I remember how exciting it was whenever a gay TV character A) existed, and B.) got into a relationship. My earliest memory was probably Doug and Clayton on The Golden Girls. Blanche's gay brother Clayton was back in town and getting married to a hot, mustachioed cop named Doug. Blanche, who had previously dealt with Clayton's coming out a few seasons prior, still had trouble wrapping her head around the whole gay thing. Naturally, she came around by the end of the episode, and Doug and Clayton presumably lived happily ever after. And I wondered what they did after they left Miami, what their life was like, if they were happy, if Blanche and the girls ever visited. It was as much and as real a relationship for me as if I had experienced it myself. I waited in front of my TV for other same-sex couples to validate the feelings I had but could not vocalize, to show me that it was possible to find love and be happy as a gay man. But they were few and far between.
Now, there are more LGBTQ couples on TV than I can keep track of—there are over 100 in this slideshow alone, and that's not even including British shows (I got tired). I was surprised, and more than a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of queer couplings, some I had never heard of from shows I had never watched. It was also incredibly heartening to see how far visibility has come and how varied, honest, and diverse depictions of LGBTQ couples have become.
Couples went from being platonic friends who rarely touched, let alone kissed one another, to fully realized people with passions and hurts that, rather importantly, had sex. Just like straight couples on TV have been doing since Lucy and Ricky pushed their beds together.
So what defines a couple? Well, if I knew that, I wouldn't be single. But in terms of this slideshow, a relationship means not an affair and more than just a hook-up (for so speaketh Beyoncé: ashes to ashes, dust to sidechicks). A one-off appearance is fine, just as long as it's established that the couple in question has been together before or will continue to be together after their appearance.
I'm sure I've missed some couples here and there, because there's just too much LGBTQ love on TV—who knew that could ever be a (bad) thing?—so let me know if I've omitted anyone in the comments below.
Click through the gallery for a definitive timeline of LGBTQ couples in TV history!
— Les Fabian Brathwaite