As our Pride Month 2021 celebrations continue, we are today shining a spotlight on some of the most influential and powerful characters created for soap; all members of the LGBT+ community that audiences rooted for whenever they made an appearance on the small screen in their fictional but realistic communities.
Here are seven LGBT+ soap characters that paved the way for a generation…
7. Sophie Webster in Coronation Street, played by Brooke Vincent
Having being born on-screen, Sophie Webster is a character that many fans of Corrie have seen go from literal baby to fully-grown adult! Audiences watched as she became the first ever lesbian to walk the cobbles; something that had honestly taken far too long to actually happen.
Vincent won legions of fans thanks to her honest and stunning portrayal of Sophie and in particular, enjoyed rave reviews alongside Sacha Parkinson who played her girlfriend Sian Powers. Their relationship, which evolved from rejection to full-blown love affair, was handled delicately and with passion.
6. John Paul McQueen in Hollyoaks, played by James Sutton
Seeing John-Paul McQueen saved by Craig Dean (Guy Burnet) from school bullies in Hollyoaks before the pair fell completely in love with one another, is undoubtedly one of the most intricate and nuanced relationships we've seen in the Channel 4 soap's history.
Though their love is one that first started shrouded in history, we were taken on a relatable and realistic journey as the two came out to their loved ones before feeling happy and able to enjoy a relationship out of the shadows and in the spotlight.
5. Aaron Livesy in Emmerdale, played by Danny Miller
Though there were more than a few gay characters in soap by the time Aaron Livesy arrived in the Dales, we had never really had a homosexual ‘bad boy’, for lack of a better term. Stereotypes were still attached to many of the gay men we saw on television, so Aaron came along and smashed all of those expectations away.
We’ve seen Aaron go to prison (where he defended another gay prisoner against abuse), get involved with drugs and, even self-harm. The result of all of this? A character who we can all imagine being a part of the real world. What’s more important than that for a soap?
4. Colin Russell in EastEnders, played by Lord Michael Cashman
Back in August 1986, graphic designer Colin Russell arrived on Albert Square and, for the first time in British soap history, audiences saw two men share a gay kiss a few years later in 1989.
It was a moment that the tabloid press used to spread hatred and homophobia but, those working on EastEnders refused to let their foot off the gas. Instead, they showed us what reality really was for a homosexual man, rather than turning the character into a caricature and someone to simply poke fun at.
Lord Cashman would use his fame to fight for LGBT+ rights in his real life, founding the charity Stonewall and becoming an MEP to battle for equality across Europe.
3. Charity Dingle in Emmerdale, played by Emma Atkins
Lashings of love were given to the Emmerdale writers when they decided that Charity Dingle would fall in love with a woman, rather than pairing her with another man. Having a bisexual front-and-centre in some of their most explosive storylines was, unfortunately, not the done thing. So, to see it happen here was encouraging to say the least!
Still, there is work to be done. Seeing Charity cheat on her girlfriend with a random man who entered the picture was a storyline met with fury and accusations of feeding into stereotypical, biphobic tropes. Hopefully, Charity’s future as a bisexual woman is one that better reflects the bisexual community as a whole.
2. Syed Masood in EastEnders, played by Marc Elliott
EastEnders would make more history when they created the character Syed Masood, who became soap’s first gay Muslim. Our hearts broke when he told his family he was in love with another man, leading to him being disowned by the people who are supposed to support him no matter what.
The scenes were tragic but necessary, reflecting on what life is really like for those from deeply religious backgrounds. Fortunately, we did see Syed’s family come around and accept him back into their lives, before he moved to America with Christian Clarke, also played expertly by openly-gay star, John Partridge.
1. Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh
As the first transgender character in British soap history and the first permanent transgender character in the world of serialised drama, you didn't think we'd be able to put this list together without mentioning the formidable Hayley Cropper, did you?
Though she was only supposed to be a fleeting love interest on Corrie for Roy Cropper (David Neilson) in 1998, the pair’s on-screen chemistry encouraged writers to bring her on board full-time, where she would remain until her tragic death in 2014.
Showing that transgender people are at their core just people like the rest of us who fall in love and marry and enjoy healthy relationships was a hugely important thing to do on television, and the writers at Coronation Street paved the way for a future of realistic trans characters.
MORE FROM PRIDE MONTH 2021: Seven stunning coming out moments from TV characters who audiences love
Happy Pride Month 2021! Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the most important, influential and memorable queer moments to have hit the small screen and today, we’re shining a spotlight on some of our favourite television characters who came out to their loved ones...