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TV's LGBTQ Inclusion Is at All-Time High, GLAAD Reports — Lesbian and Transgender Representation Rising

TV LGBTQ Inclusion High

GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” study this year found that the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer characters is at an all-time high, with 11.9 percent of series regular characters on scripted primetime broadcast series being
LGBTQ.

This marks a significant increase from both last year’s 9.1 percent inclusion and the study’s previous high of 10.2 percent.

The 2021-2022 TV season also marks the first time lesbian characters represented the majority (40%) of LGBTQ characters on the five broadcast networks, surpassing gay men. Also this season, there are 42 regular and recurring transgender characters tracked across all broadcast, cable and streaming, up from 29 last year.

As for bisexual representation, of the 637 regular/recurring LGBTQ characters on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming programming this season, 183 (29%) are counted as bisexual+ — a slight uptick from last year, though bi+ people in actuality make up the majority (55%) of the adult LGBTQ community (per Gallup).

(NOTE: Whereas recent “Where We Are on TV” studies only surveyed the Amazon, Hulu and Netflix streaming services, this year GLAAD also tallied LGBTQ characters on Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock.)

Other toplines from the 40-page report, which can be read in full here….

Javicia Leslie and Meagan Tandy in Batwoman Season 3

‘Batwoman’

Among broadcast networks, The CW for a fourth season in a row posted the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regular characters (17.1%), followed by Fox (13.3%) and ABC (12.5%). Only NBC experienced a decrease this year (from 8.3% to 7.2%), while consistently last CBS improved sharply (from 2.9% to 6.6%).

♦ Of the 637 LGBTQ characters on scripted primetime broadcast, cable and streaming originals, 42 (or 6%) are transgender. This is an increase of 13 characters from the previous year, but a decrease of two percentage points. (🚩 On broadcast-TV, 5 of the 8 transgender characters appear on The CW, while Freeform, HBO and Showtime account for all of cable’s 8 trans characters. Among streamers, neither Disney+ nor Apple TV+ have a transgender character.)

🚩 Broadcast-TV lags behind cable/streaming when it comes to LGBTQ characters as the sole lead of a series. Exceptions include The CW’s Naomi (who is a bi teen) and Batwoman (which features a lesbian lead character as well as several queer women in the wider ensemble).

the l word generation q 2x10 finale showtime

‘The L Word: Generation Q’

On cable, the number of LGBTQ characters grew slightly, from 118 to 138 — though still a far cry from the pre-pandemic report’s tally of 215.

Lesbian characters led on cable for the first time in over 15 years, accounting for 35% of LGBTQ characters — which much credit going to Showtime’s The L Word: Generation Q. On cable, gay men make up 33% of LGBTQ characters, bi account for 31%; transgender characters decreased to eight characters (from 10); there are four non-binary characters who are not transgender; and those identified as asexual went from one to zero.

🚩 Of the 138 LGBTQ characters on cable this season, 26 (or 19%) are not expected to return next year (due to cancellations, being written out etc;), while another 12 characters (9%) are returning in their show’s final season.

Among cable networks, Showtime led the pack with 35 LGBTQ regular and recurring characters — almost half of which appear on The L Word. (The freshman hit Yellowjackets added four to the mix, while American Rust, Billions and Dexter: New Blood were among the other shows adding to Showtime’s tally.) Freeform follows with 15 LGBTQ characters, while the now Pose-less FX has 14. (As in previous years, nearly half of all LGBTQ characters on cable appear on just those three networks.)

Chucky Gay Jake

Jake on Syfy’s ‘Chucky’

Streaming is the only platform this year where gay men make up the majority of LGBTQ characters (with 33%). Lesbian representation slightly decreased to 27%, while bi+ accounts for 32%. Additionally, streaming scripted originals count 26 trans characters and 11 non-binary characters who are not transgender.

Among streamers, the ridiculously prolific Netflix leads with 155 regular or recurrring LGBTQ characters, followed by HBO Max (71), Amazon (36), Hulu (36) and Peacock (32). Disney+, Paramount+ and Apple TV+ — each touting 12 total LGBTQ characters or fewer — place a distant sixth through eighth.

GLAAD previously called on all platforms to ensure that half of LGBTQ characters are people of color. Broadcast-TV had already achieved that goal, but this year cable shows slipped to 45%. Streaming, meanwhile, improved to 49%.

Big Sky

‘Big Sky’

♦ GLAAD also studies all-around gender representation, and the 2021-22 season marks a record-breaking increase in women series regulars on scripted broadcast shows — though that 47% still falls shy of the actual 51% women in the U.S. (according to the Census Bureau). ABC leads with women characters (52%), while NBC is last (40%).

ABC has the highest representation of POC series regulars, with 57%, followed by The CW (53%), NBC (50%), CBS (47%) and Fox (42%).

Abbott Elementary

‘Abbott Elementary’

♦ Of the 775 series regular characters on broadcast-TV this year, 25% are Black — a new high. ABC leads on that front, followed by NBC, The CW, Fox and CBS.

Latino representation on broadcast-TV rose this year to 8 percent, led by ABC (though that was fueled in part by the Hulu-bound Promised Land, whoops), followed by NBC, CBS, The CW and Fox.

♦ On broadcast-TV, 7 percent of characters are Asian-Pacific Islander, on par with last year. The CW leads on that front, followed by Fox, CBS and NBC (tie), and ABC.

La Brea - Season 1

‘La Brea’

♦ The number of characters with disabilities (2.8%) continues to be disproportionately fewer than that of the actual population (13.3% per the 2017 U.S. Census). NBC leads with 14 regular characters with disabilities (including New Amsterdam‘s Bloom, This Is Us‘ Tess and La Brea‘s Izzy), followed by ABC (4), The CW (2) and CBS/Fox (1 each).

♦ Last year, GLAAD counted three characters living with HIV, all of whom were on FX’s Pose. This season, there are just two characters with HIV — and both are recurring rather than series regulars.

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