There is some good news, however as is usually the case, there’s also some bad. According to GLAAD’s 22nd annual “Where We are on TV” report for 2017-18, there are more LGBTQ characters on TV than ever before, with an all-time high being forecast for the coming year across scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series. However, strides for diversity still need to be made as those characters are still predominantly white men. GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis pointed out that “the LGBTQ characters who make it to TV screens tend to be white gay men,” even though LGBTQ women actually outnumber men and bisexuals in the U.S.
Ellis went on to emphasize that representation matters now, more than ever. “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 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.”
The report found its highest percentage of LGBTQ regulars on broadcast television (6.4%), with The CW ranking highest with 11 percent, followed by Fox (10), NBC (5.3), ABC (5) and CBS (4.2). However, those LGBTQ characters are still predominantly white (77% of LGBTQ characters on streaming, 62% on broadcast, 64% on cable). The majority of LGBTQ characters are men (55% of LGBTQ characters on broadcast), and cisgender. There are only 17 transgender characters across all three platforms tracked – broadcast, cable, and streaming originals.
Cable TV increased the number of regular LGBTQ characters on scripted series increased to 103, with recurring characters increasing to 70 for a total of 173 characters. There were 51 LGBTQ regular characters counted in original scripted series on the streaming services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix as well as 19 recurring characters. This is an increase of five total characters from last year.
For the first time, GLAAD has been able to count non-binary characters and asexual characters. Cable (Shadowhunters’ Raphael) and streaming (Bojack Horseman’s Todd) each have one asexual character, meaning broadcast is the only platform without a canon asexual character.
The GLAAD report also looked at representation of all people of color and found that broadcast rose to 40 percent, led by NBC, followed by ABC, Fox, The CW and CBS. The number of black characters was down, but Asian-Pacific Islander representation is up. While overall POC rep is up, the racial diversity of LGBTQ characters went down on broadcast from 42 to 36 percent, with streaming also declining (to 23 percent) but cable improving to 35 percent.
Some additional findings from the GLAAD report include:
Bisexual+ characters make up 28 percent 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).
This year, there are 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. This is notably the first time GLAAD has been able to count non-binary characters.
Only 43 percent of the regular characters counted on broadcast primetime television are women, a decrease of one percentage point from last year and a severe underrepresentation of the U.S. population, which is estimated to be 51% women.
The amount of regular primetime broadcast characters counted who have a disability has slightly increased to 1.8 percent, but that number still vastly underrepresents the actualities of Americans with disabilities. There are only two characters across all three platforms that are depicted has HIV-positive, a decrease of one from last year.
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The full Where We Are on TV 2017-18 Report from GLAAD can be found here.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.