Back in 1991, the first kiss between two women aired on television on a show called LA Law. Then, almost a decade later, the first kiss between two men aired on Dawson’s Creek in 2000. These scenes paved the way for shows to create fully devolved gay characters and openly explore their romantic lives on television.
Now, in a time when LGBTQ rights frequently dominate social politics, even more inclusive victories have been won. For example: Shows are creating transgender characters and exploring the struggles and triumphs of their transition. Take a look to learn about a few transgender characters that have been featured on teen television shows, and totally stole the show:
Unique Adams from Glee
During its six seasons, Glee conquered numerous hard-hitting topics on its show, including domestic violence, texting while driving, abortion, bullying, body image, and more. The show was no stranger to LGBTQ storylines, but on the third season, Unique Adams walked down the halls of McKinley High.
Unique, the first openly trans character in Glee's history, was played by Alex Newell, who was discovered on the short-lived reality series The Glee Project. Unique was first introduced as a member of Vocal Adrenaline, a rival glee club. After transferring schools and joining New Directions, Unique flaunted her confidence and stayed true to herself. Though proud of who she was, Unique struggled romantically and even catfished her crush, assuming that he would never be interested in her if he knew who she really was and her background. But, she eventually overcame this and even helped Coach Beiste become comfortable with his own transition.
Sheldon Beiste from Glee
Played by Dot Marie-Jones, Coach Beiste takes a job as the football coach of Glee's McKinley High. The character is first introduced as Shannon Beiste, and on the third season, she marries her boyfriend, Cooter Menkins, a university football recruiter.
However, their wedded bliss was short-lived, as Beiste becomes a victim of domestic abuse. She gets the courage to divorce her husband, and then comes out as transgender in the sixth and final season.
On the episode, "Transitioning," after undergoing gender confirmation surgery, the football coach returns to school as Sheldon Beiste.
Charlotte DiLaurentis from Pretty Little Liars
Ever since the very first episode premiered in 2010, the identity of 'A' has haunted the girls of Pretty Little Liars. Then, during the sixth mid-season finale, 'A' is revealed to be Charlotte DiLaurentis a.k.a. CeCe Drake a.k.a. Charles DiLaurentis.
CeCe had been introduced early on via Season 3, as Alison's friend/mentor, and Jason's ex-girlfriend. After discovering that she is Red Coat, the Liars do their best to steer clear of CeCe and are successful until the big reveAl: It turns out that CeCe was really just an alias for Charlotte.
Charlotte, born Charles DiLaurentis, is Alison's sister, who grew up in secret in Radley. She was sent to the sanitarium after almost accidentally burning Alison. However, she was kept there indefinitely because her father was uncomfortable with her identity.
Luckily, Charlotte and Alison's mother, Jessica, loved her daughter no matter what and did her best to protect her.
Cole from The Fosters
Cole is introduced on the first season of The Fosters as a resident of group home Girls United. When Callie arrives to the house, the two immediately butt heads. As a punishment for their fighting, Callie and Cole are forced to be roommates. Cole struggles with his trans identity, especially because most of the girls in the house still refuse to accept him as a male. After living together for a while, Callie notices Cole's strange behavior and discovers that he's been taking illicit drug hormones off of the streets. He has a bad reaction to some of the pills, causing him to have a seizure and nearly die. Once Cole is rehabilitated, he tells Callie that his parents disowned him after finding out that he was trans. He develops a crush on Callie, asks her out to a dance, and even kisses her before she tells him that they should just be friends.
Aaron Baker from The Fosters
After getting suspended, Callie assumes the alias Cameron, and runs off to a coffee shop. It is there that she meets Aaron, a young law student. The two get acquainted and spend the day at the beach, before visiting one of Callie's old foster homes. The two even share a sweet kiss, before Callie tells him that she has a boyfriend. After admitting that she is Callie, and not Cameron, as she had led him to believe, the two become good friends. They grow closer as Aaron helps Callie work on her ex-foster brother's murder case.
While trying to comfort Callie after a particularly stressful afternoon, Aaron reveals that he is transgender. He states that he looks back on the time before his transition and sees how unhappy he was, but knows that he cannot go back, and that that person helped him become who he is today.
Noah from Faking It
Faking It's Noah is played by Elliot Fletcher, who also stars as Aaron on The Fosters. Noah is the new kid at Hester High, and quickly butts heads with Shane. But, it turns out that all of that tension was sexual tension! Shane admits that he has feelings for Noah and plants a big, juicy kiss on him! But, after Shane opened up his heart and revealed something, it became Noah's turn. Noah was openly gay, but had yet to tell anyone that he was transgender, too. Furthermore, he's homeless. His parents disowned him, forcing him to turn to a shelter.
Adam Torres from Degrassi: The Next Generation
Adam Torres was the first transgender character to be featured on the long-running Degrassi. After being bullied at his last school for being trans, Adam and his stepbrother, Drew, transfer to Degrassi. When he starts school, he hides that he was ever born as a female named Gracie. Things go well for him until tampons fall out of his pocket on the way to the bathroom. His identity is almost discovered, but Bianca covers for him saying that the tampons are hers. But, she grows suspicious and eventually outs Adam. He is once again bullied at school, until he slowly earns his classmates' respect. Sadly, Adam is killed in a car accident after texting his girlfriend, Becky, while driving.
Photo: The N
Drew Reeves from Dead of Summer
Set in the 1980s, Dead of Summer is about Camp Stillwater, a seemingly ordinary summer camp that has an, eerie mythology. Zelda Williams (daughter of the late comedian/actor Robin Williams) played Drew Reeves on Freeform's horror hit. None of the counselors suspect that Drew is anyone but who he claims to be, which is a long-haired, rock-music-loving introvert. Born as Andrea Dalton, Drew's identity is revealed to viewers when, while stripping to take a shower, it's shown that he's wearing a sports bra.
Julia Smith from Veronica Mars
On the first season, Justin Smith hires Veronica Mars to find his father. Justin was told by his mother that his father was dead, so hiring Veronica was just a ploy to spend time with her. But, Veronica actually discovers the truth: Justin's father is a trans woman (now named Julia), whose wife divorced him while he was transitioning.
Ashamed of his identity, Justin's mother lied and said that his father had died. After transitioning, Julia moved to San Diego and married a man. However, she visits Justin's place of work once a week to try to get to know him — although she never tells him who she really is. When Justin learns the truth, he becomes angry and tells Julia that he never wants to see her again. But, eventually, he comes around apologizes, and tries to have a relationship with her.
Photo: The CW
Alexis Meade from Ugly Betty
Fan-favorite show Ugly Betty first aired in 2007. It followed ugly-duckling Betty Suarez, as she tried to make it big at fashion magazine Mode. Mode was part of magazine empire Meade Publications, a family-run company. Betty's boss, Daniel Meade, reveals to her that his brother, Alex Meade, died in a skiing accident.
However, it is soon discovered that Alex never died, but rather, went in to hiding while transitioning to Alexis. Finally in the right body, Alexis Meade takes her rightful place at the magazine, constantly butting heads with Daniel. But, their fighting is just a result of sibling rivalry. Alexis is almost immediately accepted by her family.
Louise from Dark Angel
Back in 2000, Jessica Alba starred on the short-lived series Dark Angel. The show followed Jess, as Max, a genetically-enhanced soldier who escapes her military base and runs to a post-apocalyptic Seattle to live a normal life.
One of her acquaintances, Reagan "Normal" Ronald, runs the Jam Pony Express courier service. He is nicknamed "Normal," because he is often portrayed as being overly conservative.
One night, Normal goes on a date with Louise. Everything is going fine until Louise reveals that she is transgender. Taken aback at first, Normal accepts Louise and tells her that her past isn't important. Too bad for Normal, Louise also tells him that she's a lesbian!