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LGBTQ Characters Reach Record-High TV Representation, Study Finds

LGBTQ characters have hit record-high representation numbers for the 2018-19 television season, GLAAD’s annual “Where We are on TV” report for 2018 finds.

LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast have hit 8.8% (75 characters), with 50% of those characters being LGBTQ people of color. Another 38 LGBTQ characters fell into the recurring category. Additionally, LGTBQ characters on broadcast television are made up of equal percentages of male and female characters, improving upon last year, when it was split 55/45 in favor of men.

On cable, LGBTQ people of color make up 46% of the regular and recurring LGTBQ characters (120 series regular, 88 recurring), and on streaming they make up 48% (75 series regular and 37 recurring).

“With anti-LGBTQ policies being debated here and abroad, the stories and characters on television are more critical than ever before to build understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, in a statement.

Shows that GLAAD specifically called out for moving the needle culturally and reaping ratings rewards for its inclusive storytelling include “Will & Grace,” “Supergirl,” “Empire” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”

“[These shows] demonstrate that audiences are hungry for new stories and perspectives,” Ellis said.

The report dives deeply into the 2018-19 television season to examine series across broadcast and cable networks, as well as streaming services Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. Across all of these platforms, the report found that the total number of bisexual series regular or recurring characters is 117 (up from 93 last year), while there are 26 trangender regular or recurring characters (up from 17 last year) and seven HIV-positive regular or recurring characters (up from only two last year).

Netflix, which churns out one of the higher volumes of programming in general, features the highest number of LGBTQ characters across streaming services, the report found, while FX had the highest numbers out of the cable networks studied.

The report also looked at race and disability representation, noting that there was a record-high percentage of series regular and recurring black characters at 22%, while Latinx representation remained at 8%, a record from last year. API series regular characters increased to 8% on broadcast television. Series regulars with disabilities hit a record high, as well, but only at 2.1% (up from 1.8% from last year), which represents a total of 18 characters.

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