'Beauty and the Beast'
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
2016's live action "Beauty and The Beast" has already earned more than half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, but before the Disney flick was generating big time bucks, it was generating big time buzz after director Bill Condon revealed there would be an "exclusively gay" scene, prompting talk of a ban in places like Russia and Hong Kong. While some say it was ultimately much ado about nothing — the "gay scene" involved LeFou, played by Josh Gad, and another man dancing together at the end of the movie — the president of GLAAD has spoken out in support, stressing the importance of including gay characters in children's films.
Lionsgate/Walt Disney Pictures
When the 2017 "Power Rangers" reboot was released in March of this year, it not only had fans of the franchise cheering, it also made history! Yellow Power Ranger Trini, played by Becky G, is gay, making "Power Rangers" the first superhero movie with a gay protagonist.
The genre-defying 2016 coming-of-age story of a young black man coming to terms with his sexuality is groundbreaking for many reasons. "Moonlight" is the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBT film, and one of the lowest-grossing titles to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was a moment that will also go down in Oscar history because of that epic envelope mix-up which saw the honour first awarded to "La La Land", which unfortunately took away from the historical nature of its win. Mahershala Ali also made history that night as the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar.
'Grace and Frankie'
The Netflix comedy, currently in its third season features screen legends Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as Grace and Frankie, two women in their golden years trying to find their way after their husbands, played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, come out as gay and begin a relationship with each other. While "Grace and Frankie" focuses primarily on the women and their adjustment to single life, it's still refreshing to see two male senior citizens prove it's never too late for love and to live as your true self.
This groundbreaking Amazon series was an instant critical darling when it premiered in 2014. The dramedy tells the story of LA's Pfefferman family, whose elderly patriarch, Mort, comes out as transgender and transitions to Maura. Praised for its sensitive portrayal of gender identity and gay characters, as well as a realistic depiction of family dynamics, "Transparent" has been a staple on the awards circuit, winning Emmys, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and Critic's Choice Awards as well as a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy.
'Orange is the New Black'
The Netflix series (is it a drama? A comedy? The debate rages on) introduces us to the ladies of Litchfield prison and not only features gay characters like Piper, Alex, and Big Boo, but also trans woman Sophia played by the magnificent Laverne Cox. Over the course of its four seasons, "OITNB" has raked in nods from Emmys, Golden Globes, and a GLAAD Media award for Outstanding Comedy Series.
'Blue is the Warmest Colour'
This 2013 French coming-of-age romantic drama about the passionate relationship between Adele and Emma was one of the most buzzed-about films at that year's Cannes Film Festival and went on to unanimously win the coveted Palm d'Or before being nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.
This mockumentary-style sitcom premiered in 2009 and features gay couple Mitchell and Cameron who, early on in the series adopt a daughter, Lily. The show was an instant hit and has gone on to win countless awards including Emmys, Golden Globes, and two GLAAD Media Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. Mitch and Cam have been a devoted couple since the beginning and tied the knot in 2014 in the show's fifth season.
This 2008 Gus Van Sant-directed biopic tells the story of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist and politician who was the first openly gay man elected to office in California before he was ultimately tragically assassinated by another San Francisco supervisor. "Milk" earned Sean Penn a Best Actor Academy Award as well as a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who wore a white ribbon supporting marriage equality and gave an impassioned speech when he accepted his award.
CPImages/Courtesy Everett Collection
This 2005 indie comedy-drama featuring Felicity Huffman and Canadian actor Kevin Zegers tells the story of Bree, a trans woman who, before her gender reassignment surgery, embarks on a cross-country road trip with the son she didn't know she had fathered before her transition. "Transamerica" won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film and earned Felicity Huffman a Best Actress in a Drama Golden Globe, as well as a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
Ang Lee directed this 2005 quiet heartbreaker of a film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two cowboys who meet and fall in love while working as sheep herders in the 1960s. The men continue their relationship in secret over the years before Ennis ultimately dies. "Brokeback Mountain" was nominated for a handful of Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and nods for Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, and Michelle Williams. Though Ang Lee walked away with an Oscar, the Best Picture award was ultimately given to "Crash", a move that still generates debate today.
This Showtime series starring Jennifer Beals profiled the lives and loves of a group of lesbians in West Hollywood. Before "The L-Word" premiered in 2004, lesbian characters were rarely profiled so prominently on television, particularly ones who made no excuses for enjoying and wanting sex. However, the show's creator said she was mainly concerned with making entertaining TV rather than "taking on the mantle of social responsibility." Regardless, "The L-Word" won two GLAAD Media Awards for Outstanding Drama Series.
'Queer As Folk'
Based on the British series of the same name, the American "Queer as Folk", premiered in 2000, was the first hour-long drama on American television to portray the lives of gay men and women and quickly became one of the highest-rated shows on Showtime. Throughout its five seasons the show covered such topics as homophobia, coming out, same-sex marriage, religion, drug use, and HIV/AIDS.
Boys Don't Cry
This 1999 drama told the true story of young trans man, Brandon Teena (born Teena Brandon) who was murdered in a hate crime in Nebraska in 1993 at the age of 21. Hilary Swank won her first Oscar for her portrayal. Hilary thanked Brandon in her acceptance speech, calling him an inspiration to live our lives authentically, adding she prayed for the day when we "not only accept our differences but celebrate our diversity."
Nearly 20 years ago, on Apr. 30, 1997, more than 40 million viewers tuned in to watch Ellen Morgan, come out as a lesbian on the sitcom "Ellen".
It was a landmark moment in television, winning a Peabody Award as well as a GLAAD Media Award, but not everyone was a fan. Some sponsors pulled out of the much-anticipated episode, and Southern Baptist pastor and televangelist publicly referred to Ellen DeGeneres as "Ellen DeGenerate." While the sitcom was subsequently cancelled in 1998 there's no denying the impact of Ellen on television and culture as a whole.
'Will & Grace'
Bill Reitzel/NBCU Photo Bank
The same year Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom was cancelled, "Will and Grace" premiered on NBC, featuring two main characters who also just happened to be gay: button-down corporate lawyer Will Truman and flamboyant performer Jack McFarland. The show quickly became "must-see TV" and lasted eight seasons before the final episode aired in May of 2006. However, dreams are coming true for fans of the show as NBC has ordered a 10-episode revival of the comedy.
'My So-Called Life'
This 1994 critically-acclaimed teen drama only lasted one season before being prematurely cancelled, but not before introducing us to Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez, Rayanne's eyeliner- and bright clothes-wearing gay bestie. A true pioneer, this 15-year-old free spirit felt right at home in the girls' bathroom with Angela and Rayanne.
This 1993 drama was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to tackle homosexuality, homophobia as well as the AIDS crisis. "Philadelphia" featured Tom Hanks in one of his first dramatic roles as Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer who sues his former firm believing he was fired after it became known he was suffering from HIV. Denzel Washington stars as the initially homophobic lawyer who takes on his case. The performance earned Tom Hanks his first Academy Award.
'My Own Private Idaho'
Fine Line Features
Long before Gus Van Sant directed Sean Penn in "Milk" he wrote and directed 1991's "My Own Private Idaho", a coming-of-age drama about narcoleptic male prostitute Mike Waters, played by the late River Phoenix, and his best friend, fellow hustler Scott Favor, played by Keanu Reeves. The film was a critical darling and won the International Film Critics Award at that year's Toronto International Film Festival and earned River Phoenix an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead.