good person. They don’t have to be a moral person, or a successful person, or even a likable person. They just have to be relatable, and Connor is every inch of it to a neurotic career-driven millennial slugging it through the twenty-first century’s social mores. Sometimes, no matter what your race, gender, or orientation is, you just can’t avoid careening off the rails and burning your way straight off a cliff – and Connor Walsh hits rock bottom so beautifully that he transforms the flaming wreck that his life has become into a work of art.
In spite of all the imperfections that have dogged MTV’s Teen Wolf, one character I will always be grateful for is the breath of fresh air that is Danny Māhealani.
To break him down for those of you who have never picked up the show, here’s a single yearbook-worthy blurb: “When people tell you that ‘Everybody loves Danny,’ you can take it as honest to goodness truth. Other than being an excellent first-string goalie for Beacon Hills’ lacrosse team, Danny is personable, smart, a team player, and the guy who will remain unfazed even when all the crazy shit is breaking loose. P.S. Boys, he likes to cuddle.”
In a show that asks you to suspend your disbelief over the existence of werewolves, banshees, and other supernatural creatures, Danny becomes the reason that Teen Wolf‘s attempt to depict a non-heteronormative world succeeds.
It’s not just about how he’s built as a character; it’s also about how the other characters (and the world they’re in) view and relate to him. Danny takes his boyfriend to prom, flirts with a flustered Stiles openly in the boys’ locker room, and reminds his oftentimes self-centered best friend that he’s “really not [his] type” (But OK Jackson, we know you think you’re the Center of the Universe) with the casual delivery of someone who lives in a reality where sexual preference is free of stigma.
I’ll echo the sentiments above that yes, it’s important that we have depictions that go and tackle the issues experienced by queer individuals. However, characters like Danny in shows like Teen Wolf add value too, because they offer up the idea of what it could be like to live in a world that doesn’t see the label, just the person.Given how acceptance is often hard-won, it’s no small wonder that fans clamored for Danny to gain a more prominent role in a series that looked like it might do him right. Teen Wolf did just that: he got more screen time and dialogue, and even a romantic plotline that was handled with the same kind of understated grace that makes me tip my hat off to Jeff Davis.While Danny departed from the show post-season 3, there are fans who still hold out in hope for his possible return to the show. Nevertheless, even if he doesn’t, he’s done good for LGBTQ+ representation in TV, having paved the way for other characters to simply be as they are.
Are any of these lovely creatures your favorites too? Do you have other characters you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments!