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GLAAD TV Study: LGBTQ Characters Hit Record High but Still Lack Diversity

The number of LGBTQ characters found in scripted programs across broadcast, cable and streaming TV outlets is higher than ever, but those characters are still predominantly white men.

That’s one of the major findings of GLAAD’s 22nd annual “Where We are on TV” report analyzing the presence and diversity of LGBTQ portrayals on television.

According to GLAAD, 58 (6.4%) of the 901 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming this season were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. This is the highest percentage the organization has found in the history of its “Where We Are on TV” report. It also counted an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.

“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 GLAAD president-CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “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.”

Although progress is being made in terms of numbers of LGBTQ characters on TV, some 77% of the 70 LGBTQ characters counted on streaming originals were white, according to the report. All three platforms tracked – broadcast, cable, and streaming originals – were lacking in LGBTQ characters of color.

For the first time, GLAAD’s report counted non-binary and asexual characters. These identities have been depicted onscreen before, but rarely, and such characters were usually relegated to one-off episodes and stripped of nuance. Broadcast is the only platform tracked without an asexual character; cable and streaming each include one asexual character (Raphael on Freeform’s “Shadowhunters and Todd on Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman“).

Additional findings from the report:

  • In cable, the number of regular and recurring LGBTQ characters counted on scripted primetime cable increased to 173. Amazon, Hulu and Netflix combined had 70 characters.
  • Bisexual+ characters make up 28% 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).
  • The report found 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.
  • The report found only two characters across all three platforms that are depicted has HIV-positive, a decrease of one from last year.

(Pictured: “Bojack Horseman”)

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