Grace Almond shares her favourite queer characters of colour in TV and film

BY GRACE ALMOND

I’m definitely the sort of person who will watch, read or listen to anything remotely queer. And queer characters of colour have been a source of inspiration to so many of us in the margins of our community. Writing queer characters as multifaceted human beings is something we don’t usually see, and we know that these characters are usually white (although, 2018’s GLAAD report saw queer characters of colour outnumber their white counterparts for the first time ever on television). Representation matters – here are my favourite queer characters of colour from TV and film in the last 10 years.  

*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***

Adam Red Eagle – The Miseducation Of Cameron Post

Desiree Akhavan strikes again with the heartbreaking The Miseducation Of Cameron Post. Adam (played by Forrest Goodluck), is Native American and identifies as two-spirit. Seeing this kind of representation in a film of this reach was brilliant, and Adam gives us a glimpse of the difficulties they face, both outside of and within the conversion therapy centre. Whilst they could have done with a bit more screen-time and a few more lines, it was, nevertheless, incredibly important to include them.

Where to watch: Netflix

Amanita Caplan – Sense8

Amanita (Freema Agyeman), complete with cheesy lines and a fearlessness that comes with her unwavering love for the incredible Nomi, is my favourite character in the whole show. She finally gets some of her most iconic scenes in the much-anticipated series finale, complete with some very tense moments involving a chained-up Mr Whispers and Daniela by her side. Throughout the series, Amanita showed us what love can really be like, even in the face of a huge secret murderous corporation.

Where to watch: Netflix

Archie Coleman – Hollywood

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Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood did a spectacular job of representing queer experiences during the Hollywood Golden Age. Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope) is a black gay budding writer reluctant to pigeon-hole himself into making a film for African-American audiences (which historically would have had a limited release in cinemas). However, he has an epiphany and decides to re-work his script and fight for the lead role to be given to a black actress. Archie’s determination shows us why it is important to have a diverse crew, as well as a diverse cast, and the scene in which a young black gay man listens to his Oscar speech supports that even more.

Where to watch: Netflix

Chiron Harris – Moonlight

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I don’t think I’ll ever forget watching this film for the first time. Completely deserving of the Oscar wins, Moonlight charts the life of Chiron (Alex Hibbert/Ashton Sanders/Trevante Rhodes), a black gay man, in three stages. This film is really important; not only does it navigate between the expectations put on black men, and the homophobia Chiron faces as he grows up and comes to terms with his sexuality, but also the impact of a loving parent when he meets Juan and Teresa. The film’s ending is gentle and subtle, with lots of hope.

Where to watch: Can be purchased from most online platforms

Dean Monroe – Cucumber/Banana

We had no idea just how messy Dean (Fisayo Akinade) was until his solo episode in Cucumber’s accompanying series, Banana. Telling the world that your parents don’t accept you when they do is pretty problematic. But, we love a flawed character, and it’s important to write queer characters that aren’t two-dimensional, just to seem diverse. So, why do I love Dean? He’s hilarious (the pile-on flimsy fight scene in Cucumber), and he’s unapologetically sexually free (showing off his chastity case to his colleagues, and his Grindr hookup was… well, just watch it). In a world where being queer comes with its own boatload of difficulties, but being black and queer is even harder, Dean lives his life for himself.

Where to watch: Episodes of Banana can be watched on All 4. Unfortunately, Cucumber is yet to make an appearance – expect my Change.org petition soon.

Elektra Abundance – Pose

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Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) is another flawed but important character. Fiercely protective of her own but with a policy of tough love, even when it’s not necessary, and very quick to call others out. Elektra’s best scenes are when she reads for filth, and, whilst her adversaries aren’t always deserving of being dragged, the season two scene where a Karen interrupts her, Angel and Lulu whilst they’re enjoying their evening at a restaurant, is unforgettable. The final zinger leaves this Susan speechless: “Now pick your jaw up off the floor and go back to your clam chowder and shallow conversations! My girlfriends and I aren’t going anywhere.”

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer

Lionel Higgins – Dear White People

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Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton) is very relatable; a lot of his journey revolves around him beginning to understand and become comfortable with his sexuality, and the culture that comes with it. He’s also a talented journalist, stirring up trouble via the University’s campus newspaper. Lionel gives us an honest view of what it’s like to not automatically feel comfortable in your own skin, and why it’s important to be patient with yourself.

Where to watch: Netflix

Sophia Burset – Orange Is The New Black

Sophia (Laverne Cox) doesn’t get enough screen time, but her moments really are something. She’s first introduced as the prison’s hairdresser, but, overtime, her character develops into a strongly defiant person, ending up in the SHU (Security Housing Unit). These scenes are difficult to watch, but Sophia stages a one-woman protest at her mistreatment, including flooding her own cell and then, later, setting it on fire.

Where to watch: Netflix

Skye Leighton – The Politician

The Politician is as camp as it is far-fetched, and Skye (Rahne Jones) poisoning Payton was about as ridiculous as you can get. However, Skye does eventually develop into a character with a much better sense of morality, bravely calling out Payton’s cultural appropriation, despite being the only person of colour in the room. The show is undeniably queer, but Skye is one of the handful of black people holding a significant role, and does it whilst being proudly non-binary and probably the only person who genuinely wants to make a difference (see: voter registration drives in season two).

Where to watch: Netflix

Titus Andromedon – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Only Tina Fey could come up with something as warped and funny as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and, of course, everyone’s favourite musical theatre actor and singer, and collector of barbies, Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess). Unforgettable scenes include his version of Beyoncé’s video for Hold Up, and him meeting his (now ex) boyfriend’s family, including his puppet grandmother (again, only Tina Fey could think this one up). Titus’ character is vital in a lot of ways – whilst everything is done with a sense of humour, the show never shies away from his identity as a black gay man. And, also, it’s important to highlight the wage disparities in the US, which he certainly feels being a struggling actor. 

Where to watch: Netflix

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