Movies, media and television have a bad history of using gay or trans characters as a shocking plot device or hilarious joke, rather than treating sexual orientation or gender identity as a fact of life.
(Warning: Spoilers throughout.)
"S-Town"It doesn't seem that John B. McLemore was particularly private about his sexuality, having apparently spoken to reporter and "S-Town" host Brian Reed about being "a semi-practicing homosexual" openly and on the record. But for some reason, Reed chose to keep that fact from listeners until episode 3, framing it as a surprise. The show's sixth episode is devoted entirely to McLemore's past romantic and sexual partners, going into such detail about the private life of a dead man it almost feels invasive. Reed justifies this by saying that "trying to understand another person is a worthwhile thing to do," but if it's so crucial, why was it hidden from the narrative until after McLemore's death?
"Ugly Betty"For much of the first season of the ABC telenovela "Ugly Betty," Daniel believes his brother to have died in a skiing accident. However, he's eventually proven wrong when Alexis (Rebecca Romijn) returns to the family business having used the time away to secretly complete her transition. Upon her dramatic reappearance, other characters, apparently still reeling from the shock, openly speculate about the state of her genitals.
"How to Get Away With Murder"After spending a season with Annalise Keating, "How to Get Away With Murder" fans were surprised to learn in the Season 2 premiere that the Viola Davis character had previously had been in a relationship with a woman, played by Famke Janssen. One of Annalise's defining qualities is the way she plays her cards close to the vest, so the character's sexuality isn't revealed until they share a tearful kiss at the end of the episode.
"Pretty Little Liars"The dedicated fans of the Freeform drama "Pretty Little Liars" finally got all the answers they'd waited years for in the Season 6 midseason finale, when the mysterious "A" was finally unmasked. The character the Liars had come to know as Cece Drake was revealed to actually be Charlotte DiLaurentis, the sister Alison had known as "Charles" before her transition -- which took place while she was a patient at Radley Sanitarium.
"Fear the Walking Dead"Up until a pivotal Season 2 episode of "Fear the Walking Dead," little was known about the mysterious Victor Strand short of some hints toward an unsavory past. But it's eventually revealed through a series of flashbacks that he once fell in love with a man he tried to con and his boat, The Abigail, is not named for a woman, but for Thomas Abigail.
"Holy Hell"Will Allen's 2016 CNN documentary "Holy Hell" tells the story about the Buddhafield cult led by Michel Rostand, but it waits until the back half to reveal that the leader of the seemingly idyllic cult had been sexually abusing his male followers the entire time.
"The Office""Heroes" alum Jack Coleman joined the cast of "The Office" in Season 7 as a love interest for Angela, but speculation that he might be a closeted gay man becomes a major part of his storyline over the next season. His flirtation, and eventual affair, with Oscar is presented as a major shocker, while Angela's continued ignorance is played for laughs.
"The Overnighters"Jesse Moss' 2014 documentary follows the North Dakota pastor Jay Reinke, and though it begins as a story about a man who allowed more than 1,000 people to stay at his church during the recent oil boom, it's eventually revealed that Reinke had been battling his attraction to men all his life. In an emotional grocery store scene, Reinke comes out to his wife and reveals he'd been blackmailed by a former lover.
"Revenge"As part of Emily's Season 1 plot to get closer to Daniel and bring down the Graysons, she dispatches her friend Nolan to discredit Daniel's friend Tyler. After discovering that Tyler has previously hustled older gay men, Nolan reveals that he himself is "a 3 on the Kinsey scale" and the two have sex in front of a hidden camera.
"Desperate Housewives"Though Andrew's coming out eventually morphs into a surprisingly moving storyline about his relationship to his mother, it's revealed in a Season 1 episode when his mother's friend catches him at a pool party making out with another boy.
Grantland's "Dr. V's Magical PutterThe now-defunct Grantland took a lot of heat in 2014 when the site ran a lengthy story by reporter Caleb Hannan that posthumously outed Essay Anne Vanderbilt as a trans woman without her consent. Critics took particular issue with the story's first-person account of Hannan making the discovery and the accompanying line: "Cliché or not, a chill actually ran up my spine."
"Ace Ventura: Pet Detective"Jim Carrey's 1994 film "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" mocks women, gay people and the mentally ill, but it saves its harshest treatment for trans people. At the movie's climax, Carrey's character rips off her clothes in public in an attempt to prove that she is in fact "a man." The other characters recoil in disgust when the alluring police lieutenant is outed as a trans woman, as the theme song from another entry on this list plays.
"The Crying Game"Written and directed by Neil Jordan, 2002's "The Crying Game" is best remembered for a pivotal scene in which the main character, played by Stephen Rea, discovers that his main love interest (the Oscar-nominated Jaye Davidson) is a trans woman just as they're about to have sex.