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LGBTQ+ Characters on TV Are More Diverse Than Ever

GLAAD TV report

Thank you, Greg Berlanti, Lena Waithe, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes!

When GLAAD first started studying the representation of LGBTQ+ people on television 24 years ago, they counted just 12 series regular queer and trans characters across all of broadcast and cable. In the two decades since, that number has skyrocketed and this year, those characters are more diverse and representative of the community than ever before.

GLAAD released its annual "Where We Are on TV" report Thursday, and the numbers are looking up. The organization found that the racial diversity of LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast and cable increased significantly with the percentage of LGBTQ+ series regulars at all all-time high, just one year after the organization issued a challenge to the industry. The report also noted that for the first time in its history, LGBTQ+ series regular and recurring characters that are women on broadcast outnumber male characters.

"Last year, GLAAD called on the television industry to increase the number of LGBTQ characters and more accurately reflect the world we live in, and they responded by exceeding this challenge," said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's president, in a statement. "At a time when the cultural climate is growing increasingly divisive, increased representation of LGBTQ stories and characters on television is especially critical to advance LGBTQ acceptance."

"Shows like Pose, Schitt's Creek, Batwoman, and Billions demonstrate that not only are LGBTQ stories and characters on TV becoming more diverse, but that viewers everywhere continue to respond with extreme positivity."

The "Where We Are on TV" report assesses the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and tracks the number of LGBTQ+ characters on cable networks and original scripted streaming series on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix for the 2019-2020 TV season. Findings of note this year include a record-high percentage of LGBTQ+ series regulars on broadcast television (10.2 percent), up from last year's then record-high 8.8 percent. The report also highlighted that for the first time ever, more of the LGBTQ+ series regular and recurring characters are women (53 percent) than men (47 percent).

Racial diversity of these characters has also improved, at least on broadcast and cable. Of the 120 LGBTQ+ regular and recurring characters on broadcast, 62 (52 percent) of them are people of color, a two-point increase from last year with six more characters. This marks the second year in a row where LGBTQ+ people of color have outnumbered white LGBTQ+ people on broadcast. Broadcast is also the only platform (when compared to cable and streaming) to have at least half of their LGBTQ+ characters be characters of color. For cable, of the 215 queer charcaters counted, 103 of them (48 persent) are people of color, a two-point increase from last year.

Streaming is the only platofrm where the racial diversity of their queer characters has decreased. Of the 153 LGBTQ+ characters counted, only 63 of them (41 percent) are people of color, a seven-point decrease from last year.

Other highlights from the study include that the total number of trangender characters increased to 38 from 26; bisexual+ characters saw a slight increase in number of characters though a one-point drop overall; and there are nine characters with HIV/AIDS, an increase from the seven characters counted last year.

"This year's 'Where We Are on TV' study found great progress towards a more LGBTQ-inclusive television landscape, and highlighted welcome increases of transgender men and queer women in upcoming programing," said Megan Townsend, GLAAD's director of entertainment research and analysis, in a statement. "However, it is also important to note that there is still work to be done. On cable TV, just three networks account for 44 percent of all LGBTQ representation on primetime scripted series. Similarly, programming from four dedicated producers and creators who prioritize inclusion, Greg Berlanti, Lena Waithe, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes, accounts for 14 percent of total LGBTQ characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming originals. We hope to see all networks follow their lead, and work towards reflecting the reality of their audience and the culture."

To this end, GLAAD is issuing a new challenge to the TV industry, to ensure that 20 percent of series regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast series are LGBTQ+ by 2025, as well as make sure that half of LGBTQ+ characters on every platform are people of color within the next two years.

Read the full report for yourself here.

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