tv shows feature more diverse lgbtq+ characters than ever

A recent report by GLAAD found that the industry is more inclusive, but there's still work to do.

by Nicole DeMarco
07 November 2019, 8:15pm

Still from Pose.

Just one year ago GLAAD challenged the television industry to make a serious commitment to not only increasing LGBTQ+ representation on tv shows, but to further diversify those roles to better reflect our society as a whole. GLAAD’s annual report called “Where We Are On TV,” which came out today, found that not only have their efforts paid off, but the organization is closer to achieving their goal of having 20 percent of regular characters on scripted series (across broadcast, cable, and streaming services) be LGBTQ+ by 2025.

"At a time when the cultural climate is growing increasingly divisive, increased representation of LGBTQ stories and characters on television is especially critical to advance LGBTQ acceptance," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, in a statement. "Shows like Pose, Schitt’s Creek, Batwoman, and Billions demonstrate that not only are LGBTQ stories and characters on TV becoming more diverse, but that viewers everywhere continue to respond with extreme positivity.”

The report found that 10.2 percent of television characters are LGBTQ+, which is an increase from last year’s 8.8 percent, and that 53 percent are women. There was also an increase in transgender and bisexual characters overall. On broadcast and cable tv shows, 52 percent and 48 percent of regular LGBTQ+ characters are poc (respectively), but on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, the diversity of queer characters has actually decreased over the last year.

While obviously GLAAD and the television industry’s efforts are to be applauded, it doesn’t mean there isn’t further work to be done. “On cable TV, just three networks account for 44 percent of all LGBTQ representation on primetime scripted series,” said Megan Townsend, director of entertainment research and analysis. “Similarly, programming from four dedicated producers and creators who prioritize inclusion, Greg Berlanti, Lena Waithe, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes, accounts for 14 percent of total LGBTQ characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming originals. We hope to see all networks follow their lead, and work towards reflecting the reality of their audience and the culture.”