The 12 Best Queer Holiday Episodes to Stream Right Now

From "AbFab" to the X-Men to the Roses of "Schitt's Creek," make the yuletide gay with these classic TV families.

On the 12th day of Christmas, our true love, television, gave us: 12 Laurie Metcalfs, 11 Buffy Summers, 10 Jacks a-Jackin’, nine Angela Bassetts, eight men from Blanche’s boudoir, seven Anna Madrigals, six so-called lives, fiiiiiiiiive Morlocks dying of a mysterious illness, four dancing babies, three AbFab ODs, two Pose capers, and a Schitt’s Creek holiday special.

Phew. That’s right, it’s that time of year again—the most wonderful time of the year. And what better way to celebrate it than with some of TV’s best and most beloved chosen families? Whether it’s established kin taking in strays or friends making up their own traditions, the jolly folks in these 12 Thanksgiving and Christmas specials are bound to get you in the spirit this season. Merry bingeing!

Thanksgiving

  1. Roseanne – “Home Is Where the Afghan Is” (1996)

    Before the ill-fated reboot, the erstwhile final season of Roseanne was a big old gay shitshow. The Conners have won the lottery, so on Thanksgiving, Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) hires a caterer so she can sit back and relax. Which she hates. When newlyweds Leon (Martin Mull) and Scott (Fred Willard) announce their plans to adopt a baby, Roseanne’s mom Bev (Oscar-winner-and-don’t-you-forget-it Estelle Parsons) vehemently objects, only to let it slip that she is, in fact, a lesbian. It’s a great plot twist, but sadly, none of it really happened. In the series finale, Roseanne retcons the entire ninth season, revealing that her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is actually the lez in the family, that the Conners never won the lottery, and that Dan (John Goodman) died of a heart attack. This is still essential holiday viewing, though.

    Where to Watch: ABC online or on the ABC app

  2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Pangs” (1999)

    The fourth season of Buffy was just, mmm, chef’s kiss. One word: “Hush.” Okay, another word: “Pangs.” Though the former is considered a landmark episode, the latter is not only one of series creator Joss Whedon’s faves, but also one of the most controversial of the show’s run. Bummed that her mom won’t be in town for Thanksgiving, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) decides to host a Friendsgiving her damn self, whether anyone else wants it or not. Complicating matters is an ancient indigenous spirit that Xander (Nicholas Brendon) accidentally releases while moonlighting as a sexy construction worker. Meanwhile, future Wiccan lesbian Willow (Alyson Hannigan) bemoans the murderous colonialist history of the holiday. Some praised the ep’s moral complexity; others found the whole vengeful Native American spirit trope problematic. Overall, though, “Pangs” is a hearty feast for Buffy fans and neophytes alike.

    Where to Watch: Hulu

  3. Will & Grace – “Homo for the Holidays” (1999)

    For some reason—which we later learn was just willful ignorance—Jack’s (Sean Hayes) mom doesn’t know that he’s a flaming homosexual. When Will (Eric McCormack) accidentally invites Judith McFarland (Veronica Cartwright) to Thanksgiving, we’re witness to some classic sitcom shenanigans. Grace (Debra Messing) pretends to be Jack’s ex-girlfriend, which riles a jealous Karen (Megan Mullally). Will, however, convinces Jack that it’s time to tell his mother he sleeps with boys, igniting one of the hallmarks of the holidays: the awkward coming-out. (See also: Roseanne.)

    Where to Watch: Hulu

  4. Master of None – “Thanksgiving” (2017)

    A star was born when Lena Waithe became the first black woman, and the first queer woman, to win an Emmy for sitcom writing with this cherished episode chronicling her character Denise’s coming-out—to herself and to her mother—over a series of Thanksgivings. It is truly a perfect episode of television, from Angela Goddamn Bassett’s beautiful performance as Denise’s mom Catherine—the scene in the diner where she tells Denise that she just doesn’t want it to be hard for her kills every time—to reliably fantastic character actress Kym Whitley’s scene-stealing Aunt Joyce to Aziz Ansari’s Dev (whose parents don’t celebrate the holiday) charming his way into Denise’s family’s tradition.

    Where to Watch: Netflix

Christmas

  1. The Golden Girls – “’Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas” (1986)

    One of the quintessential chosen families, our Girls had two Christmas episodes, and picking just one is a Sophia’s choice. But this one beats out “Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas” if only for the “Men of Blanche’s Boudoir” calendar that Blanche (Rue McClanahan) gives the other girls. Fun fact: The GG crew played a little prank on the ladies by replacing the calendar with shots of themselves in various provocative tableaus. Anyway, the girls are all planning to go their separate ways for Christmas until a sad-sack Santa keeps them from making their flights. But it’s all okay since they’re together, and that’s what matters most. And because it’s a Christmas episode, it ends up snowing. In Miami. So much for being so nice you’ll say it thrice.

