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Homosexuality in speculative fiction

Homosexuality in speculative fiction (SF) refers to the incorporation of gay themes into science fiction or fantasy fiction and related genres. Such elements may include a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual LGBT character as the protagonist or a major character, or exploration of varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional.

Science fiction and fantasy have traditionally been puritanical genres orientated toward a male readership; they can be more constrained than non-genre literature by their conventions of characterization and their effect on depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also gives the freedom to imagine societies that are different from real-life cultures, making SF an incisive tool to examine sexual bias and forcing the reader to reconsider his or her heteronormative cultural assumptions. It is also claimed that LGBT readers identify strongly with the outsider status of mutants, aliens, and characters who lead hidden or double lives in SF.

Prior to the 1960s, explicit sexuality of any kind was rare in genre speculative fiction. For many years, the editors who controlled what was published attempted to protect their key market of adolescent male readers. As the readership broadened it became possible to include characters who were undisguised homosexuals, but these tended to be villains; lesbians remained almost entirely unrepresented. In the 1960s, science fiction and fantasy began to reflect the changes prompted by the civil rights movement and the emergence of a counterculture. New wave and Feminist SF authors imagined cultures in which homo- and bisexuality and a variety of gender models were the norm, and sympathetic depictions of alternative sexuality became commonplace.

From the 1980s onwards, homosexuality gained much wider mainstream acceptance, and was often incorporated into otherwise conventional SF stories. Works emerged that explored specific issues of the LGBT community, instead of simple representation. This was helped by the growing number of openly gay or lesbian authors and their early acceptance by SF fandom. Specialist gay publishing presses and a number of awards recognising LGBT speculative fiction achievements now exist, and blatant homophobia is no longer considered acceptable to most readers of speculative fiction. Homosexuality has also seen increased coverage within other SF media, although inclusion of LGBT themes in comic books, television and film continues to attract media attention and controversy, and lack of sufficient representation, along with unrealistic depictions, provokes criticism from LGBT sources.

Critical analysis

As genres of popular literature, science fiction and fantasy often seem more constrained than non-genre literature by their conventions of characterization and the effects that these conventions have on depictions of sexuality and gender. Science fiction in particular has traditionally been a puritanical genre orientated toward a male readership. Sex is often linked to disgust in SF and horror, and plots based on sexual relationships have mainly been avoided in genre fantasy narratives. On the other hand, science fiction and fantasy can also provide more freedom than realistic literature to imagine alternatives to the default assumptions of heterosexuality and masculinity that permeate many cultures. Homosexuality is now an accepted and common feature of science fiction and fantasy literature, it's prevelance due to the influence of lesbian-feminist and gay liberation movements.

In speculative fiction, extrapolation allows writers to focus not on the way things are (or were), as non-genre literature does, but on the way things could be different. It provides science fiction with a quality that science fiction critic Darko Suvin has called "cognitive estrangement", the recognition that what we are reading is not the world as we know it, but a world whose differences force us to reconsider our own with an outsider's perspective. When the extrapolation involves sexuality or gender, it can force the reader to reconsider his or her heteronormative cultural assumptions; the freedom to imagine societies different from real-life cultures makes SF an effective tool for examining sexual bias. In science fiction, such estranging features include technologies that significantly alter sex or reproduction. In fantasy, such features include figures such as mythological deities and heroic archetypes, who are not limited by preconceptions of human sexuality and gender, allowing them to be reinterpreted. SF has also depicted a plethora of alien methods of reproduction and sex, some of which can be viewed as homo- or bisexual through a human binary-gender lens. However, the representation of gay characters often remains contrived and stereotypical.

Author and editor Nicola Griffith has written that LGBT readers tend to identify strongly with the outsider status of mutants, aliens, and characters who lead hidden or double lives in science fiction.

