The number of series regulars playing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) characters on broadcast television hit a record-high 8.8 percent, representing 75 characters, in the 2018-19 TV season, according to GLAAD’s annual Where Are We on TV report, which came out Thursday. A total of 875 regular and recurring characters are expected to appear across broadcast primetime this season.
Nearly half of those 75 characters are people of color, which also marks an increase from last year when the split was 55 percent/45 percent in favor of men. Another 38 LGBTQ characters are appearing in recurring parts.
In addition, of the total regular characters on broadcast TV, 22 percent are black, 8 percent are Latinx and 8 percent are Asian-Pacific Islander. The number of characters portrayed as having a disability also increased to 2.1 percent from 1.8 percent last year, or 18 regular characters.
On cable, LGBTQ people of color compose 46 percent of regular and recurring LGBTQ characters — representing 120 series regulars and 88 recurring guest stars. On streaming, people of color make up 48 percent of that group, with 75 series regulars and 37 recurring guest stars.
While GLAAD is pleased to see that progress, the organization called on the industry to reach 10 percent LGBTQ inclusion among broadcast series regular characters on primetime series.
“With anti-LGBTQ policies being debated here and abroad, the stories and characters on television are more critical than ever before to build understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, in a statement.
Broadcast shows that GLAAD specifically called out for their positive portrayal and inclusion of LGBTQ people include NBC’s Will and Grace, Fox’s Empire, The CW’s Supergirl and ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder.
On cable, shows such as FX’s Pose, pictured above, moved the needle. The number of regular LGBTQ characters on scripted primetime cable series increased to 120, with recurring characters increasing to 88 for a total of 208 LGBTQ characters on able, up from 173 last year. FX led all cable networks in LGBTQ representation.
The report also looked at the three major streaming TV platforms — Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — and found that across those there are 117 bisexual series regulars or recurring characters, up from 93 last year, and 26 transgender regular or recurring characters, up from 17 last year. Streaming platforms also portray seven HIV-positive characters, up from two last year.
Netflix, which produces the most original programs of any streaming platform, leads them in LGBTQ representation.
“This year’s Where We Are on TV report has shown important progress towards a media landscape that is LGBTQ-inclusive and portrays the community in a fair and accurate way,” said Megan Townsend, director of entertainment research and analysis at GLAAD, said in a statement. “This year we noted two history-making television moments: the premiere of FX’s Pose, which features the largest number of transgender series regular characters on a scripted U.S. series ever, and this fall The CW’s Supergirl introduced audiences to TV’s first transgender superhero when Nicole Maines made her debut as Dreamer/Nia Nal. This is all part of a welcome increase in television telling groundbreaking stories featuring characters whose identities have long been left off screen.”
This marks the 23rd year that GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBTQ characters on television and the 14th that the organization has counted all series regulars on broadcast primetime.
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