The streaming wars are shaping up to be more vicious than a ballroom vogue-off. With more and more services competing for your dollars, and more original series to wade through than ever before, you’re gonna have to make some tough decisions.
That’s why NewNowNext has put together a handy guide to the queerest streamers out there. Looking for a hub for shows with LGBTQ characters in leading or supporting roles? It’s here. Or do you really just want to subscribe to the platforms with the most LGBTQ showrunners creating high-profile projects? That’s here too.
It comes as no surprise that Netflix is flying the biggest rainbow flag of all—it has more LGBTQ characters in its original programming than all the other streaming services combined. According to the GLAAD Media Institute’s “Where We Are in TV” report for the 2018-2019 TV season, Netflix had 88 LGBTQ regular and recurring characters, nearly doubling the previous year’s 46.
“We’re at a real inflection point in the history of TV, and Gen Z teenagers and young adults right now are the most queer-friendly, trans-friendly, and queer- and trans-identified generation in U.S. history,” says Jacob Tobia, a nonbinary writer and actor who plays the nonbinary character Double Trouble in Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a show from DreamWorks Animation. “They are the future of every single one of these companies. If a network or streaming service knows what’s good for them, they’re going to reflect the world as Gen Z understands it.”
Just in time for the launch of Apple TV+, we’ve broken down what each of the major streamers has to offer in terms of queer content and representation, and what you’ll have to shell out for each subscription. So choose wisely—and happy viewing!
Subscription cost: $8.99 per month
Current and upcoming original series with LGBTQ representation: The Boys, Carnival Row, The Expanse, Goliath, Made in Heaven, Making the Cut, Modern Love
Notable original movies and specials: Author: The JT Leroy Story, Beautiful Boy, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Gimme Danger, The Handmaiden, I Am Not Your Negro, The Neon Demon, Savage x Fenty Show.
Canceled or limited original series still available for streaming: The Collection, Transparent, A Very English Scandal
Queer executive producers: Now that they’ve wrapped their award-winning Transparent, Jill Soloway’s next Amazon Prime Video project is the student-focused drama series College, which has a pilot-episode order for 2020. Meanwhile, Lena Waithe is one of the executive producers of the horror anthology series Them, Amazon’s answer to FX’s American Horror Story. The show’s first season, premiering in 2020, is Them: Covenant, about a black family that moves to a predominantly white neighborhood in 1950s Los Angeles. And Tim Gunn, who co-hosted Project Runway with supermodel Heidi Klum, has teamed up with her again to lead the fashion competition series Making the Cut, which also premieres in 2020; gay fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra is one of the show’s judges.
Subscription cost: $4.99 per month, but free for 12 months for anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, or Mac
Current and upcoming original series with LGBTQ representation: Dickinson, a dramedy inspired by the young-adult life of Emily Dickinson, is currently the only Apple TV+ show with a queer character in a leading role. Hailee Steinfeld stars as the 1800s queer poet, who’s in a long-term romance with her best friend, Sue Gilbert (Ella Hunt), who would go on to marry Dickinson’s older brother in real life. In its most high-profile series, The Morning Show—which stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon as polar-opposite anchors on a news show plagued by a #MeToo scandal—Desean Terry plays supporting character Daniel Henderson, the show’s black gay news anchor. In the second episode, Daniel brings his domestic partner as his date to a business event.
Note: Apple TV+ reps did not respond to inquiries about whether or not any other original programming will feature queer characters, or if Apple TV+ has any openly queer showrunners.
Subscription costs: $5.99 per month with ads; $9.99 per month without ads
Current and upcoming original series with LGBTQ representation: The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, Tell Me a Story, The Twilight Zone, Why Women Kill
Queer executive producers: Marc Cherry (Why Women Kill) was the showrunner of Desperate Housewives, and Kevin Williamson (Tell Me a Story) was previously a showrunner for Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries.
Subscription costs: $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. A bundle package of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ is also available for $12.99 per month starting November 12. Through a deal with Verizon, Disney+ is free for 12 months to new and existing Verizon 4G LTE and 5G unlimited wireless customers and new Verizon Fios Home Internet and 5G Home Internet customers.
