When it comes to the diversity of characters on TV, we still have a long way to go. But there is some good news: An annual report from the media monitoring organization GLAAD has found that LGBTQ representation is at an all-time high on television.
In its 2018-2019 Where We Are on TV report, which looks at shows airing between June 1st, 2018 and May 31st, 2019, GLAAD found that 8.8% of regular characters on broadcast scripted series are LGBTQ. It’s the highest number of LGBTQ characters GLAAD has documented in its 14 years of reporting, and it’s also a 2.4% increase from last year’s recorded numbers. In addition to series regulars, there are 38 recurring LGBTQ characters on TV right now. The racial diversity of characters has also increased. For the first time ever, LGBTQ characters of color outnumber white LGBTQ characters at 50% versus 49%.
GLAAD notes that out of these queer characters, men and women were represented equally. However, most LGBTQ characters (42%) were gay men. Lesbians make up only 25% of queer characters, and broadcast shows only featured a total of five trans characters and one nonbinary character.
Diversity has increased on cable networks and streaming platforms, too, and GLAAD notes that all TV platforms have seen increased numbers of characters of color. On cable, there are now 208 series regular and recurring LGBTQ characters. FX is currently the cable network with the most LGBTQ representation (in no small part because of Ryan Murphy’s new series Pose).
On streaming services, meanwhile, there were 112 series regular and recurring LGBTQ characters—42 more than last year. Netflix was the service with the best representation, featuring 88 queer characters across its shows. And animated series Bojack Horseman was only one of two shows across cable, broadcast, and streaming providers to feature an asexual series regular (Todd Chavez).
It’s not all good news, though. GLAAD notes that on cable, there are only four disabled LGBTQ characters, despite the fact that advocacy group RespectAbility notes that one-third of LGBTQ adults report having a disability. Meanwhile, although streaming services have the highest number of trans characters, they also have the highest number of cis actors playing trans roles. And overall, only 43% of TV characters are women, despite 51% of the U.S. population being female.
This year’s progress is definitely commendable, but there’s still room for improvement. According to The Hollywood Reporter, at an October 25th launch event for the report, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis challenged TV creators to increase the number of LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast shows to 10% by 2020.
We’re hopeful that TV representation will only continue to improve for people of all demographics. The world needs this.