Uranian Worlds, by Eric Garber and Lyn Paleo, is an authoritative guide to science fiction literature featuring gay, lesbian, transgender, and related themes. The book covers science fiction literature published before 1990 (2nd edition, 1990), providing a short review and commentary on each piece. A number of LGBT themed anthologies of speculative short fiction have also been published, the first being the science fiction themed Kindred Spirits (1984), edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot. These anthologies often focus on particular sexual identities, such as the New Exploits of Lesbians books edited by Kallmaker, Johnson, Watts and Szymanski, with titles in the fantasy (Magical lesbians, Fairy-tale lesbians) and horror (Twilight lesbians) areas. Others are grouped around particular genres, such as the award winning Bending the Landscape series edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel, in which each of the three volumes focus upon Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror; or the horror-orientated Queer Fear anthologies, edited by Michael Rowe.

SF literature


True History by the Greek writer Lucian (A.D. 120-185) has been called the earliest surviving example of science fiction and the first ever "gay science fiction story". The narrator is suddenly enveloped by a typhoon and swept up to the moon, which is inhabited by a society of men that are at war with the sun. After distinguishing himself in combat, the king gives the hero his son the prince in marriage. The all male society reproduces (male children only) by giving birth from the thigh or by growing a child from a plant produced by planting the left testicle in the moon's soil.

In other proto-SF works, sex itself, of any type, was equated with base desires or "beastliness", as in Gulliver's Travels, which contrasts the animalistic and overtly sexual Yahoos with the reserved and intelligent Houyhnhnms. Early works that contained LGBT themes and showed the gay characters to be morally impure include the first lesbian vampire story "Carmilla" (1872) by Sheridan Le Fanu and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde, which shocked contemporary readers with its sensuality and overtly homosexual characters.

The pulp era (1920-30s)

During the pulp era, explicit sexuality of any kind was rare in genre science fiction and fantasy. The frank treatment of sexual topics of pre-twentieth century literature was abandoned. For many years, the editors who controlled what was published, such as the famously prudish Kay Tarrant, assistant editor of Astounding Science Fiction, felt that they had to protect the adolescent male readership that they identified as their principal market. Although the covers of some 1930s pulp magazines showed scantily clad women menaced by tentacled aliens, the covers were often more lurid than the magazines' contents. In such a context, writers like Edgar Pangborn who featured passionate male friendships in their work were exceptional; almost until the end of their careers, including so much as a kiss would have been too much. Implied or disguised sexuality was as important as that which was openly revealed. As such, genre SF reflected the social mores of the day, paralleling common prejudices; This was particularly true of pulp fiction, more so than literary works of the time.

As the demographics of the readership broadened, it became possible to include characters who were more or less undisguised homosexuals, but these, in accordance with the attitudes of the times, tended to be villains: evil, demented, or effeminate stereotypes. The most popular role for the homosexual was as a 'decadent slaveholding lordling' whose corrupt tyranny was doomed to be overthrown by the young male heterosexual hero. During this period, lesbians were almost entirely unrepresented as either heroes or villains.

One of the earliest examples of genre science fiction that involves a challenging amount of unconventional sexual activity is the early novel Odd John (1935), by Olaf Stapledon. John is a mutant with extraordinary mental abilities who will not allow himself to be bound by many of the rules imposed by the ordinary British society of his time. The novel strongly implies that that he seduces an older boy who becomes devoted to him but also suffers from the affront that the relationship creates to his own morals.

The Golden Age (1940-50s)

In the Golden Age of science fiction, the genre "resolutely ignored the whole subject" of homosexuality, according to Joanna Russ. As the readership for science fiction and fantasy began to age in the 1950s, however, writers like Philip Jose Farmer and Theodore Sturgeon were able to introduce more explicit sexuality into their work. Sturgeon, who wrote many stories during the Golden Age of Science Fiction that emphasised the importance of love, regardless of the current social norms. In his short story "The World Well Lost" (1953), first published in Universe magazine, homosexual alien fugitives and unrequited (and taboo) human homosexual love are portrayed. The tagline for the Universe cover was "[His] most daring story"; its sensitive treatment of homosexuality was unusual for science fiction published at that time, and it is now regarded as milestone in science fiction's portrayal of homosexuality. According to an anecdote related by Samuel R. Delany, when Sturgeon first submitted the story, his editor not only rejected it but phoned every other editor he knew and urged them to reject it as well.

