Gay and lesbian roles have come out of the closet and onto the small screen. Here are TV.com's picks for the most realistic portrayals of LGBT life on today's TV schedule.
In 1998, Will and Jack of NBC's hit comedy Will & Grace were some of the only gay people on TV -- and stereotypical ones at that. But their popularity helped pave the way for the more complex lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) roles we see on the small screen now. Even though the numbers are still small -- a recent study by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) found that only 2.6 percent of the characters on primetime broadcast shows are LGBT -- TV is (finally!) getting gayer by the day. Here are some of our LGBT favorites.
10. Gossip Girl (The CW)
Character: Erik van der Woodsen
In this bitchy, fashion-conscious drama for the young, female demographic, Gossip Girl's Eric van der Woodsen sticks out. Every girly girl wants a gay best friend, and Eric's sexual orientation rounds out the stereotype -- of young female divas, that is. The nature of the show means Eric is just an accessory to the girls, but we love him anyway.
9. True Blood (HBO)
Character: Lafayette Reynolds
Lafayette Reynolds is no diva -- he's a gay male prostitute who slings dope. Like the gay gangster Omar on HBO's The Wire, Reynolds challenges the stereotype that gay men are drama queens.
8. Raising the Bar (TNT)
Character: Charlie Sagansky
Charlie Sagansky, a gay law clerk on TNT's Raising the Bar, is so closeted about his sexual orientation that he has a relationship with a female judge. Though Sagansky isn't a major player on the show, his character adds complexity to the cast and reminds audiences that coming out isn't always easy.
7. Skins (BBC)
Character: Maxxie Oliver
Maxxie Oliver doesn't "deal with" being gay -- he's proud of who he is. But that doesn't mean he wasn't troubled when his best friend Anwar (played by Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel) initially had a hard time accepting his sexual orientation.
6. America's Next Top Model (The CW)
Contestant: Ebony Haith
An LGBT contestant from the first season of ANTM, Ebony challenged the idea that lesbians have a terrible sense of style. Any girl who doesn't want to dress butch and understands the difficulty of coming out can relate to her experience on the show. (Ebony's loft-mates condemned her because of her sexual orientation.) Of course, ANTM plays into the stereotype that all gay men are fashion-conscious (see: J. Alexander), but the inclusion of a gay contestant in the model house brought the issue to the forefront.
5. House (FOX)
Thirteen, the only female member of Doctor House's diagnostic team, surprised viewers, her colleagues, and her boyfriend when she got down and dirty with a woman last season. The reveal of her bisexuality shocked many who'd simply assumed she was straight.
4. Entourage (HBO)
Ari Gold would be lost without his trustworthy assistant Lloyd, a gay man Ari persistently mocks because of his sexual orientation. Despite his boss' insults, Lloyd knows Ari needs him, and Lloyd's grounded nature -- especially in Hollywood -- is an inspiration to all.
3. The L Word (SHO)
Character: The whole damn cast
Over the course of its five-year run, The L Word -- which received multiple nominations for GLAAD Media Awards -- featured a racy cast, countering the notion that lesbian couples are the least-sexed of all. The series (which ended in March) successfully explored same-sex relationships like Sex & the City explored heterosexual ones.
2. Mad Men (AMC)
Character: Salvatore Romano
Salvatore Romano is a closeted gay man working in a 1960s advertising agency, where masculinity means everything. Sal's fear of being discovered is so extreme that he goes to great lengths to hide his sexual orientation -- but who can blame him in such an intolerant environment?
1. Brothers and Sisters (ABC)
Character: Kevin Walker
Kevin Walker, the son of a supportive mother and the brother-in-law of Republican Senator Robert McCallister, struggles to accept his sexuality while facing judgement from some members of his family. Brothers & Sisters creator and writer Jon Robin Baitz, who is openly gay, does not shy away from the topic, and the show has been praised for its honesty.