10 LGBTQ+ Asian diasporic TV shows to binge this Pride

Writer Teresa Tran weighs in on the best dramas to celebrate gaysians, this month and beyond

In honor of pride month, let's binge some TV shows and movies with Asian LGBTQ+ characters.

Photo illustration by Ryan Quan

Words by Teresa Tran

The one-two punch of AANHPI Heritage Month and Pride means that for the team at JoySauce, we’re celebrating gaysians big time. Add to that the beginning of summer and its longer, lazier days, and you’ve got plenty of reasons to binge our favorite LGBTQ+ Asian, Asian American, and Asian diaspora TV shows, whether it’s a romance, a new genre series, or a coming-of-age story.

In honor of Pride, we’ve curated our top 10 dramas that highlight queer Asian and Asian American characters—something that wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago. Not only are these series fun to watch, but they’re also a refreshing departure for audiences looking for stories about LGBTQ+ Asians, Asian Americans, and Asians across the diaspora that aren’t centered around the white gaze and white standards of queerness.

XO, Kitty (Season One) (2023)

XO, Kitty is the spinoff show of Netflix’s beloved movie franchise To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on Jenny Han’s contemporary young adult romance book trilogy of the same name. Centered around Lara Jean Covey’s youngest sister Kitty Song Covey (Anna Cathcart), a 16-year-old Kitty moves across the world to surprise her long-distance Korean boyfriend Dae (Choi Min-young) only to find out he’s been cheating on her with popular rich girl and daughter of the headmaster, Yuri (Gia Kim). We find out early in the show that Dae is Yuri’s boyfriend in appearances only, as Yuri is actually a closeted lesbian. Although Kitty and Yuri start on the wrong foot, they eventually grow closer. I loved the show for its depiction of young queer exploration and teen dramedy, all in the beautiful backdrop of Seoul.

XO, Kitty season one can be streamed on Netflix and the show has been renewed for a season two.

Kung Fu (Season Two) (2021)

CW was one of my favorite television channels growing up, with favorites such as The 100, Supernatural, and Regin. But these shows rarely had Asian or Asian American representation in them, let alone LGBTQ+ Asian and Asian American characters. That is until Kung Fu’s season two premiered, and we finally got to a queer Asian couple in Ryan Shen (Jon Prasida) and Sebastian Cailao (JB Tadena). Kung Fu follows a 25-year-old Chinese American woman named Nicky Shen who goes from college dropout to martial artist as she fights corruption in her hometown San Francisco, all the while seeking revenge against the assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor. Ryan is Nicky’s estranged younger brother, an openly gay medical student. When he finally got a love interest in season two, I cheered! Let my studious boy be happy!

Kung Fu can be streamed on Max (formerly HBO’s Max).

Never Have I Ever (Season Three) (2020)

Season three of Mindy Kaling’s Netflix coming-of-age show about a second-generation Indian American high schooler features a new “it” couple: queer interracial pairing Aneesa Qureshi (Megan Suri) and Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez). There’s nothing more satisfying than a slow burn, and this couple proves the friends-to-lovers trope is still one of the best! This ship was such a nice change from the extremely heterosexual pairings that the main character Devi was constantly getting into. If you enjoy watching an earnest and sweet queer relationship slowly unfold, this is it.

All four seasons of Never Have I Ever can be streamed on Netflix.

Good Trouble (2019)

I used to religiously watch ABC Family/Freeform’s series The Fosters, so when I found out they were making a spinoff show called Good Trouble and that it featured a lesbian Asian couple, I knew I had to watch. Good Trouble continues right where The Fosters left off, this time following Callie and Mariana as they try to make their careers in Los Angeles. While aspiring comedian Alice Kwan (Sherry Cola) and free-spirited medical student Sumi Liu (Kara Wang) are the supporting characters, their relationship provides much-needed comedic relief and joyful levity to the show. Through this couple, the show also handles topics such as Stop Asian Hate as it intersects with queer female identity with deft and care. Honestly, the best dialogue and arc in the show belongs to Alice and Sumi, who have to navigate the tricky, at times amusing, balance between being queer lovers and best friends.

All five seasons of Good Trouble can be streamed on Hulu.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin (Season One) (2022)

In a spinoff show of the iconic ABC Family/Freeform series Pretty Little Liars, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is a coming-of-age slasher drama mystery about a new generation of diverse teens who find themselves tormented by the mysterious “A.” The highlight of the first season is the Asian American lesbian couple Elodie and Shirley Honrada (Lea Salonga, Kim Berrios Lin) and their queer daughter Mouse (Malia Pyles). While it’s nice to have young LGBTQ+ Asian American representation, it’s rarer and just as important to get older LGBTQ+ Asian American representation. The show occasionally leans into teen drama cliches, but in its quieter domestic scenes depicting the mundane dramas of queer family life between Elodie and Shirley, the show shines.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin seasons one and two can be streamed on Max (formerly HBO Max).

