LGBTQ Representation on TV at All-Time High

BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman

GLAAD has released its annual “Where Are We on TV” report, and the results are at a record high. The study analyzes the overall diversity and number of LGBTQ characters across all broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms.

For the 2017-2018 TV season, GLAAD found 329 LGBTQ characters, both regular and recurring, on all television distribution services—the highest percentage GLAAD has found in the history of this report. Most notably, the report was able to account for asexual and non-binary characters for the first time ever, with Shadowhunter’s Raphael and BoJack Horseman’s Todd. 

"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,” the report explained. “The emergence of these new stories is reflective of the real world."

Where 20 percent of Americans aged 18-34 identify as LGBTQ, 12 percent of 18-34 call themselves “not cisgender,” and 4 percent identify as asexual, this small number is a huge step for primetime television and we look forward to seeing these numbers only grow.

While the fight for equal representation and visibility will always be foremost, the urgency is greater now more than ever due to increasing political tensions and reports of anti-LGBTQ legislation surfacing worldwide. And GLAAD’s President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis couldn’t agree more.

“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 GLAAD found the highest number of LGBTQ characters on television since the report’s inception back in 2005, the report shed light on the discouraging lack of diversity amongst these queer characters. The findings are predominantly white, with 77% of LGBTQ characters being white on streaming, 62% on broadcast, and 64% on cable. And the majority of these characters, 55% to be exact, are cisgender males. There are only 17 transgender characters and two characters depicted as HIV-positive.

“Numbers are only a small part of the story when it comes to LGBTQ representation on TV and simply being present on screen 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.”

GLAAD’s annual “Where Are We On TV” report can be read in full here.

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