...but nowadays, there's so much amazing LGBTQ+ representation in animated children's shows, giving a whole new generation of young, queer kids the much-needed representation and visibility they need!
Steven Universe may be the queerest kid show on TV (though some of these shows are giving it a good run for its money!). Centered around the adventures of Steven and his adopted family of female warrior aliens called the Crystal Gems, the show isn’t shy about the fact that most of the gems are queer. Steven Universe deftly touches on very complicated topics such as homophobia, anxiety and domestic violence, making them approachable for children.
Magic Girl Friendship Squad: Origins
Magic Girl Friendship Squad: Origins has had a run on SyFy since 2020. The show features Daisy, an adult in her mid-20s that was chosen by Nut to save the universe alongside her roommate, Alex. Daisy, played by bisexual actress Anna Akana, who also voiced the character on the main Magic Girl Friendship Squad show, caused some debate when one of the writers said they hadn’t identified Daisy’s sexuality (yet) in November 2020.
However, since the script of the show lays the groundwork for Daisy to be interpreted as a trans lesbian, some fans weren’t having it. After attacking Akana online, she addressed the controversy, saying, “I agree trans actor should play trans characters, but the fact that people have tried to erase Daisy’s bisexuality is equally maddening. I rarely get to play a character true to my sexuality. Please don’t get your info off of random Twitter comments.”
Hoops is another short-lived series that only lasted for one season on Netflix. It follows a foul-mouthed high school basketball coach who wants his team to hit the big leagues and believes he has the option to turn his terrible team around.
Among the team is Scott, the number 9 jersey who is revealed to be gay in the first season. Part of his storyline follows people teasing him for “being straight,” but also depicts a relationship between himself and his boyfriend Neil. Scott is the main character throughout the 10-episode show, and his character is among the most compelling.
Crossing Swords was a short-lived animated series on Hulu that followed a peasant who dreamt of knighthood, and thus became a squire at the royal castle. The knight, Patrick, has a brother named Ruben who’s revealed to be gay in the first season. Throughout the second season, he pursues a relationship with Holden, the son of another king.
The surreal, dadaist Adventure Time is always...well, an adventure! While the show started as strange shorts, it has developed into a much deeper plot as Finn and his shapechanging dog brother Jake explore the post-apocalyptic world of Ooo. While censorship laws outside the US where the show is distributed stop Adventure Time from using specific terminology, they aren’t shy about the past (and current) feelings shared between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, nor other queer nods sprinkled throughout.
Sailor Moon Crystal
While the original adventures of this sailor-suited soldier of justice was many in the millennial generation's first brush with canon gay characters, the new Saillor Moon Crystal reboot is polished up and condensed down to a make for a more action-packed show. Now that it’s modern day, there’s no push to cover-up the queer storylines, like what happened in the '90s, US dub of the first show. Keep in mind, however, that Japan has a slightly different idea of what kid-friendly is. (This show might be best for your older kiddos!)
This show about two kids stuck in their great uncle’s Mystery Spot tourist trap for the summer is the perfect show for your kids if they keep trying to stay up late to watch Twin Peaks and The X-Files with you! While it’s not the only queer nod in the show, Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland’s loving reunion in the last episode confirmed what fans had assumed for a long time about the towns dorky (but loveable) police force.
Star vs. the Forces of Evil
This fu, little sister show of Sailor Moon finally treats LGBTQ+ characters like they’re no big deal. Girls confess crushes on girls like it’s no different than boys, same-sex couples snog in the background at school dances, and while main character Marco Diaz is a cishet dude as far as anyone knows, he certainly has no issues challenging the stereotypical boy’s role, loving cooking and happily dressing up as a princess when needed on their many magical girl adventures.
Danger & Eggs
This show, aimed at a slightly younger demographic then those before it on our list, is a brightly-colored romp through creativity. The show is centered around D.D., a child daredevil, and Phillip, a safety-oriented mutant egg. The first cartoon created by a trans woman, Shadi Petosky, the show is stuffed full of good morals and all sorts of queer characters. Most are even voiced by queer actors in this talent-filled cast, such as Stephanie Beatriz and Jasika Nicole.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
If you never caught the original, Cardcaptor Sakura follows the adventure of elementary student Sakura as she tracks down a series of magical cards she accidentally released. The show is bursting with cute and doesn’t shy away from queer crushes! Whether it’s Tomoyo and Sayoran’s childish crushes, or the more mature relationship between Sakura’s older brother and his boyfriend, the show's sequel, Clear Card, explores all levels of love.
The Loud House
The Loud House is a Nick show focused on the adventures of the massive Loud family. The show focuses on Lincoln, the middle child and only boy in his family of eleven. Like many of these shows, The Loud House is diverse across the board. His best friend Clyde is an adopted child of an interracial gay couple, and at least one of his sister’s crushes as easily on girls as boys.
From the same creators as Adventure Time, Clarence follows the (slightly more mundane) adventures of elementary school student Clarence and his BFFs Jeff and Sumo. The more pedestrian setting doesn’t rob the series of any charm or excitement compared to its more magical Cartoon Network peers on this list. Clarence’s buddy Jeff has two moms, and the ladies are often involved in the boy’s adventures.
The Legend of Korra
The Legend of Korra, and its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender, broke ground in many ways. The show tackled, both within its world and ours, subjects from sexism to the ethics of weapons of mass destruction. One of the most groundbreaking parts of it was becoming the first children’s show to star a canonly queer lead, with the last shot showing Korra and Asami gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, confirming the long, developing love between them.
During Pride Month 2020, Nickelodeon tweeted a series of rainbow-colored portraits of the network's LGBTQ+ actors and characters that included Michael D. Cohen, a trans actor from Henry Danger, Korra, our fave bi hero from The Legend of Korra, and the square yellow seas sponge himself, officially confirming SpongeBob SquarePants' status as a long-running LGBTQ+ character and icon.
"Velma in Mystery Incorporated is not bi. She’s gay," he wrote. "We always planned on Velma acting a little off and out of character while she was dating Shaggy because that relationship was wrong for her and she had unspoken difficulty with the why. I don’t think Marcie and Velma had time to act on their feelings during the main timeline, but post-reset, they are a couple."
This Disney channel series (from the same creative minds behind Gravity Falls) confirmed lead character Luz Noceda's (Sarah-Nicole Robles) queerness in the episode "Enchanting Grom Fright." Though Luz previously had crushes on male characters in the series, she asked by her female friend Amity (played by Avatar: The Last Airbender and Good Girls legend Mae Whitman) to be her date for their school's prom. This made history since Luz, a 14-year-old Dominican-American high schooler, can now be considered Disney Channel's first LGBTQ+ lead character.
"I'm bi! I want to write a bi character, dammit!" The Owl House creator Dana Terrace said in a tweet following the airing of the episode. "Luckily my stubbornness paid off and now I am VERY supported by current Disney leadership."
Adachi and Shimamura
Adachi and Shimamura depicts a budding romance against lesbian women, and also examines the realities of what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ in Japan. It’s a yuri light novel that centers around Hougetsu Shimamura and Sakura Adachi, two classmates who meet at their school gym and grow their relationship from there.
This show has cultural impact seeing as how Japan is historically hostile toward the LGBTQ+ communities and that Japanese government offers no legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. This is partially examined in the show by never outright confirming the character’s sexualities throughout the show.