The 14 most important LGBT shows on TV right now

The end of every year is heavy with Best! and Worst! lists, which is silly and fun but ultimately it just means Stuff The Writer Really Liked or Loathed. Now that we’re in the swing of another year of new television, I thought we’d take a minute to think in more specific terms about LGBT visibility and ask: What are the most important shows on TV right now? You know, the ones that are still changing the minds of the people who don’t believe in marriage equality and showing the way to religious parents who reject their gay childrens’ sexualities and pushing pop culture (which pushes political legislation) firmly toward the correct side of history. Below are 14 shows we think are actually changing the world.

The Rachel Maddow Show


She is an androgynous lesbian who has become the go-to pundit for progressives and the must-have mixologist for late night talk show hosts. She’s a digger, an investigator, a fact-checker, a PhD at heart — and she’s the anchor of all of MSNBC’s big deal political coverage these days. The straight guys in suits at the table, they wait for her to ask them to speak. Her voice carries. Ask President Obama.

Anderson Cooper 360


Anderson Cooper is maybe America’s most trusted journalist. He is the one who is on the ground when the most publicized news stories hit — he won two Emmys for his coverage of the Haitian earthquake in 2011 — but he’s also well-known for shining a light on really tough gay issues like bullying and outing. Plus he’s the guy we ring in the New Year with. It was nice when The New York Times called him “the most prominent openly gay journalist on American television,” but even nicer when he came out himself in 2012.

The Fosters


I never get tired of writing about how an interracial lesbian couple rakes in the ratings on a channel that was founded by notorious homophobe Pat Robertson as the Christian Broadcasting Network. The Fosters is typical ABC Family fodder: A diverse group of teenagers pull dramatic shenanigans and cry — but at the center of the show are two moms, the anchor around which everyone else revolves. The show doesn’t shy away from showing the struggles they face as gay women, but Stef and Lena are strong, resolute, and committed to each other no matter what. They’re a modern-day Brady Bunch. The Gaydy Bunch.

How I Met Your Mother


There was a time when it seemed like every pop culture website on the internet was asking whether or not gay actors could convincingly portray straight characters. It was ridiculous, of course, as proven over nine seasons by the country’s most famous gay man, Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the most lovable womanizer the sitcom world has ever seen. (Sorry, Joey Tribbiani.) Harris’ fame has only grown wider and wider as the show has found itself in syndication all over the world, and he uses his platform to … just be a regular guy who loves his husband and his kids.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show


She’s the most famous gay person in the entire world and every single day she dances her way into our living rooms and makes us fall more in love with her. Ellen has done more for queer people than any other entertainer on earth simply by virtue of being out and being awesome.

Orange Is the New Black


Every single one of Netflix’s 33 million subscribers has been presented with ample opportunity to watch Orange Is the New Black, one of the most diverse shows to ever be filmed. It features lesbian and bisexual women of different colors, sizes, and Kinsey scale leanings, but it’s greatest accomplishment is the graceful, honest way it presented the story of its transgender character, Sophia Burset. It’s the most three-dimensional portrayal of a transgender character I’ve ever seen, and, honestly, the LGBT community couldn’t ask for a better spokesperson than Laverne Cox, who has used her fame to de-stigmatize and educate and flat-out make us swoon.