The most memorable LGBT moments in British soaps

File photo dated 13/05/18 of Anna Friel, who has said she battled
File photo dated 13/05/18 of Anna Friel, who has said she battled "absolutely horrific" weather while filming in the remote Lake District for new series Deep Water.

While British soaps have long been at the forefront of LGBT representation on TV, EastEnders boss Kate Oates said the BBC still receives complaints when it features storylines involving gay characters.

The London-set show is not alone in breaking new ground, with Coronation Street and Brookside among the other soaps making TV firsts for the gay community.

Here are the most memorable LGBT moments in British soap opera history.

British soaps’ first gay kiss

Lord Michael Cashman played Colin Russell on EastEnders (BBC/PA)

EastEnders was the first soap opera to feature a gay kiss on British TV.

The characters of Colin Russell and Barry Clarke shared a moment of intimacy during a January 1989 episode and the historic moment was watched by about 20 million viewers.

Despite the relatively tame moment, especially by modern standards, the kiss caused uproar among critics.

Michael Cashman, who played Colin, later entered the House of Lords and became a prominent LGBT campaigner.

Brookside’s lesbian kiss

Anna Friel
Anna Friel was famously involved in the first lesbian kiss shown pre-watershed on British TV (Ian West/PA)

Liverpool-based soap Brookside became known for breaking new ground throughout its 21-year stint on Channel 4 and was responsible for perhaps the most famous LGBT moment in British soap opera history.

It was January 1994 when Anna Friel’s Beth Jordache embraced Nicola Stephenson’s Margaret Clemence for the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss on British TV.

Danny Boyle included the scene in the 2012 London Olympic opening ceremony, which was broadcast to more than five billion people around the world, including 76 countries where homosexuality is illegal.

A transgender character arrives in soapland

Julie Hesmondhalgh
Julie Hesmondhalgh starred as Haley Cropper on Coronation Street, the first transgender character in British soaps (Ian West/PA)

When Hayley Cropper arrived on the Coronation Street cobbles in January 1998, she represented another leap forward for LGBT representation on British TV.

Hayley – played by Julie Hesmondhalgh – was beloved by fans, and was best known for her marriage to Roy Cropper until her on-screen death in 2014.

While Hayley eventually became loved and accepted by her Corrie neighbours, she experienced discrimination and bullying when she first arrived, in a storyline designed to mirror the experience of many in the trans community.

The character has been credited with having a positive impact on trans rights in real life and she contributed to Parliament amending the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 so trans people could marry.

First instance of same-sex marriage

Kieron Richardson
Kieron Richardson was one half of the first instance of same-sex marriage in soapland (Ian West/PA)

Hollyoaks, set in a fictional suburb of Chester, was the first soap to feature same-sex marriage after it was legalised in 2014.

John Paul McQueen (James Sutton) and Ste Hay (Kieron Richardson) made the historic walk down the aisle during a Christmas episode.

Trans actor plays trans character for the first time

Riley Carter Millington
EastEnders’ Riley Carter Millington was the first trans actor to play a trans character on a British soap (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Riley Carter Millington’s arrival in EastEnders in 2015 marked the first time a trans actor had played a trans character in a British soap.

He played Kyle Slater, the half-brother of Stacey Slater.

Carter Millington’s impact has been praised by the LGBT community.


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