Sturgeon would later write Affair with a Green Monkey, which examined social stereotyping of homosexuals, and in 1960 published Venus Plus X, in which a single-gender society is depicted and the protagonist's homophobia portrayed unfavourably.

Although not usually identified as a genre writer, William S. Burroughs produced works a surreal narrative that estranged the action from the ordinary world as science fiction and fantasy do. In 1959 he published Naked Lunch, the first of many works such as The Nova Trilogy and The Wild Boys in which he linked drug use and homosexuality as anti-authoritarian activities.

Until the late 1960s, however, few other writers depicted alternative sexuality or revised gender roles, or openly investigated sexual questions. Images of homosexual male societies remained strongly negative in the eyes of most SF authors. For example, when overpopulation drives the world away from heterosexuality in Charles Beaumont's short story "The Crooked Man" (1955), first published in Playboy, inhumane homosexuals begin to oppress the heterosexual minority. In Anthony BurgessThe Wanting Seed (1962) homosexuality is required for official employment; Burgess treats this as one aspect of an unnatural state of affairs which includes violent warfare and failing of the natural world.

The New Wave era (1960-70s)

By the late 1960s, science fiction and fantasy began to reflect the changes prompted by the civil rights movement and the emergence of a counterculture. Within the genres, these changes were incorporated into a movement called "the New Wave," a movement more sceptical of technology, more liberated socially, and more interested in stylistic experimentation. New wave writers were more likely to claim an interest in "inner space" instead of outer space. They were less shy about explicit sexuality and more sympathetic to reconsiderations of gender roles and the social status of sexual minorities. Notable openly gay authors included Joanna Russ, Thomas M. Disch and Samuel R. Delany. Under the influence of New wave editors and authors such as Michael Moorcock (editor of the influential New Worlds) and Ursula K. Le Guin, sympathetic depictions of alternative sexuality and gender multiplied in science fiction and fantasy, becoming commonplace. The introduction of gay imagery has also been attributed to the influence of lesbian-feminist and gay liberation movements in the 1960s.

Feminist SF authors imagined cultures in which homo- and bisexuality and a variety of gender models is the norm. Joanna Russ's The Female Man (1975) and the award winning story "When It Changed", showing a female-only lesbian society that flourished without men, were enormously influential. Russ is largely responsible for introducing radical lesbian feminsm into science fiction.

Thomas Disch was publicly gay since 1968; this came out occasionally in his poetry and particularly in his novel On Wings of Song (1979). His other major SF novels also contained bisexual characters: in his mosaic novel 334, gay people are referred to as "republicans" in contrast to the straight "democrats". However, he did not try to write to a particular community: "I'm gay myself, but I don't write 'gay' literature."

Samuel R. Delany was one of the first openly gay science fiction authors; in his earliest stories the gay sexual aspect appears as a "sensibility", rather than in overt sexual references. In some stories, such as Babel-17 (1966), same-sex love and same-sex intercourse are clearly implied but are given a kind of protective colouration because the protagonist is a woman who is involved in a three-person marriage with two men. The affection all three characters share for each other is in the forefront, and sexual activity between or among them is not directly described. In Dhalgren (1975), his most famous science fiction novel, Delany peoples his large canvas with characters of a wide variety of sexualities. Once again, sex activity is not the focus of the novel although there are some of the first explicitly described scenes of gay sex in SF. Delany depicts characters with a wide variety of motivations and behaviours, not with the intent of a kind of covert advocacy but with the effect of revealing to the reader the fact that these kinds of people exist in the real world.

Delany's Nebula-winning short story "Aye, and Gomorrah" posits the development of neutered human astronauts and then depicts the people who become sexually oriented toward them. By imagining a new gender and resultant sexual orientation, the story allows readers to reflect on the real world while maintaining an estranging distance. Further award winning stories featuring gay characters, such as "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" were to follow, all collected in Delany's short story retrospective Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories). In later works, Delany blurs the line between science fiction and gay pornography. Delany faced censorship from book distribution companies for treatment of these topics.

Sexual themes also figure in the works of John Varley, who came to prominence in the 1970s. Many of his stories contain mentions of same-sex love and gay and lesbian characters. In his "Eight Worlds" suite of stories and novels, humanity has achieved the ability to change sex on a whim. Homophobia is shown to initially inhibit uptake of this technology, as in his story "Options", as it engenders drastic changes in relationships, with bisexuality eventually becomingthe norm for society. His Gaean trilogy features lesbian protagonists, and almost all the characters are to some degree bisexual. Other big name SF authors approached LGBT themes in individual works: In Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein (1973), the main character argues strongly for the future liberty of homosexual sex, but sex for the purpose of procreation remains held as the ideal. The female bisexuality in Stranger in a Strange Land has been described as mere titilation and male homosexuality in the same work was a "wrongness" deserving pity. Heinlein's use of sexuality is discussed in an essay entitled "The Embarassments of Science Fiction" by gay SF writer Thomas Disch. Ursula K. Le Guin often explores alternative sexuality in her works. She depicts trans-species sexuality in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), the sexuality of species in which individuals are neither "male" nor "female" but can have both male and female sexual organs and reproductive abilities, making them in some senses bisexual. Le Guin has subsequently written many stories that examine the possibilities SF allows for non-traditional homosexuality, such as the bisexual bonding between clones in "Nine Lives

James Tiptree Jr., a bisexual women writing secretly under a male pseudonym, explored the sexual impulse as her main theme; in her award-winning "Houston, Houston, Do You Read? she presents a female-only society after the extinction of men from disease. The society lacks stereotypically "male" problems such as war, but is stagnant. The women reproduce via cloning and consider men to be comical.

Elizabeth Lynn is an openly lesbian science fiction and fantasy writer who has written numerous works featuring positive gay protagonists. Her Chronicles of Tornor novels (1979-80), the first of which won the World Fantasy Award, were among the first fantasy novels to have gay relationships as an unremarkable part of the cultural background, and included explicit and sympathetic depictions of same-sex love; the third novel is of particular lesbian interest. Her SF novel A Different Light (1978) featured a same-sex relationship between two men, and inspired the name of the LGBT bookstore and chain "A Different Light". The "magical lesbian tale" "The Woman Who Loved the Moon" also won a world fantasy and is the title story in Lynn's The Woman Who Loved the Moon collection along with other gay speculative fiction stories.

Modern SF (post New Wave)

After the pushing back of boundaries in the 1960s and 70s, homosexuality gained much wider acceptance, and was often incorporated into otherwise conventional SF stories with little comment. This was helped by the growing number of openly gay or lesbian authors, such as David Gerrold, Geoff Ryman, and Nicola Griffith. In the 1980s, blatant homophobia was no longer considered acceptable to most readers. However, depictions of unrealistic lesbians continue to propagate for the titillation of straight men in genre works. In the 1990s, stories depicting alternative sexualities experienced a resurgence.

In the Mythopoeic-award-winning Unicorn Mountain (1988), Michael Bishop includes a gay male AIDS patient among the carefully drawn central characters who must respond to an irruption of dying unicorns at their Colorado ranch. The death of the hedonistic gay culture and safe-sex campaign resulting from the AIDS epidemic are also explored, both literally and metaphorically.

