You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Spanish-Language Media Fails to Recognize LGBT and Other Diverse Content (Guest Column)

When I came to the United States at age six with my family, none of us spoke English. It was tough. We had to maneuver many new and frightening things. Media sometimes helped bridge that large and cold divide between our old home and our new home. That moment, of turning on the TV and hearing someone speak the language of your past, of your dreams, the language spoken by the people you left behind, was powerful.

It is still powerful. For immigrants, who today arguably (and sadly) face more discrimination than we faced in the 1970s, media can be a place of comfort.

The connection is intellectual as well as emotional. Spanish-language media does a good job covering stories. Everything from daily detentions, raids, deportations, and confusing changes in policy that hurt immigrants, to natural disasters and the misdeeds of political figures like Joe Arpaio, is often covered more deeply in Spanish-language media.

Those of who are bilingual can turn to Spanish-language media for news about the world, but can we tune in when we want to be entertained? When we need a laugh or a good cry? The answer’s a resounding no if you’re LGBTQ or simply want to see diverse stories and characters. LGBTQ people, people of color and people with disabilities are practically nowhere to be found in Spanish-language entertainment.

GLAAD just published a tally of these disappointing numbers in its Spanish-language media report, Still Invisible, the second installment of its report that analyzes the LGBTQ characters in primetime scripted television. The percentages of LGBTQ characters stayed virtually the same as last year, and the stories remained as shallow as ever.

Of a total of 698 characters in shows airing in the United States between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 on primetime (7 p.m. to 11 p.m.), just 19 (3%) were LGBTQ. And most were not main characters.

Of the LGBTQ characters, six (30%) died and six did not have motivations of their own – they only served to further other characters storylines. No transgender men were represented, only one transgender woman was shown and bisexual women were often represented stereotypically, as sexually voracious—essentially a way to include presumably titillating sexuality between women while keeping a heterosexual pairing as the central story. In a few examples the gay character, or the character assumed to be gay, was a clichéd trope and present only for laughs.

All of this makes us what to say to producers in Mexico, Colombia, Miami and Los Angeles, it is not the 1970s! We are sick and tired of either being invisible or insignificant.

Some producers are making an effort and streaming platforms are starting to catch up, with LGBTQ characters in shows like “Ingobernable” or “Chicas del Cable” on Netflix, but it’s not enough.

As a friend recently pointed out, “Will & Grace” not only happened once for English-language TV viewers, but they’re back for a second go-around. Those of us who are Latinx are still waiting for a story like that, in which the leads are LGBTQ and have actual roles to play in the narrative, as opposed to acting like colorful (literally often dressed in bright colors) window dressings. Where is our “Scandal” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Empire,” “Glee,” or “Orange is the New Black”? These shows, by the way, are hits not only in the United States, but abroad.

Why? Because inclusion is good for the bottom line.

The business case for diversity is powerful. Younger Latinx people are much-coveted consumers because they spend a lot of money on entertainment. Increasingly, however, young people, of all ethnicities, are cutting the cord. If we want them to remain loyal, they have to see themselves represented.

English-language entertainment and news media should also pay attention because they, too, face a dearth of diverse faces and stories, as organizations like the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) have pointed out for years. GLAAD’s Where We are on TV report points to a lack of diversity in terms of ethnicity, disabilities, or LGBTQ characters.

Research done by GLAAD and Harris Poll found that 20% of respondents from age 18-34 did not identify as heterosexual nor did they adhere to traditional definitions of gender. These younger viewers are not seeing themselves represented.

Like a lot of Latinx people, I love Spanish-language media. I love the voices, the points of view, the way it makes me feel connected to my native Uruguay but also to Mexico, where so much of my extended family hails from. And Puerto Rico, where so many friends come from, and beautiful Chile, Peru, and Colombia. But, like a lot of Latinx people, I’m tired of being invisible. I want to sit down, like I did as a kid and watch TV with my family and not roll my eyes or walk away annoyed at seeing yet another portrayal straight out of the 70s.

My family and all families, including grandma or abuela, can handle a good LGBTQ storyline, because, more and more, abuela and mom and dad know lots of openly LGBTQ people. And, if she’s anything like mine, abuela has seen a thing or two in her life and is not going to stop watching a novela because it has a queer lead with an actual storyline that matters. She might even tune in because of that very storyline.

Monica Trasandes is the director of Spanish Language and Latinx Media & Representation at GLAAD.

More Film

  • Bob Iger arrives at the Oscars,

    Bob Iger: 'Challenging Work of Uniting Our Businesses' Lies Ahead for Disney

    Bob Iger marked the historic occasion of Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox with a lengthy memo to staffers that was candid about the challenges of the massive integration of people and cultures that lies ahead for the media giant. “I wish I could tell you that the hardest part is behind us, that closing [...]


    'Traitors' Producer 42 Hires Literary Manager Eugenie Furniss

    Eugenie Furniss is joining London- and Los Angeles-based management and production company 42 as literary manager, it was announced Wednesday. The company’s slate include movie “Ironbark,” a Cold War thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and TV series “Traitors,” a spy thriller coming to Netflix in the U.S. at the end of the month. Furniss joins 42 [...]

  • Brad Pitt Leonardo DiCaprio Once Upon

    Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Trailer Drops

    The first trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is finally here. The highly anticipated film, starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, is set to be released on July 26. Tarantino, who wrote the script and will also direct and produce the movie, was inspired by his own upbringing in the midst [...]

  • One-Cut-Of-The-Dead-Review

    Japanese Sleeper Hit ‘One Cut of the Dead’ Heads for English Remake (EXCLUSIVE)

    “One Cut of the Dead,” a micro-budget horror film that last year defied the odds to become one of the biggest hits of the year in Japan, is headed for an English-language remake. Patrick Cunningham, a Japan-based American producer whose credits include “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Starlet,” is behind the venture. The original film, [...]

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content