lgbtq characters on tv are still overwhelmingly white cisgendered men

There are also some worrying tropes and trends to be dealt with.

by Alim Kheraj
08 August 2017, 2:39pm


This article was originally published by i-D UK.

White cisgendered men are still at the forefront when it comes to LGBTQ representation on TV. The unsurprising news was announced by GLAAD — the American organization dedicated to raising awareness and advocating for LGBTQ people in the media — at a panel during this year's TCA summer press tour. The organization also discussed various alarming trends and tropes surrounding queer characters in scripted TV.

According to Megan Townsend, the Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis at GLAAD, there are 278 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on TV. Of these, 142 are found on cable networks, with streaming services and network television trailing behind, offering just 65 and 71 respectively. Despite this, streaming services are the only places where queer women actually outnumber men, thanks in part to shows like Orange Is the New Black and Transparent. And there is a real lack of diversity across TV generally, which shows up starkly in LGBTQ representation, with over 70% of characters played by white actors.

Out of the 278 LGBTQ characters, only 83 were bisexual, most of whom were women. However, it was noted that there is a disturbing trend when it comes to bi representation. As Megan Townsend describes it, bisexual men are often depicted as "wicked, villainous characters whose bisexuality is directly tied to why the audience is supposed to understand them as bad people," whereas bisexual women were "lacking morals, as scheming manipulators, and that is tied to their bisexuality".

"Unfortunately, a lot of bisexual characters are still falling into damaging tropes," she added. "We need more bisexual characters who have nuanced, fully realized stories that don't just lean into these tropes that we've seen over and over and over again."

Elsewhere, the panel, which was made up of various writers, actors, and producers, spoke about the "bury your gay" trope, which sees LGBTQ characters killed off. Indeed, GLAAD has stated that over the last two years, 62 gay and bisexual female characters have been killed on television.

The panel also discussed how LGBTQ characters shouldn't be a novelty, with the actor Wilson Cruz (13 Reasons Why, My So-Called Life) highlighting how it would be "great to see more [representation]."

The talk comes after GLAAD published its annual Where We Are on TV Report, which echoed the topics discussed at the TCA panel, and also addressed the drop in racially diverse LGBTQ characters on television. Read the full report here.


Text Alim Kheraj