Gay characters became common enough that Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland contains an entry on gay mages as a fantasy cliche. Such characters are found in Mercedes Lackey's works, such as the Lambda award winning The Last Herald Mage Trilogy (1989), in which the protagonists are gay, and have magical powers. Their relationships are an integral part of the story, which takes places in the fictional world of Valdemar.

David Gerrold is an openly gay science fiction writer with a number of LGBT themed works. The Man Who Folded Himself examines the narcissistic love of a time-traveler who has gay orgies with alternate versions of himself. Gerrold's multi-award winning Jumping Off the Planet (2000) is the first book in a young adult series, in which a father kidnaps his three sons and goes to the moon; one son is gay, and rejected from college as he is ineligible for a scholarship available to straight people who agree to have their sexual orientation changed to prevent overpopulation. Gerrold received a Nebula award for a semi-autobiographical short story "The Martian Child" (1994), in which a gay man adopts a child. The story was later expanded to book length, and a feature film was produced in which the protagonist was straight, causing criticism.

Duane Simolke received a StoneWall Society award for Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure (2004), which includes gay themes and characters, and is an example of SF produced by a specialist publishing house for gay readers rather than for SF fans.

The post-publication revelation that Dumbledore, a secondary character in the Harry Potter series, was gay caused some controversy, in spite of his sexuality never been shown in the books. A school district in Illinios, US, banned the wearing of Harry Potter costumes during Halloween in response.

LGBT SF and the science fiction community

At least as early as the 1980 Worldcon (Noreascon Two), there were gatherings of gay and gay-friendly members of the SF community, including Samuel R. Delany, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Melissa Scott.

By 1988, the first Gaylaxicon science fiction convention was held. This led to the creation of the Gaylactic Network and the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards by the science fiction community. Gay-themed discussions are now a staple at conventions such as WisCon; for example, WisCon 30 featured a panel discussing "Why Women Write About Gay Men", and the 38th World Science Fiction Convention in Boston had a discussion panel entitled "The Closed Open Mind – Homophobia in Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories".

Some lesbian science fiction is targeted specifically to a lesbian audience, rather than science fiction fans, and published by small feminist or lesbian presses such as Naiad Press (defunct) and Bella Books.


A number of awards exist that recognise works at the intersection of LGBT and speculative fiction:

  • The Gaylactic Spectrum Awards honour works in science fiction, fantasy and horror which include positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered characters, themes, or issues.
  • The Lambda Literary Awards include awards for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Although the awards are given based on the quality of the writing and the LGBT themes, the author's sexual orientation is also a factor.
  • The Queer Horror Awards were created to honour works that involve significant, positive portrayal of LGBT characters, issues or themes within the area of horror and dark fantasy.
  • The James Tiptree, Jr. Award honours works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one's understanding of gender. Thus, it often goes to works which deal directly or tangentially with gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender issues.

Comics and manga

see also: LGBT characters in comics and Portrayal of lesbianism in comics
For much of the 20th century, gay relationships were discouraged from being shown in comics which were seen mainly as directed towards children. Until 1989 the Comics Code Authority (CCA), which imposed de facto censorship on comics sold through newsstands in the United States, forbade any suggestion of homosexuality. Artists had to drop subtle hints while not stating directly a character's orientation. Overt gay and lesbian themes were first found in underground and alternative titles which did not carry the CCA's seal of approval.

The CCA came into being in response to Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, in which comic book creators were accused of attempting to negatively influence children with images of violence and sexuality, including subliminal homosexuality. Wertham claimed Wonder Woman's strength and independence made her a lesbian, and stated that "The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies."

In recent years the number of LGBT characters has increased greatly in mainstream superhero comics; however, LGBT characters continue to be relegated to supporting roles, and generate criticism for the treatment gay characters receive.