    Where to Watch: Hulu

  2. Tales of the City – Episode 6 (1993)

    Paul Harris/Getty Images

    The final episode of the original Tales of the City ends with matriarch Anna Madrigal (Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis) throwing a Christmas party, which Mary Ann (Laura Linney) misses since she was kind of complicit in the death of her creepy neighbor Norman (Stanley DeSantis). Norman was planning to blackmail Anna, a trans woman, over her past, but he had some skeletons in his own closet—a closet he may have been sharing with Jeffrey Epstein. When Mary Ann confronts him—on a cliff, naturally—about his stash of illicit photos, Norman plunges to his death. Heaven and nature, presumably, sang. Because truly, what puts the “yule” in yuletide like extortion schemes, child pornography, and a questionably accidental death?

    Where to Watch: Netflix

  3. My So-Called Life – “So-Called Angels” (1994)

    We only, and rather cruelly, got one season of MSCL before ABC canceled it due to low ratings and star Claire Danes’ ambivalence towards continuing the series, but that’s perhaps for the best. The first and only season exists in amber as a moment of perfection. A young Wilson Cruz had his breakout role as gay teen Ricky, and it being the early ’90s, boy was going through it on the regular. Just before Christmas he gets kicked out of the house by his abusive uncle, while Angela (Danes) is visited by a young homeless girl who (spoiler alert) is actually an angel. On a happier note, Angela’s parents take Ricky in for the holidays!

    Where to Watch: ABC online or on the ABC app

  4. X-Men: The Animated Series – “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas” (1995)

    Perhaps even more than The Golden Girls, the X-Men have embodied the true spirit of the chosen family since their debut in comic book form in 1963. They started off as an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement and later the gay rights movement, and despite a hugely successful—and incredibly problematic—film franchise, the best adaptation of the Children of the Atom remains the ’90s animated series. It went on long enough to give us a proper Christmas episode, but because this is the X-Men, there’s some heavy shit about the Morlocks (mutants who live in the sewers because they can’t fit into human society), as well as a dying mutant kid, and Storm generally being a bad bitch. To lighten the mood, Gambit and Jean Grey fight a lot about who gets to cook Christmas dinner. It’s still dark AF, but Christmas miracles abound. Check out this episode of the podcast Mutant Ages for more on that.

    Where to Watch: Disney+

  5. Ally McBeal – “Boy to the World” (1997)

    Poor Wilson Cruz. Kid just couldn’t catch a televised break on Christmas. On one iconic ’90s show he’s getting beaten up and kicked out of his house, and on another he’s (spoiler alert—sorry, we’re two decades deep at this point) murdered. Cruz isn’t playing a gay teen this time around, but rather a trans woman named Stephanie. It was the ’90s and cis actors always played trans characters (see also: Anna Madrigal). But if you can look past all the troubling, dated tropes about the community—Stephanie is a sex worker, accused of being mentally ill, who ends up dead by the time the credits roll—you get a well-intentioned story about finding family in the most unlikely of places during what can be the hardest time of the year.

    Where to Watch: Hulu

  6. Absolutely Fabulous – “Cold Turkey” (2003)

    Edina (Jennifer Saunders) is busy with Christmas preparations, angering old Scrooge herself, Patsy (Joanna Lumley), who hates the holidays—so much so that Patsy head-butts Edina upon learning her best friend is abandoning her for, of all people, her daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha). Then things get really weird when Patsy mysteriously falls ill after being tortured by a shadowy figure wielding a voodoo doll. Yes, a voodoo doll. However, it’ll take more than witchcraft, or, as it turns out, a shit ton of heroin, to kill Patsy. In the end, she survives and gets loaded on the Christmas spirit. And in one of the show’s funniest bits, the food-averse hedonist even tries to force down a tiny slice of turkey, to the absolute bewilderment of everyone around her.

    Where to Watch: Hulu or Amazon Prime

  7. Pose – “Giving and Receiving” (2018)

    The best modern take on the chosen family—the modern family, if you will, but one not woefully past its broadcast prime—is Pose, which explicitly paints those within the ballroom community as surrogate mothers, fathers, brothers, and hey-sister-soul-sister-go-sisters. Relishing the joys of new motherhood, Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) is excited to spend her first Christmas with the kids. While she’s in a giving mood, her mother Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) is up to some chicanery. In order to pay for her gender-confirmation surgery, Elektra decides to trick her kids into—what else—a caper. In the world of Pose, nothing bonds family quite like a caper.

    Where to Watch: Netflix or on the FX app

  8. Schitt’s Creek – “Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose” (2018)

    It took a few years, but everyone finally caught on to how great, funny, and touching Schitt’s Creek is—just in time for its final season premiering next year. Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) is nostalgic for the days of old when the Roses had money and could do up the holidays in style. But alas, motel life has dampened the rest of his family’s Christmas cheer, so he tries to get them in the mood to make merry. Of course, nothing drains the joy right out of you like trying to force goodwill upon other people. Leave it to Moira (the divine Catherine O’Hara) to persuade everyone in Schitt’s Creek to come together for a last-minute party. Though it may not be as lavish as the fetes the Roses hosted in the past, it’s certainly richer… in love. Cue the schmaltz, deck the halls, and pass the ’nog.

    Where to Watch: Netflix

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat