The show features a large number of gay, lesbian and bisexual characters, including Colin Russell (played by Michael Cashman), Barry Clark, Simon Raymond, Tony Hills, Sonia Fowler, Naomi Julien, Tina Carter, Tosh Mackintosh, Ben Mitchell and Paul Coker. Kyle Slater, a transgender character played by Riley Carter Millington, was introduced in 2015.
In 1987 EastEnders showed the first ever gay kiss in a UK soap, much to the outrage of the viewing public. A small kiss on the forehead, given to Barry from Colin, received a record number of complaints from angry viewers. In addition, the right-wing British press reacted with fury. In January 1989, there was further uproar at the time for broadcasting the first mouth-to-mouth kiss between two gay men on British television .
- Caroline Frost, "30 Years Today, First Gay Character Appeared In ‘EastEnders’. Things Have Changed". Huffington Post UK 5 August 2016.
- "Coming out on screen", BBC News, 2 December 1998.
- Katherine Knowles, "211 complaints to BBC over gay EastEnders storyline, but do the public care?", Pink News 28 March 2006
- Ryan Love, "EastEnders LGBT domestic abuse plot praised following Tina, Tosh clash" Digital Spy, 28 October 2014.
- Neela Debnath, "EastEnders gay kiss: Ben Mitchell actor Harry Reid upset by homophobia" Daily Express 4 June 2015.
- "EastEnders casts transgender actor in transgender role on UK television", Newsbeat, 9 October 2015
- "EastEnders star turned MEP to hold gay marriage", Pinknews.co.uk.
- Rupert Smith, EastEnders: 20 years in Albert Square BBC Books, 2005.
- Colin (Michael Cashman) and Guido (Nicholas Donovan) kissed in an episode shown on 24 January 1989
- "EastEnders is the recipient of the Jackie Forster Gay Times Honour", Gay Times, 18 November 2017.