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The Most Essential LGBTQ TV Shows of the 21st Century

Nearly 25 years into the Golden Age of Television, we are finally ready to create a definitive list of the greatest queer television of all time. Any sooner, and the pickings of series that are both fully embodied in their queerness and top notch artistically would have been a wee bit slim. Luckily for those of us who prefer a fuller bodied canon, slim fit is over. It’s time to celebrate the wonderful wide world of queer television that has exploded over the last nearly quarter of a century.

With so many options to consider, we decided to open this list with a bang: Just the classics. After years of sifting through sweeps-week teases and low-budget soaps, it feels both exhilarating and overwhelming to be able to cull from a wealth of excellent queer programming. This list recognizes the trailblazing classics that paved the way, as well as the boundary-breakers forging ahead into our bright and shining future. Some, like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are cultural phenomenons that live in our veins. While something like Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” may not read as overwhelmingly queer, the daring dark comedy about sexual trauma features a queer storyline so powerful it merited inclusion. And let us all wonder at how brilliantly Rebecca Sugar’s “Steven Universe” uses zany animation to explode gender boundaries out of this world.

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While beloved omissions are inevitable, these titles were evaluated on their consistent quality over many seasons, as well as their staying power and impact on broader queer culture. There are so many wonderful recent entries that are just getting started, and we can’t wait to see how they evolve over time. With a recent swell of teen dramas (thank you, Greg Berlanti) and offbeat comedies filling their colorful worlds with an eclectic mix of queer characters, it felt important to highlight shows that felt fully — even unquestionably — queer. That’s why we chose to highlight shows with at least one queer character in the main cast. You know, shows where you don’t have to squint to find the representation.

Let’s rest our eyes and feed our souls, honeys.

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