Seeing two women or two men on screen does not make you gay. If it did then all the years of hetero-normative entertainment should’ve made us all straight. Yet here I am, bisexual, queer fem dating a gender-fluid boy. If anything, all the “straight” cartoons made me more bisexual than straight. Shego from Kim Possible and Meg from Hercules, definitely made me wonder if I was normal to feel ticklish feelings in the pit of my stomach.
Most of the time, it felt like being straight was the only normal thing. During “truth or dare” most kids would talk about or do something embarrassing in front of their opposite-sex crushes. We made being straight so normal, we just assume everyone is straight since birth. And the thought of being gay is something you need to announce rather than just be.
But imagine growing up seeing queer cartoon characters on the screen every Saturday morning. Two men holding hands, two moms raising a kid, and a kid wearing something that isn’t branded for men or women. Imagine growing up with a beautiful, rainbow-coloured, and inclusive world view. Wouldn’t it be amazing knowing your confusing feelings were normal? Cartoon mornings would’ve been great for most queer kids going through the tumultuous time of confusion!
So, for Pride here are some of my favourite cartoons I wish I had when growing up.
Every beautifully queer character in Steven Universe
After hearing Pearl sing “It’s Over, Isn’t It” on Cartoon Network as I was switching channels, I instantly fell in love with the show. I am a sucker for musicals but most importantly it was such a heartbreaking song I never thought I’d hear in a children’s cartoon. Next thing I knew I was down the Steven Universe rabbit hole filled with friendship, family, and beautiful queer representation.
We meet a diverse bunch of Crystal Gems, each with their own unique talents and skills. Despite taking the form of women, the Crystal Gems do not have any genders. There are also minor characters who are gender-nonconforming and non-binary, such as Steven and Connie’s fusion Stevonnie. The story is inclusive and diverse in queer representation without shifting focus away from the main plot of the cartoon.
Steven Universe was very upfront about the romances in the story instead of leaving in subtext, Sapphire and Ruby is a great example of that. From their cute flirting to twirling and kissing. They even had a wedding! Steven Universe is unapologetically portraying beautiful queer and non-binary relationships to kids. Showing that this is normal. Two women can fall in love, have a relationship, and get married.
The slow burn of Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen
Aside from Steven Universe, Cartoon Network had another show which featured a lesbian relationship. Adventure Time mostly focused on Finn’s journey as a hero but it featured a great cast of second leads, including Princess Bubblegum and Marceline. PB started as a potential love interest for Finn but it was obvious she didn’t have any feelings for him, What could’ve been a slow burn prelude to a hetero-normative romance, was actually a prelude to mend an old relationship.
It was clear both PB and Marceline had a past, one that ended a little rocky. Many fans were already shipping the two especially with all the clues and crumbs lying around. I love my friends but I don’t have any of their old t-shirts which I sniff every now and again. PB does this with a shirt Marceline gave her and it is honestly adorable.
Unlike most stories with hinted gay romance, the show creators didn’t announce their canon ship after the series finale, instead, they ended it with a kiss and cuddles. Definitely one of the best love stories in the show.
Partners for Life in Gravity Falls
A usual trend for most stories to include queer characters is to confirm the canon ship after everything is over. Some don’t even leave any bread crumbs for fan theories or end them in a vague friendship. But Gravity Falls took the chance and ended fan speculation between two characters. Although at first glance you wouldn’t think it was just another co-dependent bromance that defied toxic masculinity surrounding male friendships.
Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland has said they go to trips together, have sleepovers, and practically go into panic mode when one of them is in trouble. By the series finale, one line let this ship sail in all of its quirky glory. “We’re mad with power…and love,” the perfect way to sum up their relationship. Despite the last-minute confirmation, it made rewatching the series better. Their relationship was never questioned or even judge –just their work ethics mostly. It’s like a no big deal they are an out and proud couple.
Normalizing LGTBQIA+ Relationships in Star vs. the Forces of Evil
They were the first cartoon on Disney Channel to have same-sex couples kiss on screen. In the background of one episode, we see multiple smooches from same-sex couples. It’s not much but imagine being a kid and seeing two people kiss without someone throwing a fit. No one cares if they are two boys or two girls. It looks normal because it is normal.
Aside from normalizing same-sex makeout sessions, Star Vs The Forces of Evil also wanted boys to know it was okay to like makeup. In one episode where the gang was trying to find the missing Queen Moon, it is revealed Marco likes wearing makeup. He had a casual conversation with an actor who enjoys drag about contour and glitter highlights. It’s a great step out of the toxic locker room talk.
One thing I wish the creators confirmed was Star’s bisexuality. It was very clear she had googly eyes for thunder goddess Brunzetta and the alternate universe version of Marco. Although, it’s also great for kids to know it’s okay to find everyone cute.
The Queerest show we need right now: Danger & Eggs
This is the queer cartoon I wish I had growing up. It doesn’t hint same-sex romances or leaves bread crumbs for fans to consume. Danger and Eggs have trans youth, gay dads, and a lesbian folk duo! The show doesn’t let you jump through hurdles of a hinted romance instead they portray innocent LGTQIA+ friendships. It portrays a lively and diverse community out in the open. And their queerness is not their defining qualities throughout the show. Instead, they are portrayed out in the open with no judging eyes or cheesy storyline of acceptance.
It’s friendship, family, and love in the context of an accepting community. One episode focused on celebrating Pride! Pushing for more representation, the show has LGBTQIA+ talents voicing characters. It’s refreshing to see a cartoon where the queerness is not buried in subtext or to drive a plot forward. In the world of Danger and Eggs, it is okay to be who you are and love who you want because you are no different from everyone else.
Got any favourite cartoons with queer characters? Of course, there are a lot of beautiful queer cartoons right now. So, tell me! I’d love to add more to my watchlist.