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The best LGBTQ+ shows and movies on Netflix in 2021

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric in 'Sex Education'
Ncuti Gatwa as Eric in 'Sex Education' (Image credit: Netflix)

With Pride month just around the corner, now is the perfect time to consume as much queer content as your eyeballs can handle. Established in honor of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, Pride month is a celebration of how far we’ve come, and a motivating reminder of how far we still have to go. Luckily, Netflix has plenty of LGBTQ+ programming ranging from historically educational to downright fun. Check out some of the best, but in no way exhaustive offerings from Netflix’s LGBTQ+ category. 

Disclosure (2020)

Let’s just cut right to the chase--transgender representation in film and television is problematic at best and downright dangerous at worst. As stated in the documentary Disclosure and cited from GLAAD study, 80 percent of Americans don't actually know a transgender person, meaning many people develop their thoughts and opinions on trans people based on what they see in media. Serving somewhat as “Trans Representation 101,” the documentary presents a historical look at Hollywood's portrayal of transgender people and how these portrayals have real-life impact on the treatment and lives of the transgender community.

EastSiders (2012-2019)

This dark comedy series from Kit Williamson got its start on YouTube, but was later shown through Logo TV and Vimeo before finding a home at Netflix. Set in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, EastSiders follows Thom (Van Hansis) and Cal (Williamson) as they navigate their lives, community, substance abuse issues, and relationships. The mega-popular series has been praised for its vulnerable portrayal of LGBTQ+ relationships and last year earned two Emmy awards for Outstanding Casting for a Drama or Digital Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Performer for a Digital Daytime Drama Series (Lin Shaye).

Edge of Seventeen (1998)

Not to be confused by the 2016 film of a similar title, Edge of Seventeen is a groundbreaking coming of age story about a gay teen in 1984 Sandusky, Ohio from David Moreton and Todd Stephens. As pop stars like Boy George and Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics began smashing gender roles, 17-year-old Eric begins to come to terms with who he is, and what he desires all while capturing the spirit of a John Hughes movie, but a hell of a lot gayer.

The Perfection (2018)

First things first, the LGBTQ+ community is notoriously divided on The Perfection, which might be even more of a reason to give it a watch. Arguably one of the closest things we’ve gotten as a modern exploitation horror movie, The Perfection features stunning performances from Allison Williams and Logan Browning, and a script with more twists than a rollercoaster. Just when you think you know what’s coming next, the rug gets pulled out from underneath and you’re left guessing until the final credits.

Pose (2018-2021)

Thanks to Netflix’s relationship with FX, those without cable are fortunate enough to have access to one of the most important television series of all time. Pose is centered around New York City’s ballroom scene in the 1980s and the communities and families that were built because of it. For three seasons, the Emmy award winning show was a beacon for inclusivity showcasing queer and trans people of color as genuine human beings rather than punchlines, stereotypes, or monsters (for an elaboration, see Disclosure). Pose elevates the narrative surrounding queer and trans people, and isn’t afraid to showcase the nuanced realities of an oft-forgotten community with respect. Pose is a show that opened eyes, changed lives, and we are all better for it.

Monsoon (2019)

Directed by openly gay filmmaker Hong Khaou, Monsoon is a beautiful drama about a British Vietnamese man named Kit (Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame) who visits his home country thirty years after his family escaped Saigon as refugees after the Vietnam War. It’s touching to see a story about a gay man learning more about the truth of his identity, but knowing full well who he is as a gay person. Kit’s story is more than his sexuality, it’s about discovering the whole of his heritage and what was left behind when his family fled. 

Mucho Mucho Amor (2020)

A hero hailing from Puerto Rico and a cultural phenomenon in the Latine community, astrologer/actor/dancer/writer/television personality Walter Mercado was undoubtedly one of the most fascinating people on the planet. For decades, Mercado hosted an astrological prediction show on Spanish speaking cable channels, that was less Miss Cleo and more Liberace. Mercado flaunted elaborate costumes and capes that would rival Elton John, and despite his flamboyant expression, was beloved the world over. The documentary is a celebration of Mercado’s life and impact on the Latine community, but also the complicated history of an icon.

Sex Education (2019-)

Trying to figure out sexualities during our teen years is tough, but for high school student Otis who lives with his sex therapist mother, a lifetime of frank discussions and education has turned him into somewhat of a teenage sexpert. Once his class gets wind, he joins up with the resident “bad influence” girl, Maeve, and starts an underground sex therapy clinic. Otis’ best friend Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa) is proudly Black and gay, and Sex Education allows him the space to be a truly multi-faceted character rather than a stereotype. Season 2 explores Eric’s story even more and has quickly become one of the most progressive shows for teens available. 

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018-2020)

The reboot of the 1980s cartoon series of the same name, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power might be the intentionally queerest animated series ever made (sorry, Steven Universe) and has captured the hearts of queer people from all ages and gender identities. It’s a show teaching people to find the power within themselves, to find the silver lining in all situations, and perhaps most importantly, the power of finding your chosen family. Created by openly queer Noelle Stevenson, She-Ra is groundbreaking queer entertainment for all-ages, and season 5 is a boundary shattering sensation.

What Keeps You Alive (2018)

Colin Minihan is one of the most promising up-and-coming genre directors, and the highly suspenseful, psychological horror film What Keeps You Alive is arguably his best thus far. Jackie and Jules celebrate their first wedding anniversary by visiting a remote cabin in the woods, and it soon becomes apparent that there’s something very, very wrong with Jackie, and that Jules may not actually know her wife as well as she once believed.

Wynonna Earp (2015-)

I’m sorry, but there is no heterosexual explanation for a supernatural Western horror show starring a lady gunslinger who fights demons. While the show gets its name from the eldest great-great-granddaughter of the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, it's Wynonna’s little sister Waverly that threw “shippers” into a frenzy. Waverly falls for a local lesbian cop named Nicole but unlike most shows, Wynonna Earp was created through a queer lens. The gaze for Waverly and Nicole’s relationship is distinctly queer and fans can’t get enough of it.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

You didn't think I was going to make a LGBTQ+ Netflix list and not include the most groundbreaking piece of LGBTQ+ cinematic animation, did you? The Mitchells vs. The Machines is first and foremost a genuinely wonderful family adventure comedy that is sure to quickly become an all-time favorite, but having a queer teen girl act as the film's protagonist is just the robot apocalypse defeating cherry on top. Katie Mitchell is unapologetically queer, but her anxiety, insecurities about her future, and desire to make weird art feels relatable without being stereotypical. The fact she's included in an animated family feature, a genre notorious for queer exclusion, will genuinely change lives. This movie rules and we're so lucky to have it.

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