Television is teeming with realistic, compassionate, messy coming out stories. Watching queer characters grapple with their sexuality and assert themselves as ‘not straight’ has been exciting, fraught with tension, satisfying and may have even involved tears. As we celebrate Pride month, let’s look at some of the coming out episodes we’ve enjoyed watching.

Denise in ‘Master of None’

The entire ‘Thanksgiving’ episode on Master of None (pictured above) is a masterpiece. We’re talking Angela Bassett, Lena Waithe, Kym Whitely and Venida Evans. And yeah, there’s Aziz Ansari in there somewhere as well. It’s one of the best pieces of storytelling we’ve come across and it even won Waithe her first Emmy. The episode follows Dev (Ansari) and his best friend Denise (Waithe) over a series of Thanksgivings and depicts Denise’s struggle to come out to her mother (Bassett), and its aftermath. Apparently, the episode was inspired by Waithe’s own life story. Denise and her mother are eating at a diner when she finally manages to come out to her. Bassett’s face undergoes a flurry of emotions and she responds with a, “I just, I don’t want life to be hard for you. It is hard enough being a black woman in this world. Now you want to add something else to that?”
Creators: Aziz Ansari, Alan Young
Cast: Aziz Ansari, Lena Waithe, Noel Wells, Eric Wareheim, Alessandra Mastronardi
Show: Master of None
Seasons: 2 (2015, 2017)
Streaming on: Netflix

Kurt Hummel in ‘Glee’

Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) is a high school diva who shimmies to ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyoncé, hits all the high notes at his Glee club, harbours on crush on the cute jock and lies to his father about having a girlfriend to come across as straight. However, he quickly abandons that plan in the favour of the truth and comes out to his father in one of the most heartening moments on the show. Burt Hummel (Mike O’ Malley) reacts in a very matter of fact way. After all, he’s known it since Kurt was three and asked for a pair of sensible heels for his birthday. And while he’s “not totally in love with the idea”, he does love Kurt and assures him he’ll always be there for him.
Creators: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Ian Brennan
Cast: Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, Darren Criss, Dianna Agron, Naya Rivera
Seasons: 6 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
Streaming on: Netflix

Elena Alvarez in ‘One Day at a Time’

When proud feminist Elena Alvarez had an inkling that she might like girls, she goes about it most methodically. She examines the possibility, confides in her brother, tries out a relationship with a cute boy who finds her cool before ultimately confirming that yes, she swings the other way. The show handles Elena’s coming out with great compassion. Her grandmother Lydia (Rita Moreno), who is a deeply religious woman, is initially wary, before remembering that the Pope said, “We’re all god’s children”. Elena’s absentee father recoils in disgust when he hears the news. But it is her mother, Penelope (Justina Machado) who has the most interesting reaction. Upfront she insists she’s very cool with it and expresses her support and love to Elena. However, when she goes to a gay bar to test the waters of acceptance, she admits to a stranger that this is not the life she pictured for her daughter. But when Elena really needs her mother, she’s there, with her unwavering support and a warm hug.
Creators: Gloria Calderon Kellet, Mike Royce
Cast: Rita Moreno, Justina Machado, Isabella Gomez, Todd Grinnell, Stephen Tobolowsky
Seasons: 3 (2017, 2018, 2019)
Streaming on: Netflix

Robin Buckley in ‘Stranger Things’

When we first set eyes upon Robin Buckley (Maya Thurman Hawke), serving up a ladle full of sass with hot fudge sauce, we fell hard. An intriguing woman who gives back as good as she gets, Robin is a polyglot, can decode Russian codes and put Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) in his place. And, it looked like she was destined to be Harrington’s girl until…she wasn’t. In one of season three’s most thoughtful moments, ‘the bathroom scene’, Robin explains that she wasn’t obsessed with Steve, but wildly jealous. Turned out that Robin’s crush Tammy Thompson would pay attention to Steve no matter what he did, and it was enough to make Robin go home and scream into her pillow. Steve is still totally oblivious, pointing out that Tammy’s a girl. All Robin can say in response is “Steve” and stare, till comprehension dawns upon him.
Creators: The Duffer Brothers
Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Natalia Dyer
Seasons: 3 (2016, 2017, 2019)
Streaming on: Netflix

Fabiola Torres in ‘Never Have I Ever’

Mindy Kaling’s razor-sharp teen comedy features Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and her two best friends, Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young) and Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez) navigating the choppy waters of high school. Fabiola, who dresses in boys’ polo shirts and is on the school’s robotics team has been struggling with her sexuality for a while. She goes along with Devi’s plan to date Alex Gomez (Gilberto Ortiz) to boost her popularity but has actually got her eyes on Eve (Christina Kartchner). The first person Fabiola comes out to is a non-sentient being, Gears Brosnan, her robot. After a couple of false starts, Fabiola finally comes out to her to mother who is initially a bit shocked but reassures her daughter of her love and support.
Creators: Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher
Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Richa Moorjani, Darren Barnet, Lee Rodriguez, Ramona Young, John McEnroe
Season: 1 (2020)
Streaming on: Netflix