Sex isn't taboo on 'Bridgerton.' Neither is queer romance.

Sparks flew between Francesca Bridgerton and Michaela Stirling. Now, fans want to see more.

Victor Alli as John Stirling and Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton. (Liam Daniel/Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection)

It was the ballroom introduction heard 'round the ton as Bridgerton viewers met Michaela Stirling in the second half of Season 3. The character’s introduction to the Regency-era series may have seemed unexpected so soon after Francesca’s marriage — a quiet love story many fans were rooting for — but it also signaled the added promise of a main queer storyline in a future season.

Fans of Julia Quinn’s romance series upon which the show is based knew Francesca Bridgerton’s Season 3 love story with the quietly endearing John Stirling was unlikely to be her happy ending. If the show followed the progression of the books, Stirling would die and Francesca would fall for his cousin, Michael Stirling. By gender-flipping the character in the new season, Bridgerton gave fans Michaela and the promise of a queer romance.

While the change has roused online debate, especially for devotees of the books, the sparks that flew at first sight between Francesca and Michaela were exciting for fan Samantha Williams. Despite the popularity of the Netflix series, the 24-year-old had been hesitant to stream it because she assumed that, as a queer woman, she wouldn’t see herself reflected onscreen.

“In a time where it is still really common to see shows with LGBT representation, especially sapphic representation, canceled, and where books with LGBT representation are being banned across the country — coupled with heightened anti-LGBT legislation and rhetoric — it is really affirming and wonderful to see one of the most prominent and mainstream shows in popular culture, whose entire premise is centered around romance and love in all its forms, commit to platforming queer characters and queer love,” Williams told Yahoo Entertainment.

Tonia, who asked Yahoo to use a pseudonym for privacy reasons, agrees. The 26-year-old is bisexual and lives in a country where being queer is a crime. If it hadn’t been for shows and storylines like these, Tonia thinks she may have never discovered her sexuality or accepted herself. Now, living in a country where she can’t be open about her identity and sees no prospect of living freely unless she leaves, Bridgerton offers both escape and hope.

“I have no hope that the politics of my country will ever reflect the whimsical [world] of Bridgerton, but it's comforting to know that at least onscreen, queer people can get their happy endings … Bridgerton offers it to straight couples, so why can't a queer couple get theirs?” she told Yahoo Entertainment.

While the show’s spin-off prequel, Queen Charlotte, depicts a gay love story between the queen’s right-hand man and the king’s valet, and the first season of Bridgerton shows minor male characters involved in clandestine, closed-door relationships, none of the eight Bridgerton siblings had been given queer storylines until Benedict and Francesca’s respective journeys in Season 3, Part 2's episodes, which were released June 13 on Netflix.

The addition of these two storylines (Benedict’s sexual experimentation and Francesca’s future queer love story) also come at a time when there has been a 22% decrease in the number of LGBTQ characters onscreen, according to GLAAD’s 2023-2024 Where We Are on TV report and this representation is especially meaningful to LGBTQ viewers.

“When I stepped into the showrunner role and started thinking about telling queer stories, I took stock of what the show had already established, and thought about how I can pick up from that,” showrunner Jess Brownell told Teen Vogue. "There's also a lot of research and thought historically about the choice of changing Michael to Michaela. I think it was important for me in planning a queer story to think about how we might be able to tell a happily ever after and show queer joy, which we don't always get to see in period pieces.”

Sydney Little, who identifies as queer, believed Francesca’s arc this season was representative of coming to terms with your identity. From not fitting in, to not being able to gossip with fellow debutantes about what she looked for in a husband, to her disappointed reaction to the kiss she shared with her new husband at her wedding, Little thought there were so many signs pointing toward the moment Francesca locked eyes with Michaela in the ballroom.

Little also appreciated how the online speculation after the first four episodes premiered in May around Eloise Bridgerton having a queer storyline was undermined during the season’s second half.

“People have an idea of what queerness looks like, and I don’t think when people look at Francesca and that’s what they think,” she told Yahoo Entertainment. “It’s unfair to make that assumption based off of stereotypes that we have created for ourselves.”

Undermining potentially harmful stereotypes in this way is one of the biggest benefits of including LGBTQ representation on television that is authentic and character-driven, Michele Kerulis, professor of counseling at the Family Institute at Northwestern University and mental health media expert, told Yahoo Entertainment.

As a newer fan of the series, Williams felt Francesca’s storyline did just that.

“Queer people are multifaceted and there are multiple ways that we experience the world, like all people, and I think it’s just a subversion of expectations to basically show that there is no one way to be queer,” Williams said.