Top 10 Media Moments 2020

In alphabetical order

This award recognises an act of significance for the LGBT+ community which has taken place in the media, from factual events witnessed on the news or in print, to fictional events which have taken place on stage, film, TV or radio.

BBC’s Gentleman Jack tells the real-life story of Anne Lister

The BBC/HBO drama series Gentleman Jack premiered in April 2019. Written by three-time BAFTA-winning writer and director Sally Wainwright, who was responsible for Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, the series tells the striking tale of businesswoman, mountaineer and traveller Anne Lister and her lesbian loves – including her marriage to Ann Walker in 1834 (not blessed by a priest, but held in church). Across her lifetime, Lister kept detailed diaries that eventually stretched to 26 volumes, with the details of her erotic encounters recorded in code that wasn’t broken until the 1890s and was then hidden away for decades.

Juliana and Valentina are Mexican primetime television’s first lesbian kiss in Amar a Muerte

TV viewers in Mexico witnessed a ground-breaking lesbian kiss in the Spanish language telenovela Amar a Muerte (“Love to Death”). Over the course of 87 episodes, friends Juliana and Valentina, played by Barbara Lopez and Macarena Achaga, fall in love while surviving traumatic events including the kidnap of Juliana’s mother by a drug cartel. When the series finished in March, more than 40,000 fans of the couple, affectionately referred to as “Juliantina”, petitioned the TV company Univision to give the characters, who had started out as relatively minor figures in the drama about the reincarnation of a media mogul and an assassin, their own show.

MTV’s True Love or True Lies’ queer cast and winners

MTV’s 2019 series of the dating show True Love or True Lies? featured the most diverse cast ever. The reality show, which follows eight couples living in a mansion in Malta, has the twist that while some of them are real-life lovers, others are only in it for the money – pretending to be a loving couple to win the £40,000 prize. The final featured Timothie and Mahatma, a “fake” couple with the drag personas Grace Shush and Mahatma Khandie battling it out with real-life couple Poppy Moran and Parisa Tarjomani. Poppy and Parisa, who have been together for two years, won the prize and plan to put the money towards exploring fertility options to start a family.

Netflix’s Sex Education‘s representation of LGBT+ characters and relationships

The start of 2019 saw the debut of Netflix show Sex Education, starring Asa Butterfield as British teenager Otis whose divorced parents, including The X Files Gillian Anderson, are sex therapists. Using what he’s learned from them, Otis sets up a sex therapy clinic for students at his school. The cast includes Ncuti Gatwa as Otis’ gay best friend Eric, who experiences homophobia at school and uses drag as a form of self-expression. Viewers on social media praised the diversity of portrayals in the show, including a sexually liberated older woman and an interracial lesbian couple. Music was from bisexual musician Ezra Furman and his band The Visions.

RuPaul’s Drag Race comes to the UK

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK sashayed onto our screens in October 2019. It followed the US format closely, with RuPaul playing several roles, including host, mentor and head judge. Main judges were Michelle Visage, Alan Carr and Graham Norton, with guest judges including Twiggy, Cheryl, Andrew Garfield, Geri Horner, Jade Thirlwall and Maisie Williams. The UK version was popular with critics and a second series is already in production. The winner of the first series was Welsh drag artist The Vivienne, with Divina de Campo the runner-up after winning three challenges.

Renée Zellweger stars as Judy Garland

The later years of Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland were portrayed by Renée Zellweger in the 2019 biopic Judy that has won her the best actress prize at the British Independent Film Awards and has her tipped for an Oscar. The film follows Garland as she plays concerts in London while ravaged by addiction and insomnia, and recognises the importance of her LGBT+ fanbase by creating two fictional gay superfans. Zellweger spoke about Garland’s legacy: “I think that her audiences felt understood when she sang to them. She acknowledged the community in a way that was really rare during that time, and she acknowledged the community with appreciation and love.”

Showtime premieres The L Word, Generation Q

The original L Word series told of the lives and loves of a group of mainly lesbian friends. The new series, The L Word: Generation Q, takes up the story 10 years later, with a mix of original characters and new ones. Jennifer Beales returns as Bette Porter, a lesbian running for Mayor of Los Angeles, Katherine Moenniq reprises her role as androgynous lesbian hairdresser Shane McCutcheon and Leisha Hailey returns as talk show host Alice Pieszecki. New characters include Leo Sheng as professor Micah Lee, a trans man, and Jacqueline Toboni as Sarah Finley, an executive assistant who struggles with unresolved issues around her deeply religious upbringing.

Strictly Come Dancing makes history with same-sex routine to Emeli Sandé performance

Strictly Come Dancing professionals Graziano Di Prima and Johannes Radebe thrilled audiences as they danced together on the show in November, to the live soundtrack of Emeli Sande singing Shine. So far only mixed pairs have danced competitively on Strictly, but the BBC has stated: “We are completely open to the prospect of including same sex pairings between our celebrities and professional dancers in the future.” The public reaction on social media to the dance, which saw Graziano gracefully lifting Johannes, was overwhelmingly positive, making it more likely that a same-sex competitive pairing will be seen in the near future.

Tales of the City revival on Netflix includes queer representation and casting

Tales of the City, based on the books by Armistead Mauplin, first shocked conservative America TV viewers in 1994, with follow-up series in 1998 and 2001. The latest version, which hit Netflix last summer, features many of the same characters, including cis-gender actor Olympia Dukakis reprising her role as trans woman Anna Madrigal – although flashbacks to her younger self are now more appropriately played by trans actor Jen Richards. Another trans character, Jake Rodriguez, is also played by a trans actor, Garcia, and the majority of the LGBT+ roles in the series are also played by members of the community.

The CW’s Riverdale LGBT+ characters

Riverdale, the hugely popular American teen drama television series from The CW channel, based on the characters of Archie Comics, has been praised for its representation of young people and their developing sexual identities. Major characters include Sheriff’s son Kevin Keller, who is in love with closeted jock Moose Mason and ends up cruising in the woods for comfort, and power couple lesbian Cheryl Blossom and bisexual gang member Toni Topaz. The series has touched on issues from coming out to parents to the horrors of gay conversion “therapy”, and even straight leading man Archie has had a passionate gay kiss during a spell in prison.