Alpha Flight’s Northstar was the first major gay character in the Marvel universe and remains the most famous gay character in mainstream comics. Created by Marvel comics in 1979 as a member of the original Alpha Flight superhero team, Northstar's sexual identity was hinted at early in his history, in 1983 in issues 7 and 8 of Alpha Flight, but not openly stated; his apparent lack of interest in women was chalked up to his obsessive drive to win as a ski champion. The character was finally revealed to be gay in 1992's Alpha Flight issue 106, and his outing made national headlines.

In 2002, Marvel Comics revived The Rawhide Kid in their Marvel MAX imprint, introducing the first openly gay comic book character to star in his own magazine. The first edition of the Rawhide Kid’s gay saga was called Slap Leather. According to a article, The character’s sexuality is conveyed indirectly, through euphemisms and puns, and the comic’s style is campy. Conservative groups quickly protested the gay take on the character and claimed that children would be corrupted by it, and the covers carried an "Adults only"label.

Marvel's policy had stated that all series emphasizing solo gay characters must carry an "Adults Only" label, in response to conservative protests. But in 2006 Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada claimed that this policy is no longer in force, and Marvel received GLAAD’s 2005 Best Comic Book Award for its superhero comic book Young Avengers, which was published as a mainstream book with no warning label.


DC has be noted to have greater representation of LGBT characters than its rival Marvel comics, although still drawing criticism for it's use of stereotypes. Firebrand, a superhero debuting in 1941, is thought by some to be an early example, with his pink or transparent costume. Writer Roy Thomas penned thought balloons that suggested Firebrand had been involved in a gay relationship with his sidekick and bodyguard Slugger Dunn.

A more modern example is the violent vigilante superhero Midnighter. The Batman-like Midnighter was shown as being in a relationship with his Superman-like Apollo during their time as members of the superhero team The Authority. Midnighter and Apollo are now married and have an adopted daughter - Midnighter has gone on to star in his own title.

In 2006 DC Comics could still draw widespread media attention by announcing a new, lesbian incarnation of the well-known character Batwoman even while openly lesbian minor characters such as Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya already existed in DC Comics.

In addition to true LGBT characters, there has been controversy over various homosexual interpretations of the most famous superhero comic book characters. Batman's relationship with Robin has famously come under scrutiny, in spite of the majority of creators associated with the character denying that the character is gay. Psychologist Fredric Wertham, who in Seduction of the Innocent asserted that "Batman stories are psychologically homosexual", claimed to find a "subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures of the mature 'Batman' and his young friend 'Robin'". It has also been claimed that Batman is interesting to gay audiences because "he was one of the first fictional characters to be attacked on the grounds of his presumed homosexuality," and "the 1960s TV series remains a touchstone of camp. Frank Miller has described the relationship between Batman and the Joker as a "homophobic nightmare", he views the character as sublimating his sexual urges into crime fighting.

Some continue to play off the homosexual interpretations of Batman. One notable example occurred in 2000, when DC Comics refused to allow permission for the reprinting of four panels (from Batman #79, 92, 105 and 139) to illustrate Christopher York's paper All in the Family: Homophobia and Batman Comics in the 1950s. Another happened in the summer of 2005, when painter Mark Chamberlain displayed a number of watercolors depicting both Batman and Robin in suggestive and sexually explicit poses. DC threatened both artist and the Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery with legal action if they did not cease selling the works and demanded all remaining art, as well as any profits derived from them.

Yaoi and Yuri manga

Yaoi (やおい) is a publishing genre which focuses on male/male relationships and is marketed at females. Anal sex is uniquitous. The genre originated in Japan and encompasses manga, anime, novels and dōjinshi. In Japan, this genre is called "Boys' Love" and yaoi as a genre name is mostly used by western fans. Yaoi has spread beyond Japan; yaoi material is available in the United States, as well as other Western and Eastern nations worldwide. As with much manga and anime, SF and fantasy tropes and environments are common. For example Innocent Bird is a manga in which the main characters are angels and demons. Ai no Kusabi is a 1980s yaoi light novel series involving a science fictional caste system. The characters of yaoi do not tend to self-identify as gay.

