Only two “Orange is the New Black” characters ended up on this list (the other we wrote about here), but it should be noted how remarkable the series’ entire cast of characters is when it comes to LGBT representation. Especially because every single once of them are women: Piper Chapman, Alex Vause, Nicki Nicols, Lorna Morello, Carrie “Big Boo” Black, Tricia Miller, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, Poussey Washington, Brook Soso and — the character of honor here — Sophia Burset. For a series as popular as “OITNB” to offer 10 female characters is unprecedented (sorry, “L Word” fans, but that show was nowhere near as popular as “OITNB), and our /bent hats are seriously off when it comes to what that means.
Now, for us to place Sophia Burset — played by the incomparable Laverne Cox — as the highest ranked LGBT character on this list is obviously somewhat questionable because of her screen time (she’s technically a recurring character, compared to regulars like Piper, Alex, Nicki and Suzanne. But Burset (and Cox) have done so much with what “OITNB” has offered, that we’re pretty confident we made the right choice.
A transgender woman who went to prison for credit card fraud, Burset’s heartbreaking backstory was exceptionally revealed in the Jodie Foster-directed season one episode “Lesbian Request Denied” (one of the series’ best episodes). To finance her gender transition, Sophia committed fraud and landed herself in jail — jeopardizing her relationships with her wife Crystal and son Michael. She’s made the best of prison, working as a hairdresser while rallying to get the hormone dosages she needs despite discriminatory efforts to reduce them from the prison administration. The fact that millions and millions of “Orange is the New Black” viewers witnessed this story is one of the most powerful moments in transgender representation on television or elsewhere, and launched Laverne Cox as the wonderful, thoughtful trans activist we all have come to know her as. All we can ask for is a whole lot more Sophia come season three (she easily could have been #1 on this list with a little more screen time).