While I hear myself regularly saying that we are everywhere on television and how I don’t have to go far to find another example of LGBT characters and stories, GLAAD makes it a point to really break down the numbers and see what’s good and what’s not so good year after year.
"Twenty years ago, GLAAD began tracking the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) characters on television, and at the time, you could count them on one hand," writes CEO/President of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis in her intro letter to the report. But the work isn't done yet, she says. "We've witnessed tremendous progress in television since GLAAD began tracking the presence of LGBT characters 20 years ago, but there is still a great deal of work to be done and many new and exciting stories to be told."
From the GLAAD website, here are some of the surprising findings in the report research this year:
- Of the 881 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime programming in the coming year, 35 (4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. There were an additional 35 recurring LGB characters.
- The number of regular LGBT characters counted on cable increased from 64 to 84, while recurring characters increased from 41 to 58.
- For the first time, GLAAD counted LGBT characters on original series that premiered on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. GLAAD found 43 series regulars and 16 recurring LGBT characters across 23 series.
- There are no transgender characters counted on primetime broadcast programming, while only three recurring trans characters were counted on cable (2%). Streaming series boast the highest percentage of trans characters at 7% (4) with two notably being series leads. Of the seven trans characters counted, only one was a transgender man.
- Bisexual representations rose on both broadcast and cable this year with a notable increase (from 10 to 18) in the number of bisexual men appearing on cable programs. Unfortunately, many of these characters still fall into dangerous stereotypes about bisexual people.
- All three programming platforms need to include more racially diverse LGBT characters. Overall racial diversity is moving in the right direction with 33% (287) of 881 regular characters counted on broadcast programming being people of color, which is a six-point increase from last year.
- GLAAD found that 16% (145) of regular characters on broadcast programming will be Black; the highest percentage since GLAAD began compiling comprehensive racial data 11 years ago. However, Black women remain significantly underrepresented with only 59 of those characters being female.
- This year, 43% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of three percentage points from last year but still greatly underrepresents women in the population.
- For the first time in two years, the percentage of regular characters depicted as living with a disability on broadcast programming has dropped, down to 0.9% from 1.4% reported last year. Between broadcast and cable, there is only one recurring character who is depicted as HIV-positive (Oliver on ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder).
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.