GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report has just been released, and there are more LGBTQ characters on TV than there have been at any point in history.
LGBTQ characters make up 4 percent of series regulars for scripted broadcast shows — a figure which, as Jezebel points out, is slightly higher than the most recent Gallup estimate of the LGBTQ population in America.
The number of LGBTQ characters also increased on both prime-time cable and online-only streaming services, from 84 to 92 and 59 to 65, respectively. GLAAD also noted that the number of transgender characters across all TV formats has more than doubled, bisexual representation has risen 10 percentage points, and that there are currently three HIV-positive characters on major TV shows.
But there’s some bad news, too: lesbian representation has dropped significantly (down 16 percent for network TV), and racial diversity within LGBTQ representation has barely improved.
GLAAD also briefly looked at representation of women and found that they make up only 44 percent of series regulars. And though the number of black series regulars has hit a new high at 20 percent, only 38 percent of those characters are women.
Of course, statistics like these are only a starting point when talking about representation. It’s worth thinking critically about the shows you watch, and recognizing where diverse casting is just tokenism. Shallowly written parts at least acknowledge the existence of gay / bi / trans characters, but they still shouldn’t be applauded. If LGBTQ people or people of color are only playing supporting roles that prop up the narrative of white cis protagonists, we can do better.
Thankfully, TV is miles ahead of the film industry, where GLAAD has actually seen a significant drop in representations of non-white LGBTQ characters. Even without hard numbers, it’s easy to see the recent monumental shift which has made TV not only more diverse, but better — see Atlanta, Transparent, Orange is the New Black, Insecure, Speechless, Master of None, or Jane the Virgin, just to name a few that popped into my head at random!
This is not shocking — if you give a broader range of people a chance to tell a broader range of stories with a broader range of humanity reflected on the screen, you’ll get a more interesting batch of programs to watch. It’s simple logic. Thank you, TV, and please continue improving.