As Pride festivities continue amidst the vigils for those LGBT brothers and sisters who were killed in Orlando this past weekend, there’s no better time to celebrate the queer Latinx community that has graced the small screen these past twenty years. It’s a rather short list, one which suggests that while LGBT representation has improved vastly since the network heyday of Ellen and Will & Grace, complicated depictions of gay men and women on television continue to be played by white actors, with actors of color being reduced to romantic interests or supporting players.
Want to know how bad the numbers are? Last year’s GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” report announced that of the 70 LGBT characters on five broadcast networks, 5 (7%) are Latinx while out of the 142 LGBT characters on cable primetime scripted series, 11 (8%) are Latinx. In fewer words: it’s bad out there if you want to find complex depictions of gay Latinos.
That didn’t stop us from trying. By no means exhaustive, consider the following a list of 20 Latino and Latin American LGBT characters worth celebrating this year, from groundbreaking network TV gay teens to Mexican brujos on HBO hit shows.
Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez, My So-Called Life
Played by Wilson Cruz
The first fully-fledged gay Latino teenager on network television continues to be an inspiration for anyone who catches the short-lived Claire Danes-fronted series My So-Called Life. Through his story and struggle, Americans got a look at what kids like Rickie, who was unabashedly his fabulous self, had to deal with at school and at home.
Maria Diega Reyes, Sex and the City
Played by Sônia Braga
Heading painfully close to full-blown melodramatic stereotype, Braga’s recurring role as Maria Diega in the HBO series offered viewers a chance to see Samantha tapping into her more tender side as she explored her first lesbian relationship.
Callie Torres, Grey's Anatomy
Played by Sara Ramirez
Accurately called the “most complex queer Latina character” on television, Ramirez’s Torres went from being a possible hetero romantic interest in season one of Shonda Rimes’s long running show, to a troubling image of bisexuality, to a three-dimensional queer character who got her happy ending marrying her girlfriend in a touching moment on network TV.
Oscar Martinez, The Office
Played by Oscar Nuñez
LGBT Latino characters continue to be at the fringes, but every once in a while, you get someone like Oscar in The Office whose very marginality in the show’s ensemble allowed his sexuality and ethnicity to suggest a depth that the sitcom could tap into when needed, as they did in the hilarious coming out episode “Gay Witch Hunt.”
Justin Suarez, Ugly Betty
Played by Mark Indelicato
Picking up where Rickie Vazquez had left off, Justin—the beloved nephew of America Ferrera’s Betty—was an update to the gay Latino teen. But where Vazquez struggled with family acceptance, Justin was born into, and eventually came out to, a happy, supportive family who loved him no matter what.
Santana Lopez, Glee
Played by Naya Rivera
Always at the ready with a scathing stare or a withering put-down, proud lesbian Santana was half of Glee’s most thrilling couple. Unapologetic and eventually head over heels for Brittany, Santana was a breath of fresh, witty air among the usually saccharine world Ryan Murphy created in his musical comedy show. More touchingly, Santana gave us a look into what dealing with an intolerant abuela can feel like.
Adriana Mendez, The Bridge
Played by Emily Rios
Rios, who came out as a lesbian IRL in 2014, portrayed El Paso Times journalist Adriana in the short-lived FX series about the fraught relations at the border following a deadly investigation.
Jaime Castro, Broad City
Played by Arturo Castro
As Ilana’s gay Latino roommate (and playing up his Guatemalan accent), Arturo Castro made Jamie the ultimate fab character in the always hilarious Broad City.
Agustín Lanuez, Looking
Played by Frankie J. Alvarez
The San Francisco-based show gave us not one but two different gay Latino characters. With Agustín, we got a narcissistic, navel-gazing artist who was happier moving away from his well-to-do Cuban American background and who eventually maturing enough to work with HIV outreach programs.
Ricardo "Richie" Donado Ventura, Looking
Played by Raúl Castillo
Whereas Agustín often rubbed fans of the HBO show the wrong way, Castillo’s Richie earned full-blown adoration from those of us who kept wanting the show to broaden the upper-white middle class scope of its protagonist and continue exploring the fascinating backstory behind this Mexican-American barber whose family still needle him about his sexuality.
Inara Serra, Firefly
Played by Morena Baccarin
The Brazilian-American actress played a high-society courtesan in Joss Whedon’s cult favorite TV series set in a futuristic space world that’s not too dissimilar from the wild wild west. Mostly catering to male clients, Inara is also known to be attracted to fascinating women.
Dr. Luisa Alver, Jane the Virgin
Played by Yara Martinez
Luisa, the OB-GYN who started it all (by inadvertently inseminating Jane Villanueva), has grappled with her poor romantic choices ever since she broke up her relationship with her partner over a woman who eventually was revealed to be more than she appeared.
Played by Alfonso Herrera
Netflix’s high concept show may be the queerest show on television right now, exploring issues of identity and sexuality in ways that shouldn’t be surprising given that it was created by the Wachowski sisters. Despite being in a relationship with Hernando, Lito, an actor working in Mexico, struggles with how coming out may affect his career.
Paul Torres, The Following
Played by Adan Canto
One of Joe’s Followers in the NBC serial killer show, Paul had lived with Jacob, a fellow Follower posing as a gay couple to help Joe nab his last victim before he was captured. During the charade, he realized he had developed feelings for Jacob which ultimately led to a bloody end.
Renee Montoya, Gotham
Played by Victoria Cartagena
A season 1 character in the DC-inspired cop show, Montoya is a detective with the Major Crimes Unit of the Gotham City Police Department. She has a romantic history with Barbara Kean, continuing the trend of a couple of characters in this list who exist most often to merely add background information to the central core of characters.
Jesús Velásquez, True Blood
Played by Kevin Alejandro
A Mexican brujo in HBO’s supernatural vampire show, Jesús eventually started a relationship with Lafayette Reynolds, who he met while being a nurse for Lafayette’s mother.
Played by Demi Lovato
Introduced in Glee’s fifth season, Dani is a waitress in New York City who gets romantically involved with fellow Spotlight Diner waitress Santana.
José "Joey" Gutierrez, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Played by Juan Pablo Raba
An “Inhuman” in Marvel’s ABC’s series, Joey has the power to melt metal objects. While he’s not been linked romantically on the show, it’s been revealed that Joey previously had a boyfriend.
Michael Sanchez, Empire
Played by Rafael de la Fuente
Fox’s hit TV series featured de la Fuente’s Michael as Jamal’s on and off again boyfriend for its first two seasons.
Gael Garnica, Telenovela
Played by Jose Moreno Brooks
Playing the impossibly attractive (and often shirtless) lead in Las Leyes de Pasion, opposite Eva Longoria’s Ana Sofía, Jose Moreno Brooks got the chance to put his impressive physique, and perfect comedic timing to great use by mining what makes Gael such an unlikely telenovela star: he’s gay! (And fabulous).