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Readers' Choice: The Top 25 Gay TV Characters Revealed!

by Michael Jensen, Editor
November 29, 2007

Television matters. Who and what we see on our screens each week tells us a great deal about who and what is relevant in society, who has power, and who doesn’t. That’s why AfterElton.com pays such close attention to the shows that have gay characters and gay storylines, analyzing what each new character and plot twist says about the acceptance of gay and bisexual men in today’s world.

Television programming as we know it today came into existence approximately seventy years ago. However, it took thirty-five years for the first semi-regularly recurring gay character to appear, on The Corner Bar, an 1972 ABC show that lasted for fifteen episodes and featured Vincent Schiavelli as Peter Panama. Over the next several years, gay characters popped up on other short-lived shows including Hot L Baltimore and The Nancy Walker Show, but it wasn’t until 1977 and Soap that gay and bisexual men were able to watch a gay character on a show that was an actual hit.

Despite this relatively short history, there was still quite an impressive roster of characters for our readers to choose from for our poll of the Top 25 Gay and Bisexual TV Characters. For the purposes of this poll, we focused only on gay and bisexual male characters (leaving the ladies to our colleagues over at AfterEllen.com) that were substantial roles as opposed to those that only appeared for an episode or two. Our list of potential candidates numbered nearly 150, ranging all the way back to Peter Panama and, most recently, Noah Mayer (Jake Silbermann), a character introduced on CBS’ As The World Turns little more than six months ago.

The final results of our survey tilted heavily toward the most recent representations. Yes, these characters are fresher in viewer's minds than are characters from older shows. However, the more recent characters are also much richer and more fully-developed than were the Matt Fieldings (Melrose Place) or Steven Carringtons (Dynasty) of twenty years ago.

Therefore it’s not surprising that of our top twenty-five characters only two – Jodie Dallas of Soap and Waylon Smithers of The Simpsons – debuted more than ten years ago. The most recently introduced character to make the list was, in fact, Noah Mayer of ATWT who plays the love interest of Luke Snyder (Van Hansis).

It’s also not surprising that the U.S. version of Queer as Folk, arguably the most successful specifically gay show of all time, placed five characters on our list. It’s only natural that gay viewers would respond to a show about gay men that featured gay men prominently rather than as mere window dressing given a few lines each episode and, if they were lucky, the occasional secondary storyline about their coming out.

And while Queer as Folk was certainly controversial, even in the gay community, the show didn’t shy away from showing gay men as fully developed characters with sexual lives and storylines that were complicated if not always flattering.

Our list also reflects the fact that television, and especially gay characters, are still largely the dominion of white men. The only men of color to make the top 25 were Enrique Rickie Vasquez (My So-Called Life), Keith Charles (Six Feet Under) and George Huang (Law & Order: SVU). It’s also interesting to note that of the top twenty-five characters six are played by out gay men – Randy Harrison, Peter Paige, Wilson Cruz, John Barrowman, Robert Gant, and B.D. Wong – half of whom were on Queer as Folk.

Without further ado, here are the top twenty-five gay and bisexual characters of all time!

25. Vince D'Angelo (Will & Grace)

Will & Grace may have been a landmark gay show, but it received some criticism from the LGBT community because of lead character Will’s relative lack of a sex life compared to Grace. But what Will’s romantic life lacked in quantity, it may have made up for in quality. The evidence? Will’s most substantial love interest actually made it onto our top-25 list based on reader votes.

Vince D’Angelo, played by Bobby Cannavale, was introduced on the 6th season of Will & Grace. Vince was an Italian-American New York City Police Department officer, and his blue-collar roots made his pairing with effete, white-collar Will comical and yet still endearing.

Vince and Will’s relationship lasted until the spring of 2005 when Vince lost his job and the two mutually agreed to "take a break." Will would go on to have other relationships (among them one with “James,” a character played by Taye Diggs), but of all Will’s love interests Vince made the most lasting impression. In the series finale Will is even shown in a flash-forward reunited with Vince.

