GLAAD TV Study: LGBTQ Representation at Record High But Still Lacks Diversity

Report finds some 77 percent of 70 LGBTQ characters on streaming originals were white

GLAAD TV report finds some 77 percent of 70 LGBTQ characters on streaming originals were white. Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

A recent GLAAD TV study shows that though LGBTQ representation on the small screen is at a record high, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

According to GLAAD's "Where We Are on TV" diversity report, released Thursday, there are now more gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer characters being represented onscreen than there have been in the more than 20 years that GLAAD has tracked progress.

The report found that of the 901 regular characters that are expected to appear on broadcast TV this season, 58 are identified as LGBTQ, or approximately 6.4 percent. Recurring characters clock in at 28.

In streaming series on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, there were 51 LGBTQ regulars and 19 recurring characters counted in the report, an increase of five characters from last year’s report.

And on scripted cable series, the number of regular LGBTQ characters is at an all-time high with 103 characters, with 70 recurring characters staking a substantial claim in the pool.

"As LGBTQ acceptance in government and the broader American culture reverses course, television is a critical home for LGBTQ stories and representation matters more than ever," Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. "At a time when the Trump administration is trying to render LGBTQ people invisible, representing LGBTQ people in all of our diversity in scripted TV programs is an essential counterbalance that gives LGBTQ people stories to relate to and moves the broader public to support LGBTQ people and families."

Though the numbers for LGBTQ representation in TV look promising, there is still another factor that begs attention: that of racial and gender diversity. The GLAAD report points out that though racial diversity is up overall in broadcast TV, LGBTQ characters are still predominantly white – 77 percent on streaming, 62 percent on broadcast and 64 percent on cable.

Furthermore, a majority of the LGBTQ characters portrayed onscreen are men. Representatives for GLAAD are hopeful that more change is on the horizon.

"Numbers are only a small part of the story when it comes to LGBTQ representation on TV and simply being present onscreen is not enough," Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis at GLAAD, said in a statement. "While we're pleased to see numbers on the rise, consideration of how LGBTQ characters are woven into storylines and whose stories are making it to screen is crucial for judging progress of the industry. And there is still work to be done."