Current and upcoming original series with LGBTQ representation: Disney+ launches November 12, with original programming that’s in line with the “family-friendly” image of the Disney brand. Disney also owns a controlling interest in Hulu, which will have Disney-owned content for mature audiences.
Representatives for Disney+ did not respond to requests for information about LGBTQ representation in the streaming service’s original content. However, two original series sound queer-friendly: Kristen Bell is hosting and executive producing the reality show Encore!, which reunites musical theater castmates from high school, and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, a spinoff of the movie franchise, is also in the works.
Notable original movies and specials: The documentary film Howard, premiering in 2020, tells the story of gay lyricist Howard Ashman, the Little Shop of Horrors creator who co-wrote songs for the Disney animated films Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. Meanwhile, gay actor Billy Eichner will co-star with Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader in the comedy film Noelle, premiering November 12. He plays Gabriel Kringle, a relative of Kris Kringle, a.k.a. Santa Claus.
Subscription costs: $14.99 per month. For an unspecified time period, HBO Max is free for AT&T TV customers, including subscribers of DirecTV and AT&T TV Now who also subscribe to HBO. AT&T customers on premium video, mobile, and broadband services will be offered bundle packages that include HBO Max at no additional charge. Why all the special deals for AT&T customers? AT&T bought HBO Max’s parent company, WarnerMedia, in 2018.
Current and upcoming original series with LGBTQ representation: HBO Max launches in May 2020, and you can expect a ton of queer-friendly nonfiction and reality programming. The team of executive producers behind Equal, a four-episode docuseries about pioneers in the LGBTQ rights movement before Stonewall, includes Jim Parsons and Greg Berlanti. Meanwhile, several of the Emmy-winning executive producers responsible for the Queer Eye reboot are serving up a Pose-like competition (working title: Legendary) in which contestants will vogue in themed houses, with each house ruled by a “parent.”
Also in its reality lineup: Full Bloom, a competition show focused on the floristry business that is hosted by celebrity florist Simon Lycett (whose clients have included the British Royal Family, Elton John, and Victoria Beckham); its judge Maurice Harris, who owns the trendy Los Angeles–based floral business Bloom & Plume, is very out and proud. You can also trail Hollywood power couple Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti around the world as they seek out culinary adventures in the currently titled Brad and Gary Go To… And Ellen DeGeneres will host and executive produce the competition series Ellen’s Home Design Challenge (as well as executive produce the animated series Little Ellen, inspired by her childhood).
On the scripted front, the dark comedy series Search Party, which co-stars bisexual actress Alia Shawkat and gay actor John Early, moves from TBS to HBO Max for its third season. Sasha Compère plays queer character Mallory in the romantic comedy Love Life, a limited anthology series starring Anna Kendrick. And the high school dramedy series Generation has five LGBTQ characters in the pilot. Queer actors on other HBO Max scripted programs will include Matt Bomer in the superhero series Doom Patrol; T.R. Knight in the crime-thriller series The Flight Attendant; and Lucas Hedges in the feature film Let Them All Talk.
Queer executive producers: DeGeneres is also executive producing the American version of the British reality show First Dates Hotel and the docuseries Finding Einstein. Equal executive producer Berlanti (director of Love, Simon) has a multi-project deal that includes “four movies focused in the young adult space,” as well as the superhero series Doom Patrol, Green Lantern, and Strange Adventures. Other gay exec producers include Search Party showrunner Charles Rogers; Generation’s real-life partners Ben and Daniel Barnz; and Gossip Girl reboot creator Josh Safran.
Subscription costs: $5.99 per month with ads, $11.99 per month without ads, or $44.99 per month with ads and live TV. A bundle package of Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ is available for $12.99 per month starting November 12.
Current and upcoming original series with LGBTQ representation: The Bisexual, The Bravest Knight, Find Me in Paris, The Handmaid’s Tale, Harlots, High Fidelity, Letterkenny, Light as a Feather, Little Fires Everywhere, The Orville, Marvel’s Runaways, Reprisal, Shrill
Notable original movies and specials: Jawline, Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie.
