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GLAAD Report: Broadcast TV Has Record-High Percentage of LGBTQ Characters but Diversity and Complex Stories Still Lacking
- Last updated: May 24, 2023
6.4% of characters on Broadcast TV are LGBTQ, but percentage of LGBTQ people of color falls; GLAAD counts non-binary and asexual characters for first time
Click here to read the full report: glaad.org/whereweareontv
New York – GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, today released its annual Where We Are on TV report. Where We Are on TV analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and assesses the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and original streaming series on the services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix for the 2017-2018 TV season. This marks the 22nd year that GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBTQ characters on television.
This year, the Where We Are report is being released at a time where LGBTQ acceptance is slipping, and where the Trump Administration is actively working to roll back the rights of all marginalized communities in unprecedented ways.
“As LGBTQ acceptance in government and the broader American culture reverses course, television is a critical home for LGBTQ stories and representation matters more than ever,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “At a time when the Trump administration is trying to render LGBTQ people invisible, representing LGBTQ people in all of our diversity in scripted TV programs is an essential counterbalance that gives LGBTQ people stories to relate to and moves the broader public to support LGBTQ people and families.”
While the report found the highest percentage of LGBTQ regulars on broadcast television (6.4%) since GLAAD began tracking broadcast series regulars, the report brought to light the continued lack of diversity among LGBTQ portrayals on television. In all forms of television that GLAAD tracks, LGBTQ characters are still predominantly white (77% of LGBTQ characters on streaming, 62% on broadcast, 64% on cable). The majority of LGBTQ characters are men (55% of LGBTQ characters on broadcast), and cisgender. There are only 17 transgender characters across all three platforms tracked – broadcast, cable, and streaming originals.
For the first time, GLAAD has been able to count non-binary characters and asexual characters in the Where We Are on TV report. While these identities have been depicted on screen before, those characters were often relegated to one-off episodes, which did not allow for nuanced exploration. Broadcast is the only platform tracked without a canon asexual character; cable and streaming each count one asexual character.
The emergence of these new stories is reflective of the real world. GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance survey found that 20 percent of Americans aged 18-34 (a key demographic for networks) identify as LGBTQ. Twelve percent of 18-34 year olds would call themselves “not cisgender,” and four percent identify as asexual. The inclusion of these stories is a welcome change, and GLAAD looks forward to seeing more of these characters.
“Numbers are only a small part of the story when it comes to LGBTQ representation on TV and simply being present onscreen is not enough,” said Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis at GLAAD. “While we’re pleased to see numbers on the rise, consideration of how LGBTQ characters are woven into storylines and whose stories are making it to screen is crucial for judging progress of the industry. And there is still work to be done.”
Additional findings include:
- Of the 901 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming this season, 58 (6.4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. This is the highest percentage GLAAD has found in the history of this report. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.
- The number of regular LGBTQ characters counted on scripted primetime cable increased to 103, and recurring characters increased to 70, making for 173 characters.
- There were 51 LGBTQ regular characters counted in original scripted series on the streaming services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix as well as 19 recurring characters. This is an increase of five total characters from last year.
- Bisexual+ characters make up 28 percent of the LGBTQ characters tracked across all platforms (broadcast, cable, streaming originals), a slight decrease from last year. These characters still heavily skew toward women (75 women to 18 men).
- This year, there are 17 regular and recurring transgender characters tracked across all three platforms. Of those, nine are trans women, four are trans men, and four are non-binary. This is notably the first time GLAAD has been able to count non-binary characters.
- Racial diversity of LGBTQ characters remains an area of concern. Of the 70 LGBTQ characters counted on streaming originals, 77 percent were white. All three platforms tracked here – broadcast, cable, and streaming originals – lacked LGBTQ characters of color.
- For the first time since GLAAD has started this report, we were able to count asexual characters. Cable and streaming each include one asexual character (Raphael on Freeform’s Shadowhunters Todd on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman), while there are no asexual characters on broadcast.
- Only 43 percent of the regular characters counted on broadcast primetime television are women, a decrease of one percentage point from last year and a severe underrepresentation of the U.S. population, which is estimated to be 51% women.
- The amount of regular primetime broadcast characters counted who have a disability has slightly increased to 1.8 percent, but that number still vastly underrepresents the actualities of Americans with disabilities. There are only two characters across all three platforms that are depicted has HIV-positive, a decrease of one from last year.
GLAAD’s Spanish-language media report, Still Invisible, will be released in mid-November and the next Studio Responsibility Index will be released in 2018. GLAAD uses the data from these reports to create a clearer picture of the stories and portrayals of LGBTQ people being presented by the media, and encourage networks and studios alike to include more diverse and substantive LGBTQ representations that accelerate acceptance.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.
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