From Adventure Time to The Simpsons!
I’ve been sat at my desk for most of the morning trying to remember if I saw any openly LGBTQ+ characters in the children’s shows that I watched as a child and for the life of me I can’t think of one. Granted, I watched the Simpsons on a daily basis and so I saw the canonly gay character of Smithers but that show wasn’t really meant for the under 10s.
Thankfully these days, many companies are a lot more willing to have canonly queer characters in their children’s shows, but why is this important?
Well, as I’ve said in a previous article, positive media representation is vital to our community because it lets LGBTQ+ people know that they are loved and accepted no matter their sexuality or gender identity. And what is more important than telling children that they deserve love and safety?
It also helps straight and cisgender children to see being LGBTQ+ as normal (whatever that means) and reduces the chances that they will engage in discriminatory behavior against their queer classmates. Why would you make fun of the kid who sits by you in math class for being gay when your fave character is too?
With that in mind, here are five of the best LGBTQ+ characters in children’s programming today (although perhaps in reruns as kids stations often do) which you should share with your children, younger siblings, or any kids in your care.
Whether those kids are LGBTQ+ or not, showing them diverse and nuanced characters will help prepare them for the world around them and maybe make the world a little bit better in the future.
Ruby and Sapphire (Steven Universe)
LGBTQ+ Identity: Lesbian, Genderqueer
While it may seem like cheating to include a couple on this list, there is a very good reason for this; the feminine-presenting couple is permanently fused together to form Garnet, the leader of the Crystal Quartz.
Why are they fused together? The answer is love. In fact, Garnet could be seen as an allegory for marriage or civil unions.
Other LGBTQ+ characters in Steven Universe: Rose Quartz (Bisexual, Genderqueer), Pearl (Lesbian, Genderqueer)
Marceline the Vampire Queen (Adventure Time)
LGBTQ+ Identity: Bisexual
A mixture of human, demon, and vampire, Marceline is one of the most badass characters on children’s TV, with her battleaxe bass guitar (which bears more than a passing resemblance to the lesbian flag) and her penchant for scaring the living daylights out of people.
She once dated fellow Adventure Time character Princess Bubblegum, which is why the pair is has such a fierce rivalry and had trouble getting along in the past, and a male vampire called Ash.
Other LGBTQ+ characters in Adventure Time: Princess Bubblegum (Bisexual), Baby Snaps / Princess Cookie (Transgender), BMO (Genderqueer)
Zadie (Danger & Eggs)
LGBTQ+ Identity: Trans
Zadie is an adorable, intelligent trans girl who has the confidence to get up on stage at Pride (yes, D&E has a Pride episode in its first season) and sings a song about finally being able to go to school as the real her.
She even explains to another character about how your family can be who you choose rather than who you’re related to.
Other LGBTQ+ characters in Danger & Eggs: Milo (Nonbinary/Genderqueer)
Howard McBride (The Loud House)
LGBTQ+ Identity: Gay
Howard is the Gold Standard for helicopter parenting; sensitive, neurotic, and easily emotional. He refuses to let his son Clyde out of his sight unless he’s at school or with his best friend Lincoln.
During his introduction, Howard is having trouble dropping Clyde off at Lincoln’s for a sleepover without about a hundred just-in-case items.
Luckily, Howard’s husband Harold is always there to calm him down.
Other LGBTQ+ characters in The Loud House: Harold McBride (Gay), Luna Loud (Bisexual)
Waylon Smithers (The Simpsons)
LGBTQ+ Identity: Gay
Note: I said at the beginning that I watched The Simpsons as a child and I don’t think I’m the only one. Although designed for adults, much of the show is suitable for children with parental supervision.
When the series began, Smithers was a closeted gay man who occasionally dated women to maintain the illusion of heterosexuality, pretended not to know his gay friends when he was with his work colleagues, and has the biggest crush on his boss. In fact, there may be no more striking argument that love is not a choice, than Smithers’ love for the deplorable Mr Burns.
Last year, Smithers finally came out as gay and when Burns rejects him, the other Springfieldians took it upon themselves to find Smithers a boyfriend.
Other LGBTQ+ characters in The Simpsons: Dewey Largo (Gay), Patty Bouvier (Lesbian), Julio (Gay), Brunella Pommelhorst (Trans man), Lisa Simpson (Bisexual)
What did you think about these characters? Are there any other that you wish I’d included? Do your kids have a favorite LGBTQ+ character? Let me know in the comments below.