The LGBTQ+ community has been making strides in recent years when it comes to representation on television. However, the latest report from GLAAD shows that they still have a long way to go.
The annual report, titled "Where We Are On TV," reveals a significant drop in LGBTQ+ characters due to series cancellations or endings. This is disheartening news as representation matters. Positive and fair media representation can help change societal norms and challenge stereotypes. As we head into a new season, let's hope that media producers continue to recognize the importance of including diverse characters, so everyone can feel seen, heard, and represented.
GLAAD's recent report reveals that there has been a 6.44% drop in the number of LGBTQ+ characters, evident across all platforms, including broadcast, cable, and streaming services. The figures are disheartening, with only 101 LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast channels, 139 on cable, and 356 on streaming services like Apple TV+ and Netflix.
Additionally, the fact that 24% of LGBTQ+ characters appear in shows that have been canceled or are in their final season and that 35 others will not return due to the nature of miniseries or anthology formats or because their character leaves the series highlights the need for sustainable representation.
It's time for the entertainment industry to take notice and make sure that LGBTQ+ characters are given the same level of respect and longevity as their heterosexual counterparts, making representation more inclusive and diverse for everyone.
"We have seen with shows like 'The Last of Us,' 'Stranger Things,' 'The Umbrella Academy,' and many others, that when networks and broadcasters put their brand influence behind LGBTQ-inclusive shows, our stories are both critically and commercially successful," said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. "As the media landscape continues to evolve and change, it's imperative that these companies support the excellent LGBTQ stories told by their creative teams so that these series can deeply explore the lives and stories of characters that audiences have come to love. With attacks against the LGBTQ community in politics and the news, Hollywood has more influence than ever, and it's vital that the stories they invest in telling include fair and accurate representations of LGBTQ people that reflect the humanity of our community."by Author
But there are some good news!
GLAAD was thrilled to see that cable and streaming platforms are making an effort to represent LGBTQ+ people of color.
According to their recent report, at least 50% of LGBTQ characters on each platform are now people of color, which is a significant increase from previous years. Even though traditional channels have seen a slight decrease in representation, it's still uplifting to see that there is progress being made. Streaming platforms, in particular, have taken a step forward as they have more LGBTQ characters of color than ever before, at 53%. With a total of 304 out of 596 characters being people of color, this is a positive step towards inclusivity and authenticity, reflecting the reality of our diverse community.
The representation of LGBTQ+ women across all media platforms is also a triumph that cannot be ignored. It's a victory for equality and recognition, a historic turning point that reflects the hard-fought struggles of a community striving for visibility and acceptance. With 52% of total LGBTQ characters counted being female, the media landscape is slowly evolving toward equitable representation. Every addition to this diverse representation is a step closer to a world where every voice is heard and valued. It's an undeniable source of pride to witness this transformation and a reminder of the progress that can be made when we work towards a more inclusive society.
Television has come a long way in its representation of sexual orientations. This year, the increase in the number of asexual characters is a welcome development too. From just two characters last year, the count has risen to eight this year, which is an encouraging step towards greater diversity and accurate portrayal of different sexual orientations.
You can spot these asexual characters in various shows such as "Chucky," "Big Mouth," "Heartbreak High," "The Imperfects," and "The Umbrella Academy."
Not only do they contribute to a better understanding of asexuality, but they also provide role models for viewers to identify with. Seeing more asexual characters on screen is a positive trend that we hope will continue in the future. It's a small yet significant step forward in the ever-evolving world of television representation.
However, the new study has revealed a troubling trend: out of the 596 LGBTQ characters, only 32 of them are transgender. What's even more concerning is that this figure represents a decrease from the previous year. Of the 32 transgender characters, there are 16 transgender women, 11 transgender men, and 5 non-binary transgender characters.
[It's important to note that some of the more inclusive series that feature transgender characters are not included in the study because they're on hiatus between seasons.]
"At a time when transgender Americans are facing an increasing number of dangerous and discriminatory attacks in rhetoric and policy, Hollywood actors who are true allies of our community have a responsibility and an opportunity to create stories that humanize transgender people and educate viewers about what it means to be transgender," Ellis explained.by Author
The underrepresentation of bisexual+ characters is also a matter of great concern for the LGBTQ community at large. Only 25% of the 596 LGBTQ characters counted this year are bisexual+, which is a decline from last year's 29%. This lack of representation is particularly troubling when we consider that bisexual+ people make up a staggering 58% of the LGBTQ community, according to Gallup. The numbers speak for themselves, and it's clear that the breakdown of bisexual+ characters - 104 bi+ women, 39 bi+ men, and only six non-binary bi+ characters - is grossly uneven. This lack of accurate representation sends a message that bisexual+ individuals are not important, and it's an injustice that needs to be corrected. Content creators must realize and take responsibility for reflecting the true diversity of our society in their work.
A closer look at LGBTQ representation in various forms of media reveals another disheartening figure: only 4.5% of the 596 characters examined are depicted as having a disability. This staggering number highlights a sense of invisibility surrounding disabled individuals within the LGBTQ community in our media. It also speaks to the need to do better in representing all members of our society, regardless of their sexual orientation or physical abilities.
Also, eight LGBTQ characters are living with HIV. While the number is higher than the previous year's study, none of them will be returning. "American Horror Story: NYC" featured six of them, while the other two were seen in the now-canceled TV series "The Midnight Club" and "Queer as Folk." These numbers are concerning, given that only 31% of adults have seen stories of people living with HIV in the media, according to GLAAD's recent study on HIV stigma. Considering that approximately 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, it's crucial to highlight diverse and authentic stories of people living with this condition. GLAAD continues to call for more representation and inclusivity in media to reduce stigma and increase awareness of HIV.
According to Megan Townsend, GLAAD's Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis, the top three inclusive cable networks are responsible for almost half of all LGBTQ programming on that platform. As new broadcasters continue to develop their programming and networks strive to appeal to an increasingly selective audience, it's clear that investing in nuanced and diverse LGBTQ stories and proactively marketing them can create successful and impactful content. Hopefully, more networks will follow these examples and continue to prioritize inclusivity and representation.
"It's exciting to see significant progress made in the racial diversity of LGBTQ characters, as well as the growth of storytelling for children and families," she said. "Indeed, the top three inclusive cable networks account for nearly half of LGBTQ programming on the platform, and over half of LGBTQ characters on streaming can be found on just one service."by Author
She continues: "As new broadcasters continue to develop their programming and networks seek to appeal to an increasingly choosy audience, it's clear that well-crafted and supported LGBTQ series can emerge in a crowded landscape and become must-watch shows for critics and audiences alike, as evidenced by 'Yellowjackets,' 'Hacks,' 'The Umbrella Academy,' 'The Last of Us,' and many more. We hope to see more networks and broadcasters follow these examples by investing in nuanced and diverse LGBTQ stories and proactively marketing them."by Author
The latest GLAAD's "Where We Are on TV" report has underscored the need for more representation of LGBTQ+ characters on television. Even though there has been progress over the years, the current situation is not satisfactory as the progress is declining. However, it's essential to remember that change can happen, and the media needs to play a critical role in promoting diversity and authenticity. As viewers, we have a voice that matters, and we can contribute towards a more inclusive media landscape by sharing our thoughts and ideas about what we'd like to see.
You can consult the full "Where We Are on TV" report for 2022-2023 at: glaad.org/whereweareontv22.