Jerrod Carmichael
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GLAAD's Splits Trans, Nonbinary Characters in Annual TV Media Report

trans and nonbinary tv characters

GLAAD has released their annual "Where We Are on TV" report, and things are looking good for LGBTQ+ TV. There’s also a very interesting metric that GLAAD is measuring trans and nonbinary characters through.

One of the best pieces of news in the report is the growth in the number of trans characters. According to the report, there are 42 regular and recurring trans characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming, up from just 29 last year. But the report also listed another 17 characters identified as nonbinary, but not trans.

As reasoning for splitting nonbinary characters into two categories, trans and not trans, GLAAD said this: “The word nonbinary has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. As more people use the word nonbinary to describe themselves, it has become its own umbrella term describing many different types of experiences. Most people who describe their gender identity as nonbinary also call themselves transgender. But it’s becoming increasingly common for people to call themselves nonbinary who either explicitly say they are not transgender or who never use the word transgender to describe themselves, seemingly defining nonbinary as outside of the trans experience.”

“Until last year, GLAAD counted all non-binary characters as also being transgender characters,” the statement continued. “Starting in last year’s report, in recognition of the expanding definition of the word nonbinary, GLAAD began to separate these counts – only counting a nonbinary character as transgender if the creators confirmed the character to be trans and/or a trans identity is explicitly discussed or portrayed onscreen.”

“If the character is nonbinary, but the word transgender is never mentioned, the character explicitly says they are not transgender, or creators confirm the character is not transgender – the character will be counted as nonbinary but not counted as transgender, and so not referenced in the tally of trans characters on TV.”

It’s interesting that characters are assumed to not be trans unless explicitly stated to be nonbinary and trans. While GLAAD says most nonbinary people also identify as trans, the vast majority of nonbinary TV characters do not according to this report. A whopping 68 percent of nonbinary characters on TV are not counted as trans by GLAAD’s report.

The breakdown of trans characters includes 20 trans women, 14 trans men, and eight nonbinary trans people. When you add in the other 17 nonbinary characters, that makes 25 nonbinary characters on TV this year. That’s more nonbinary characters than trans men or trans women.

And nonbinary characters actually now make up 42 percent of trans and nonbinary characters on television.

Some of the shows GLAAD mentions as having nonbinary characters who are not trans include Grey’s Anatomy, Another Life, Motherland: Fort Salem, Feel Good, And Just Like That, The Sex Lives of College Girls, The Girl in The Woods, Ridley Jones, and Rutherford Falls.

Other interesting insights from this year’s report include that for the first time in the report’s history, there are more lesbian characters on broadcast TV than gay men or bisexual characters. Lesbian characters rose six points to make up 40 percent of characters, compared to 35 for gay men, and 19 percent for bisexual characters.

Also, while racial diversity for queer characters has increased on broadcast networks, it’s actually decreased on cable. 49 percent of LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast TV are people of color, compared to just 45 percent on cable TV.

Overall, the report found that 11.9 percent of characters on scripted broadcast TV were LGBTQ+ this year, a record high percentage for the "Where We Are on TV" report, an increase of 2.8 percent from last year.

RELATED | 8 LGBTQ+ TV Shows We Loved That Only Lasted One Season

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