Word of Honor (2021)

Out of the Chinese dramas (C-dramas) with significant LGBTQ+ characters and storylines, Word of Honor is by far the most fearless with its representation of queerness. This show is also my personal favorite of this entire list. Based on the Chinese wuxia (martial arts) web novel Faraway Wanderers by prolific web novelist Priest, Word of Honor is about a guilt-ridden leader of a royal secret assassin service group in his mid-30s Zhou Zishu (Zhang Zhehan) who after a reflection on his past deeds, decides to take drastic measures to resign from his position and leave his former violent life behind. He goes on the run and hides his true identity by disguising himself as a street urchin with the intent of living out a self-inflicted punishment and isolation in peace, only to be pursued by a mysterious traveler named Wen Kexing (Gong Jun) with a flirty attitude and a secret identity of his own. Despite not being able to market the show as an explicitly queer show or depict a kiss between the two leads due to government censorship, Word of Honor is unafraid to show everything beyond the physical that comes with a queer relationship between two men. It’s funny, romantic, action-packed, features extremely well-written dialogue about the morality of good and evil, and has a special episode with a guaranteed happy ending. It tops the small but growing list of queer Chinese dramas such as Guardian and The Untamed, and yet-to-be-released shows such as Mo Du, Immortality, and Eternal Faith.

Word of Honor can be streamed on Netflix and Viki.

Sort Of (2021)

Sort Of is a transcendent show about a non-binary first-generation Pakistani Canadian named Sabi Mehboob who’s figuring out the ups and downs of relationships and dating in Toronto. What sets this show apart is the fact that it’s portrayed by Bilal Baig, who stars, executive produces, co-creates, and co-writes the show. The show is somewhat satirical and employs dark humor to talk about universal topics such as navigating jobs, gender and racial identity, and sex. It’s honestly one of the most original, underrated shows I’ve ever watched and features a whole cast of queer characters that anyone can relate to.

Sort Of can be streamed on Max (formerly HBO Max).

Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! (2020)

The show’s concept is best explained by the opening dialogue in the first episode, “If you’re still a virgin when you turn 30, you turn into a wizard.” A mix of slapstick comedy and romance, Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!, or Cherry Magic for short, is a Japanese drama about corporate worker 30-year-old Kiyoshi Adachi (Eiji Akaso) who one day gains the magical ability to read the minds of anyone he physically touches. Although he tries to avoid touching people, he accidentally reads the mind of his colleague Yuichi Kurosawa (Keita Machida), who, up to this point, assumed he hated Adachi. Upon learning that that couldn’t be farther from the truth, Adachi wrestles with his growing feelings for the stoic and straight-laced Kurosawa, while also maintaining his secret magical ability. While the show is often very funny, it’s really the sweetness and tenderness of the queer relationship at the center of the story that marks this show as one of my favorites. The show became so successful in Japan that it even spawned a sequel movie.

Cherry Magic can be streamed on Prime Video and Crunchyroll.

Couple of Mirrors (2021)

One of the best Chinese dramas of 2021, Couple of Mirrors is a queer romance melodrama set during China’s early Republican era in the early 20th Century about a young female socialite author with a sunny disposition You Yi, who becomes friends with Yan Wei, a young female photographer with a cold personality and dark past as a former soldier. When You Yi’s life becomes upended by a betrayal, Yan Wei accompanies and protects You Yi as the latter seeks refuge. The acting, costuming, and cinematography are truly the highlights of the drama. The story is incredibly immersive and the quality of the production, from the cast to the crew to the script, is a lot higher compared to majority of contemporary Chinese dramas. When we see Yan Wei slowly warm up to You Yi and develop a budding romance, it’s incredibly satisfying and feels earned.

Couple of Mirrors can be streamed on YouTube, Viki, and Amazon Prime.

KinnPorsche: The Series (2022)

It would be remiss to craft a list of favorite LGBTQ+ Asian and Asian American shows and leave out the breakout Asian drama of 2022, KinnPorshe: The Series, also known as KinnPorshe. Based on the web novel of the same name by writing pair Daemi, KinnPorshe is a Thai action romance drama about the second son of a Mafia boss, Kinn Theerapanyakul (Phakphum Romsaithong), who is on the run from an enemy and is subsequently saved by a newbie young bartender named Porshe (Nattawin Wattanagitiphat). This show took Asian dramaland by storm in 2022, and after watching it, I can understand why. It’s smart, action-packed, and unafraid to be sexually explicit. The best part of the show is the incredibly riveting chemistry between the two leads. The show is often described as the breakthrough show for Thai queer shows and Thai dramas in general. I really loved how the show wasn’t afraid to swing for the fences and have flirting and makeout sessions amidst the most bonkers and brutal action scenes. After KinnPorshe broke through to the mainstream and amassed a large international fanbase, it has since spawned a whole genre of queer Thai shows following in its footsteps.

KinnPorsche: The Series can be streamed on iQiyi.

Published on June 18, 2024

Words by Teresa Tran

Teresa Tran (she/her) is an American-born Vietnamese writer and filmmaker based in Atlanta, Georgia, with a background in theater and community organizing. She has a B.A. in English and Women’s Studies and a B.S.Ed in English Education from the University of Georgia and studied British Literature at the University of Oxford. She is currently writing and directing her own short films and working on her debut novel. You can find her on Twitter at @teresatran__.