Canceled or limited original series still available for streaming: Casual, Difficult People, East Los High, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Looking for Alaska, The Path
Queer executive producers: Desiree Akhavan (director of The Miseducation of Cameron Post) is the star and showrunner of The Bisexual. Liz Tigelaar’s showrunner credits for Hulu include Casual and Little Fires Everywhere. Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon will transition into TV drama as an executive producer and star of the 2020 limited series The Dropout, based on the ABC News podcast of the same name about the Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos fraud scandal.
Subscription costs: $8.99 per month for one non-HD screen, $12.99 per month for up to two HD screens, or $15.99 per month for up to four HD and Ultra HD screens
Current and upcoming original series with LGBTQ representation: 13 Reasons Why, Altered Carbon, Another Life, Arrested Development, Atypical, Baby, Big Mouth, BoJack Horseman, Bonding, Charité, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Dancing Queen, Dark, Dating Around, Daybreak, Dear White People, Dogs of Berlin, Elite, The End of the F***ing World, Fuller House, Girls Incarcerated, GLOW, Grace and Frankie, The Haunting of Hill House, Hollywood, The I-Land, Ingobernable, Insatiable, La Casa de las Flores, Mindhunter, Next in Fashion, No Good Nick, Osmosis, Ozark, The Politician, Queer Eye, Ratched, Sacred Games, Safe, Sex Education, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Rhythm + Flow, Slasher, The Society, Special, Stranger Things, Styling Hollywood, Suburra: Blood on Rome, Tales of the City, Trinkets, The Umbrella Academy, What/If, You
Notable original movies and specials: Alex Strangelove, All in the Family, Bird Box, The Boys in the Band, Dear Ex, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, Despite Everything, Elisa & Marcela, Feminists: What Were They Thinking?, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, Gaga: Five Foot Two, Game Over Man! Girl, Hot Girls Wanted, Juanita, Let It Snow, Murder Mystery, Okja, Otherhood, The Perfection, The Prom, #Reality High, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, Someone Great, Sometimes, Step Sisters, Strong Island, To All the Boys I Loved Before, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, Velvet Buzzsaw, and Wine Country. And in the world of stand-up, comics with specials include Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes, Tig Notaro, and Hannah Gadsby, while bisexual transgender woman Flame Monroe was featured on the multi-comedian showcase Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready.
Canceled or limited original series still available for streaming: Borderliner, Cable Girls, Easy, Everything Sucks!, The Fall, Friends From College, Hemlock Grove, House of Cards, The Get Down, Godless, Gypsy, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, The Innocents, Jessica Jones, The Killing, Lucifer, Luke Cage, Master of None, Narcos, The OA, Orange Is the New Black, The Punisher, Santa Clarita Diet, Sense8, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Seven Seconds, She’s Gotta Have It, Super Drags, Trailer Park Boys, The Travelers, Tuca & Bertie, Voltron: Legendary Defender, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Westside. (Netflix canceled the One Day at a Time reboot after three seasons, but the Pop network, which picked up the show, will begin airing its fourth season in 2020.)
Queer executive producers: Ryan Murphy has a five-year Netflix deal worth a reported $300 million (The Politician is his first Netflix show under it). Noelle Stevenson heads up She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Leslye Headland oversees Russian Doll, and Pose writer-director-producer Janet Mock made TV history this year by becoming the first transgender person to sign a multi-program showrunner deal with a major TV company (her programs haven’t been announced yet). Trans sisters Lana and Lilly Wachowski have not announced any plans to work with Netflix since their series Sense8 ended in 2018.
NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock is set to launch sometime in April 2020. Aside from a list of show titles and stars, details (including its launch date and subscription cost) remain a mystery. Peacock representatives did not respond to requests for information about LGBTQ representation in Peacock’s original programming.
So far, Peacock’s lineup seems to feature straight lead characters, but our guess is that the Saved By the Bell reboot, with original stars Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley, should have at least one queer character—that is, if the show wants to accurately represent a diverse high school (and polish up Lopez’s image after his questionable remarks about trans kids earlier this year). We’ll have to wait and see just how queer Peacock is, but at least it has streaming rights to NBC’s Will & Grace and Saturday Night Live, whose current ensemble includes queer stars Kate McKinnon and Bowen Yang.
Main image: Hailee Steinfeld and Wiz Khalifa in Apple TV+’s Dickinson.