There is also "gay manga" specifically targeted at gay men, with gay characters. Yaoi writers and fans distinguish these "gay manga" as being separate from yaoi.

The female (hence lesbian) counterpart of Yaoi is called Yuri. Yuri can focus either on the sexual or the emotional aspects of the relationship, the latter sometimes being called shōjo-ai by western fans. Although yuri originated in female-targeted works, today it is featured in male-targeted ones as well.

SF television and film

In general, SF on television and film has lagged behind literature in its portrayals of homosexuality. Cinema becoming more sexually explicit from the 1980s, but aiming to entertain rather than exploring underlying sexual dynamics. Much of the sex in SF film is merely intended to titillate. Sexual relationships in major SF franchises have generally been depicted as heterosexual in nature. Inter-species and inter-ethnic relationships have been commonly depicted, while homosexual and transgendered (LGBT) relationships are more rare. The platonic close male relationships in television and film science fiction have been reinterpreted by fans as slash fiction - Kirk/Spock being the earliest example.

The Xena: Warrior Princess fantasy television series introduced its main characters, Xena and Gabrielle, as close companions; fan speculation about lesbian overtones led to them becoming lesbian icons. The series has been cited as "trail-blazing" and breaking down barriers, allowing the production of subsequent programming such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which introduced a number of LGBT characters. The most famous is the major character, Willow and her partners Tara and Kennedy. Andrew Wells, a recurring villain and eventual ally, was strongly implied to be gay, although closeted. The series was influential on subsequent television SF, including Torchwood. The series won a number of LGBT themed awards, and was regarded as groundbreaking in its portrayal of gay youth.

Torchwood is a British science fiction drama television programme, part of the long-running Doctor Who franchise, which began airing in 2006 on BBC Three. The series explores several themes in its narrative, in particular LGBT themes. Various characters are portrayed as sexually fluid; through those characters, the series examines homosexual and bisexual relationships. Although the nature of their sexual flexibility is not explicitly discussed, the characters offer varying perspectives on orientation, with The Sun describing all of the characters on Torchwood as bisexual. Series creator Russell T. Davies has said that he hopes to defy audience expectations of monosexual characters: "Without making it political or dull, this is going to be a very bisexual programme. I want to knock down the barriers so we can't define which of the characters is gay. We need to start mixing things up, rather than thinking, 'This is a gay character and he'll only ever go off with men.'" Davies has also described Jack Harkness as omnisexual: "He'll shag anything with a hole. Jack doesn't categorise people: if he fancies you, he'll do it with you."

The inclusion of singificant LGBT characters in modern SF television series has not been universal. Foe example the Star Trek franchise's lack of same-sex relationship has long been a sore spot with LGBT fandom, some of whom have organised boycotts against the franchise to protest its failure to include LGBT characters. They also point out that Gene Roddenberry had made statements in later life favourable to acceptance of homosexuality and the portrayal of same-sex relationships in Star Trek, but that the franchises coverage has remained meagre.

Homosexuality has occasionally been treated as an "issue" within the new Star Trek franchises, to be dealt with as a theme in individual episodes, such as the 1995 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Rejoined," which was the first episode of the show to feature a same-sex relationship and romantic same-sex kiss between women. Subsequently, the Star Trek franchise has portrayed a few same-sex kisses, but always in the context of either the evil "mirror universe" ("The Emperor's New Cloak") or body possession ("Warlord" and others), and often for comedic purposes between otherwise heterosexual characters. In a 2000 Fandom interview, Star Trek screenwriter Ronald D. Moore suggested that the reason why no gay characters existed in the television franchise was because someone wanted it that way, and no amount of support from fans, cast or crew was going to make any difference. In recent years, a few of the Star Trek novels, which are officially licensed but not considered canon, have featured serious direct same-sex relationships, including portraying a minor canon character (Lieutenant Hawk from Star Trek: First Contact) as gay.

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