Cannavale's portrayal was popular both with fans and with critics. He won an Emmy for the role in 2005 - for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series. This makes him one of only three actors represented in our top-25 list to win an Emmy for their role.

24. Marco Del Rossi (Degrassi: The Next Generation)

Marco del Rossi was first introduced in 2002 during the second season of Degrassi: The Next Generation. For those who don’t watch the show, it follows the trials and tribulations of a bunch of high schoolers. Think Beverly Hills 90210 – only set in Canada.

Initially, it wasn’t clear what his sexuality was. His dark good looks and winning smile attracted the attention of a female character named Ellie. The two began publicly dating, but Ellie was frustrated when Marco seemed to have no interest in making their relationship more physical. Eventually he admitted to her that he was confused about his sexuality. Over several seasons Marco would come out to other friends and family. He also has had a tempestuous relationship with Dylan, an older boy who would later cheat on him.

The clip below shows Marco torn between his nice guy boyfriend, Tim and his continuing feelings for bad boy Dylan.

Adamo Ruggiero was a 2003 nominee of a Young Artist Award for Best Ensemble in a TV Series for Degrassi and in 2005 was nominated for Best Performance in a TV series — Leading Young Actor. The young performer takes seriously the fact that gay teens strongly identify with the character he plays. Ruggiero has even lent his name to The Trevor Project, an organization that helps gay and questioning youth.

23: Jodie Dallas, Soap

Billy Crystal is probably best known for hosting the Oscars, and starring in When Harry Met Sally (1989) and City Slickers (1991). But the comedian really burst on the scene with his turn as gay son Jodie Dallas on the ABC sitcom, Soap, which ran from 1977 to 1981.

In a 2002 New York Times interview, Billy Crystal admitted to some early misgivings about taking a gay role:

"I was Jackie Robinson for a while.... you could feel people deal with you differently. They'd be playing to you like, 'Oh, you're the gay guy.' It was very creepy at the beginning."
"My skin would crawl sometimes,'' he said, remembering the derision studio audiences would direct at his character, Jodie, the gay son of a blue-collar Connecticut family. Like the time Jodie's ex-boyfriend told him, ''I love you and I want you back.'' ''The audience hears that and they go nuts,'' Mr. Crystal said. ''They start tittering and laughing.'' In such scenes, he said, ''If there was an isolated camera on me, you would have seen me getting red and sweaty, thinking, "What am I doing here?"
And yet, by the end of the series, audiences had warmed up significantly to Jodie Dallas. In the third season, Jodie is involved in a child custody battle. According to Crystal, "The mail was three to one that I should get the child, and I thought that was the biggest victory of all.''

22. George Huang, Law & Order: SVU

Dr. George Huang joined Law & Order: SVU in 2002 and became a series regular soon thereafter. Huang is not only an FBI agent, but is also the Special Victims Unit's resident psychiatrist. Of all the characters included on our list, Huang is the only who has never explicitly been stated as being gay. But so many viewers have read the soft-spoken, even-tempered and brilliant agent as gay that he made our list of the best gay characters.

Part of the reason for that might be that Huang is played out actor B.D. Wong (Oz, M. Butterfly) making him one of the six out actors playing characters on our top twenty-five list. He is also one of the few out Asian actors on television, along with Rex Lee who plays Lloyd on Entourage. With any luck, NBC might see fit to make Huang explicitly gay, thereby helping to remedy the current dearth of gay characters on the Peacock Network.

21: John Paul, Hollyoaks

While U.S. audiences were finding themselves finally enjoying a same-sex male relationship on a soap opera, U.K. audiences were already deep into the relationship on Hollyoaks between John Paul (James Sutton) and Craig (Guy Burnet). While the pairing didn't mark a breakthrough for British television, already having had a fairly extensive track record of gay representation on soaps, it did mark a breakthough for Hollyoaks, which didn't.

