Canada’s teen soap Degrassi first premiered back in 1979 as The Kids of Degrassi Street. In the decades since, it’s changed names, casts and even channels—and now airs on Netflix.
The show continues to take LGBT representation to new heights, from Snake’s brother Glen coming out as gay in 1987, to the introduction of the show’s first genderqueer character.
Below, we shine a spotlight on the LGBT characters who help make Degrassi the cultural touchstone it remains.
In the 2001 episode “Secrets and Lies,” Ashley doesn’t take it so well when she learns her dad, Robert (Andrew Gillies) is gay. (He was caught by her mom cheating with another man.)
After some healing—and a divorce—Robert and boyfriend Christopher (David Orth) tie the knot, and Ashley is there to celebrate with them.
In the 2013 episode “The Time of My Life,” Clare needs a prom date ASAP, and in the spur of the moment asks Cliff (Aiden Greene) to accompany her. He agrees, but later confesses to crushing on Clare’s ex, Eli.
Can you blame him?
Dylan MichalchukDegrassi: The Next Generation
Paige’s hockey-playing brother Dylan (John Bregar) was Marco’s first love—and the first to break his heart. After helping Marco come out to his parents, he slowly initiates a relationship.
All is well until he leaves for college: After Marco catches him in bed with another guy, Dylan suggests an open relationship. They break up, but Dylan eventually returns to apologize and try to reconcile. Marco agrees, but their relationship takes another hit when Dylan leaves for a hockey career in Switzerland.
Unable to cope with the long distance (and Dylan’s increasing lack of communication), Marco breaks it off again for good.
EricDegrassi: The Next Generation
After Marco finally dumped Dylan, he starts up with Eric (Dwain Murphy) in Season 7 of Degrassi: The Next Generation. But their relationship was doomed when Eric became jealous of Marco’s BFF Ellie.
Alex NuñezDegrassi: The Next Generation
Alex (Deanna Casaluce) arrived at Degrassi as Jay’s bad-girl girlfriend, but eventually ended up coming out—and dating Paige. Their relationship was one of the rockiest (and most engaging) pairings on the show to date.
Fab (Kevin Alves) was a stagehand on the Degrassi High production of Romeo And Jules when he became the object of Tristan’s affection. Unfortunately, Fab makes an innocent remark that Tristan takes as fat-shaming, and when they make a yoga date, Tristan starves himself to get in shape.
When Tristan has a heart attack midway through their date, it throws a damper on their relationship, which is completely destroyed when Fab declares fashion week “shallow.”
Paige MichalchukDegrassi: The Next Generation
Paige (Lauren Collins) was a core cast member, and her melodramatic romance with Alex Nuñez made her the bisexual queen of Degrassi Community School.
Glen (Montgomery Randal) was the brother of future principal Snake, and in the 1987 episode “He Ain’t Heavy…,” became the first gay character in any of the Degrassi incarnations.
Glen reveals he’s gay on a trip home from college, shocking his family—including Snake. Glen swears he won’t come back until they accept him, and the character was never seen or mentioned since. (Baby steps.)
J.J. (Rhys Ward) was Eli’s chronic-masturbator dorm roommate who refused to wear pants. Eli found this slightly troubling, but they later became friends.
In a drunken game of “Never Have I Ever,” J.J. revealed he was bisexual.
Marco Del RossiDegrassi: The Next Generation
The best-known gay in the village, Marco (Adamo Ruggiero) saw incredible highs and lows during his time as a student (and again in his return as a student teacher), including a failed relationships, a falling-out with his BFF, gay-bashing, and a lunkhead named Spinner. Through it all, he cemented his stature as one of TV’s greatest LGBT characters.
Rich kid Miles (Eric Osborne) was defined most by his strained relationship with his politician father, but eventually embraced his bisexuality in Season 18 of Degrassi: Next Class.
He started a relationship with Tristan, but it was evident that Miles stills had feelings for his ex Maya.
Nathan meets Riley Stavros in Season 8 of Degrassi: The Next Generation and the two share a connection (i.e. a quickie blowjob). Later, the still-closeted Riley pretends not to know Nathan when they run into each other.
If he looks familiar, that’s because actor Jordan Gavaris went on to play gay BFF Felix in Orphan Black.
Imogen MorenoDegrassi: The Next Generation
Pansexual Imogen (Cristine Prosperi) was the star of the show, whether she was on stage or in the halls of Degrassi. Her most notable relationship was with Fiona.
Charlie LimaDegrassi: The Next Generation
A recurring character from Season 11, Charlie (Tamara Duarte) was an out lesbian who also had an fiery romance with Fiona. But the two decided after a brief fling that they were better off as friends and Charlie’s storyline quickly ran its course.
Lovably dense Riley (Argiris Karras) was the star quarterback of the Degrassi football team. It took him several seasons—and the affection of Zane Park—to coax him out out of the closet, but before dragging several beards into relationships and pummeling a gay lifeguard for giving him an erection.
Having fallen for Zane, Riley endures a blackmail attempt, before finally embracing their relationship publicly.
The course of true love does not run smoothly, though, and Riley cannot bring himself to come out to his family, leading to a rift with Zane. The two eventually meet up again at prom.
Zoe RivasDegrassi: Next Class
Zoe (Ana Golja) has one of the most complicated stories of current LGBT Degrassi stars: She was a survivor of sexual assault and self-harm, but she came out the other side of her pain—and came out as gay—after a dating Winston.
Zoe was actually the first LGBT Degrassi character kicked out of their home by unsupportive parents. Awful, huh?
Fiona CoyneDegrassi: The Next Generation
A Degrassi: Next Generation alum, Fiona (Annie Clark) came to Canada by way of Manhattan, where she was raised by her wealthy but troubled family. Fiona endured a violent relationship with Bobby and, later, fell for Imogen.
Tim (Alex House) meets Marco on the set of the school’s production of Hamlet, and the two struck up a friendship that blossomed into something more. Unfortunately, their bliss was short-lived when Tim realized Marco still carried a torch for his ex, Dylan.
Rasha ZuabiDegrassi: Next Class
Rasha (Dalia Yegavian) was an important step for visibility as Degrassi’s first gay Muslim character. She dated Zoe Rivas, a fellow queer woman of color.
Dylan (Darryl Armstrong) briefly dated Tom, but when Spinner finds out that Marco is interested in Dylan, he decides to help out his gay buddy—by telling Dylan that Tom has scabies.
Tom manages to see through Spinner’s lie, but it does the trick, as Tom is gone before the episode ends.
Tristan MilliganDegrassi: Next Class
Insecure about his appearance, the dramatic Tristan (Lyle Lettau) tries to impress his crush with a starvation cleanse, only to suffer a heart attack. He’s initially closeted, and his BFF Maya agrees to be his beard until she uncovers he’s in a relationship with an older male teacher, and tells the authorities.
Tristan later begins a relationship with the aloof (and perpetually baked) Miles.
Zane ParkDegrassi: Next Class
The out-and-proud Zane (Shannon Kook-Chun) was head of the Degrassi LGBT Club and on both the soccer and football teams. His on-off relationship with the closeted (and rage-prone) Riley lasted several seasons, until Riley’s inability to come out to his parents was the final straw.
Happily, they take tentative steps toward a reconciliation at prom, and prepare to attend Eastern University together.
Adam TorresDegrassi: The Next Generation
The show’s first transgender character, Adam (Jordan Todosey) was a fan-fave on Degrassi. He was forcefully outed to his peers, but bonded with a small circle of friends.Degrassi
He later got into a car accident and died in a classic Degrassi tearjerker.
A hopeless romantic and gamer geek, Vijay (Dante Scott) is part of the Degrassi Queer Alliance but spends a lot of time fantasizing about the perfect boyfriend.Degrassi
He starts dating Tristan, but their romance is cut short when Tristan realizes he isn’t over Miles and ends things (but not before giving him chlamydia).
Yael BaronDegrassi: New Class
Yael (Jamie Bloch), a bold character whose bright-red locks match their punky spirit, is Degrassi’s first genderqueer character, coming out as nonbinary in the show’s fourth season on Netflix.