But what the show lacked in previous representations it more than made up with the relationship between John Paul and Craig, which quickly became a fan favorite. John Paul joined the show in the fall of '06 and while the character was conceived as gay from the very start, viewers didn't learn that fact until January when John Paul broke down and tearfully told Craig, his best friend, that he was in love with him.

What followed were a tumultuous seven months as Craig came to terms with his own feelings for John Paul, something that came to a head during a party to celebrate Craig's engagement to a woman. Ultimately the two broke up, but not before viewers saw that gay relationships were every bit as caring, complicated, and enjoyable as straight ones.

20. Keith Charles, Six Feet Under

It's no surprise both Keith Charles and David Fisher from HBO's Six Feet Under made our list. While Will Truman on Will & Grace was usually helping Grace deal with her relationship issues (and having very few of his own), David and Keith were neck deep in their own relationship problems. But viewers didn't mind too much as their partnership marked one of the first fully developed gay relationships ever seen on television.

Keith Charles was a breakthrough character in many ways. Not only was he a non-stereotype masculine gay man employed as a cop who loved paintball, but his relationship with David Fisher marked one of the first ongoing gay interracial pairings on television.

As played by Matthew St. Patrick, the character of Keith was complicated and not always positive. While he was completely out and unapologetic about who he was, he also had anger issues that on several occasions nearly ruined his relationship. But he also provided a needed counterbalance to the stereotype of black gay men as mincing queens. Indeed, that stereotype was exploded in the show's fourth episode "Familia" when David and Keith are called "fags" in a parking lot. Keith grabs the man by his collar and says, "Next time you call someone a f**king fag, you make sure that fag isn't an L.A. police officer."

No wonder gay fans put Keith in the top twenty-five!

19. Scotty Wandell, Brothers & Sisters

Fans of Brothers & Sisters cater waiter Scotty were heartbroken when Scotty exited the show less than halfway through the first season. After all, he had been the one to challenge Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) to loosen up his buttons and live life as a gay man a little more freely. And it was with Scotty that Kevin shared that first kiss that told gay viewers Brothers & Sisters was going to be much more than another drama chastely portraying a gay couple’s neutered relationship.

As written by B&S creator Jon Robin Baitz and acted by Macfarlane, Scotty is unabashedly gay, proud of who he is, and feisty when backed into a corner. After he left the show, fans pined for his return, finding Kevin’s subsequent relationships with Chad Barry (Jason Lewis) and Jason McCallister (Eric Winter) to lack the same chemistry.

Indeed, some started referring to Scotty as Kevin’s "Mr. Big" (referencing Carrie Bradshaw’s on again/off again relationship on Sex and the City) in hopes that Scotty might return. Scotty has indeed returned to B&S and just last week found himself again dating Kevin, setting up a possible love triangle with Kevin and his most recent boyfriend Jason McCallister (Eric Winter), yet another way B&S is breaking ground in portraying gay relationships on broadcast TV.

18. Waylon Smithers, The Simpsons

Waylon Smithers has the notable distinction of being the only animated character to make our list. We were somewhat surprised by this as there were quite a number of other gay animated characters on our survey. So why did Smithers rise to the top? Maybe he scored points for his absurd, toady-like devotion to the evil Mr. Burns. Or maybe Smithers has risen to the top simply because of his longevity.

Waylon Smithers was first introduced in the third episode of The Simpsons, way back in 1990. This actually makes him the longest running gay character (animated or otherwise) to make the Top 25. What have followed are nearly two decades of his fawning over the derepit Mr. Burns, yet somehow he has managed to win our hearts nonetheless!

17. Ben Bruckner, Queer as Folk

Played by hunky out gay actor Robert Gant, Professor Ben Bruckner came into Michael Novotny’s life in the second season of Queer as Folk and gently got him to let go of his unrequited crush on Brian. He was steady, reliable, understanding, and intelligent, and he looked great with his shirt off, too.

Ben was also HIV-positive, and QAF didn’t shy away from looking at the sexual and emotional complications of a relationship between two men of different HIV status. Although Ben, a Buddhist, was usually so serene he was just the tiniest bit boring, the death of his ex-lover from AIDS and the anti-gay attack that almost killed Michael both sent him over the edge, giving his serene exterior just enough emotional depth to save his character from being so perfect he was dull.

16. Noah Meyer, As The World Turns

Although he ranks a bit lower than his other half, Luke Snyder (Van Hansis) As the World Turns' newest gay character has certainly found his way into the hearts of gay and straight audiences alike. In fact, the chemistry generated by Noah Mayer (Jake Silbermann) and Luke has made the duo the most popular couple on the show and they were recently named as one of seven hottest pairings on all of daytime television.

Noah's coming out story on ATWT wasn't an easy one, complicated by the fact that he was deeply closeted and severely compromised by the presence of his homophobic (not to mention murderous) father whom he desperately wanted to please.

But thanks to the support of his friends and his new beau, Noah pulled through the tough times. No one can say for sure what the future holds for the young couple — this is a soap opera after all — but Noah's strength in coming to terms with his sexuality and overcoming his father's hateful influence has made his story one to watch.

15. Ricky Vasquez, My So Called Life

Rickie was television’s first gay teenage character to have a regular role in a series, and what a series it was: The groundbreaking, massively influential one-season wonder known as “My So-Called Life,” the story of a group of friends in a Pittsburgh high school that ran for only one year in the mid-90s before becoming a cult hit.

Played by out gay actor Wilson Cruz, Rickie struggled with first, unrequited love, the demands and rewards of friendship, girls having crushes on him, an abusive family, homelessness, and trying to find a place for himself in the world. Rickie Vasquez was made of equal parts vulnerability and courage, and embodied the painful outsider inside every queer kid who ever went to high school.

14. Andrew Van De Kamp, Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives’ Andrew Van de Kamp (Shawn Pyfrom) is a very popular boy, making it all the way to number 15 on our countdown. This comes as a bit of a surprise because Andrew, while being very secure in his sexuality (a rarity for a gay TV teen), is also something of a sociopath.

Andrew has always been a troubled teen. In the first season, he ran over Carlos’ mother putting her in a coma. In the second season, after the death of his father, he grew increasingly at odds with mother Bree. She had trouble accepting her son’s sexual orientation, leading Andrew to conclude that she didn’t really love him. This led him to retaliate with an all out campaign to destroy Bree's life. Andrew’s cold-blooded machinations were impressive; he went so far as to seduce his mother’s boyfriend. When Bree found the two of them in bed, she was so devastated that she drove her son out of town abandoning him on the side of the road.

After time living on the street, Andrew returned home in Season 3 and gradually repaired his relationship with his mother. His storyline was pretty quiet during the third season but fans of the character can take heart. Executive producer Marc Cherry has promised to feature Andrew more prominently in the future. "He’s had such a tame year [in Season 3], it's time to kind of juice him up again."

13. Chris Keller, Oz

Chris Keller is one of only two bisexual characters to make our list, and the other one — Torchwood's Captain Jack — is technically omnisexual. He's also the only convicted murderer to make the list, having wound up in HBO's fictional Oswald Penitentiary for committing several murders.

It is there that the bisexual Keller meets the ostensibly straight Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) in the series' second season. Their courtship is hardly the typical one with Keller wooing Beecher solely in order to curry favor with another inmate who is seeking revenge against Beecher.

Despite setting Beecher up for a brutal beating that leaves his arms and legs broken, the two men do eventually fall in love though it doesn't last long. Over the ensuing seasons their relationship goes through ups and downs worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy including murder, betrayal, and suicide.

Keller's inclusion here is significant as it indicates there have been enough gay characters that one as complex and villainous as Keller can still be a fan favorite.

12. Jack McPhee, Dawson's Creek

Jack McPhee arrived at fictional Capeside High School during the second season of out gay writer Kevin Williamson's Dawson's Creek. Jack was eventually forced out of the closet by a sadistic English teacher who made him read a personal and revealing poem in front of his class. The gut-wrenching scene, one of Dawson Creek's most memorable, appears below.

To his surprise, Jack's classmates rallied around him, forcing the sadistic teacher into early retirement.

Despite support from his friends, particularly Pacey (Joshua Jackson), Jack would continue to struggle with his sexuality for the remainder of the series. Thankfully he did have some memorable relationships along the way, and, in fact, the character can boast having shared the first onscreen gay male kiss on network television. And in the Season 3 finale, Jack finally screwed up the courage to lock lips with his longtime crush, Ethan (Adam Kauffman).

11. Marc St. James, Ugly Betty

The bitchy gay queen is no breakthrough in terms of gay male stereotypes in entertainment. Fashion-obsessed, shallow, prissy men who serve little purpose other than to drop of-the-minute pop culture references and lob zingy barbs at our heroes have been around for decades.

But leave it to ever-impressive Ugly Betty to take this stereotype to a new level. Marc St. James, viperish assistant to Wilhelmina Slater, is a bitchy gay queen with a barely-beating heart strapped under all that Burberry plaid. Initially a throw-away minion, thanks to stellar writing and Michael Urie's portrayal, Marc has been given a human side that these characters seldom enjoy, and his ill-fated coming out to his overbearing mother (played by Patti LuPone, in a deft twist) made us actually feel for the guy, as much as we may have resisted.

This season Marc fell in love with Cliff, a decidedly non-fabulous (actually, downright shlubby) photographer, putting another crack in his armor. So yes, we love Marc because he's a living, breathing, feeling person fighting to get out from under all that nasty ... and in the meantime, the nasty's pretty darn fun.

10. Jack Harkness, Torchwood

Gay science fiction fans have long complained that their favorite shows — Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes — have failed to boldly go where other shows had already gone, namely including gay characters. But Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off, created by out writer Russell T Davies, finally did go there — and in a big way. Torchwood not only featured the first bisexual sci fi hero in Captain Jack Harkness, but the role was also played by out actor John Barrowman.

As played by Barrowman, Captain Jack is a dashing rake, fond of the gentlemen and the ladies as well as anything else extraterrestrial. He's the brave, dashing hero of the show able to be tough when needed and tender as well, something gay viewers were treated to in the episode "Captain Jack Harkness".

In that episode, Captain Jack traveled back in time to meet — and woo — his namesake in one of the most romantic episodes of television gay fans have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Even better? The show has been a huge hit, garnering record ratings for both BBC America (which broadcasts the show in the U.S.) and for BBC Three which initially aired the show in the U.K.

About the impact of playing the role of Captain Jack, Barrowman told AfterElton.com in an interview:

It is gratifying ... I was doing another kind of signing thing at a press conference where I was signing autographs and a little boy came up to me with his father. The father said do you want Captain Jack's autograph? The little boy [said] "Oh, yes, Daddy. I don't care if he likes boys or girls, he's my hero."
Coming in at number ten, Captain Jack is clearly one of our heroes as well.

9. Michael Novotny, Queer as Folk

The perennial boy next door and gay everyman, Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks) started out as Brian Kinney’s sidekick and grew into his own kind of hero by the time Queer as Folk filmed its final scene. He married HIV-positive Ben Bruckner in Canada, adopted an HIV-positive foster son, and had a close relationship with his wisecracking, PFLAG-member, diner waitress mother, played by Sharon Gless.

In contrast to best friend Brian, Michael chose marriage, family, and a house with a white picket fence. But after almost dying in an explosion at a gay political benefit, Michael demonstrated that his true colors included the whole rainbow of queer experience. Chosen to be a poster boy for an assimilationist gay rights organization, he went off script at a media event, pointing out that he wasn’t necessarily “just like” everyone else. “In many ways, my life is nothing like yours,” he said. “Why should it be? Do we all have to have the same lives to have the same rights?”

8. David Fisher, Six Feet Under

The other half of Six Feet Under's gay couple, David Fisher was the polar opposite to Keith Charles' (Matthew St. Patrick) out and proud L.A. police officer. David, a very religious man who performed in his church's choir and served as a deacon, was deeply tortured by his sexuality. While not as complicated as some characters who made our list (Oz's Chris Keller, to name one) David's self-hatred manifests in numerous ways including acts of unsafe sex and bursts of anger.

David was not only religious, but unlike most gay men portrayed on television was also fairly conservative — having once belonged to the Young Republicans and wanting desperately to start a family and have children.

His relationship with Keith was tumultuous to say the least as Keith had issues of his own. Viewers sometimes grew frustrated with the couple's bickering, but thanks to the humanity brought to the part of David Fisher by actor Michael C. Hall, gay fans tuned in religiously to see what would happen next to one of the most fully realized and complex gay men on television.

7. Emmett Honeycutt, Queer as Folk

Queer as Folk’s Emmett Honeycutt could have been nothing more than an offensive stereotype, but out gay actor Peter Paige instead brought to life one of TV’s best portrayals of a strong, queeny gay man. Emmett could dance, accessorize, organize a party, and fight like the devil for the people he loved and causes he believed in.

Emmett had romantic relationships with all kinds of men, including a wealthy senior citizen, his nebbishy best friend, and a closeted professional football player. When he loved, he loved hard, wearing his heart on his always-fabulous sleeve. Despite heartbreak and loss, he always picked himself up, dusted himself off, spent a few days wrapped in a blanket eating ice cream, and then went out and did it all over again.

6. Luke Snyder, As The World Turns

It's no surprise that As the World Turns' gay teen Luke Snyder placed near the top of the list. After all, the groundbreaking character recently made American television history as half of the first ever gay male teen daytime kiss, and subsequently narrowly survived a homophobic attack from his boyfriend's murderous father.

Luke is a unique case in that while his character has been around for years, he only became aware of his sexuality in his teens, taking millions of loyal viewers with him on his journey of self-discovery.

Luke's coming out bonded him with his father and left him stronger and more confident in himself. When handsome newcomer Noah (Jake Silbermann) arrived in Oakdale, Luke was able to keep his level head when it became apparent that Noah had feelings for him. This being a soap opera, Noah first had to date Luke's best friend Maddie before finally coming out.

Luke's common sense, genuine concern for others, and undeniable squeezability make him hard not to love, groundbreaking or no. And thanks to the considerable talents of actor Van Hansis, the hurdles faced by a gay teen coming to know himself have become accessible, mainstream drama. Now it just remains to be seen whether Luke will find himself in a traditional soap opera wedding.

5. Will Truman, Will & Grace

Before Brothers & Sisters was even a gleam in Jon Robin Baitz's eye, Will & Grace laid claim to the title of great gay hope. For the first time in broadcast network history, an out, gay man was at the center of a television show. He wasn't the queeny sidekick, or the closet case, or the nice yet seldom seen secretary, but an out-and-proud gay man named Will Truman.

Yes, it’s true, Will might have been somewhat upstaged by his hilarious sidekick Jack (Sean Hayes), but arguably actor Eric McCormack had the more virtuoso role. After all, for seven years he had to play gay, and the comic straight man.

In a cast of mostly over the top zanies, Will’s was almost always the voice of reason and sobriety. And yet the character managed to be both endearing and hilarious. He was a sitcom character you could root for. And the first lead gay male character on network TV to boot!

4. Kevin Walker, Brothers & Sisters

Brothers & Sisters Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) came along last year at a time when gay viewers could be forgiven for thinking they might never see another fully-developed gay character on broadcast television. Will & Grace, a show not without critics for its less than three-dimensional portrayal of gay men, had recently gone off the air and two new shows which prominently featured gay men – Crumbs and The Book of Daniel – were both cancelled after airing fewer than ten episodes. And most other gay characters on television were those relegated to only brief appearances such as Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City or Joe the bartender on Grey’s Anatomy.

And the prognosis for Brothers & Sisters wasn’t terribly great either as the show debuted with extensive rewrites of the pilot, rumors of on-set strife, and with Rhys stepping into the role of Kevin Walker after Jonathan LaPaglia was replaced.

But almost from the get go gay viewers found themselves watching something very different — a fully realized portrayal of a gay man who was kind, petty, funny, sexy, smart and not just a little self-destructive when it came to love.

In B&S’ first season, Kevin had not one, not two, but three love interests. Gay viewers, starved to see same-sex affection, were practically gleeful when Kevin kissed Scotty (Luke MacFarlane) not to mention when he later shared a bed with Chad Barry (Jason Lewis) with none of the resulting controversy and threats of boycotts that erupted when thirtysomething showed two men in bed.

3. Justin Taylor, Queer as Folk

One of television’s most fully realized gay teenaged characters, Justin Taylor was 17 years old when Queer as Folk debuted. Over the five seasons the show ran, he started a Gay-Straight Alliance at his high school, was brutally gay-bashed at his prom, had to learn how to use his right hand again during his first year of art school, created a successful underground gay comic, fought the election of a homophobic mayor, opposed an anti-gay statewide ballot proposition, achieved acclaim as an artist, and oh yeah – won the heart of the guy who claimed not to have one, Brian Kinney.

Portrayed by out gay actor Randy Harrison, Justin was never one for agonizing over his sexual orientation or struggling with coming out. He may have made a couple of soapy detours through a brief career as a go-go boy and as a member of a gay vigilante group, but Justin Taylor was the first out, proud, and politically active gay teen on American series television.

2. Jack McFarland, Will & Grace

What can we say about Jack MacFarland, or “Just Jack!” as he often referred to himself. And when it came to every possible gay stereotype, the boy hit the bullseye each time.

Vain and self-absorbed? Check Flighty? Check. Catty? Check. Oversexed. Definitely check. Naturally, he even obsessed over pop culture divas. Who can forget the time he met Cher in person and mistook her for a drag queen? “You're not that great, Mr. Sister. I do a better Cher than you." He realized his mistake when she slapped him and, referencing her iconic line from Moonstruck, told him to “snap out of it.” At which point he promptly fainted.

And yet for all the negative stereotypes Jack embodied, Sean Hayes managed to make his character completely endearing and, yes, strangely palatable for straight audiences. Hayes earned seven Emmy nods and one win for his over-the-top portrayal. No surprise then that two years after Will & Grace went off the air, this comic creation would still rank as number two on our list. The boy is simply unforgettable.

1. Brian Kinney, Queer as Folk

Showtimes’s Queer as Folk wrapped up its 5-year run in 2005, but the anti-hero of the show, Brian Kinney (Gale Harold), still managed to win the most votes from AfterElton.com readers. It’s likely that if there’d been a vote for least popular gay character, he’d have won that, too. That’s partly because Brian Kinney pretty much wins at everything he does, and partly because the character is a very polarizing one in the gay community.

Handsome, arrogant, successful, and slutty, Brian spent five seasons running from love, almost-but-not-quite selling his soul for money and power, and drinking, drugging, and clubbing while trying to hide most of his good deeds – and the fact that he had a heart – from everyone around him. All of those contradictory qualities might make for good drama, but they don’t make Brian Kinney the best representative of the gay community in TV history. His character was often criticized for perpetuating negative stereotypes about gay men, even while his bad boy persona won him passionate fans.

Brian wasn’t just a bad boy, though; he was considerably more complex than that. The show included storylines in which he fathered a child for a lesbian friend, master-minded the downfall of a homophobic politician, and gave up power and financial success trying to bring the killer of a teenaged gay hustler to justice. He even ultimately admitted he’d fallen in love. And he did it all while wearing Prada and pretending not to give a damn. Really, other than the promiscuity, drug abuse, and anti-social behavior, what’s not to love?

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