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More Lesbians on Broadcast TV than Gay Men for First Time

Hailee Steinfeld, Vincent Rodriguez III, and Mark Indelicato

There was also a record-high percentage of overall LGBTQ+ characters on scripted prime-time television.

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LGBTQ+ portrayals include (from left) Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson on Dickinson and Vincent Rodriguez III and Mark Indelicato as Henry and Jorge on With Love.

It's a good year for LGBTQ+ representation on TV -- indeed, a record one, according to GLAAD's annual Where We Are on TV report.

The report, released Thursday morning, found that 11.9 percent of series regular characters scheduled to appear on broadcast scripted prime-time TV this season are LGBTQ+ -- an increase of 2.8 percentage points from last year and a record-high percentage in the history of the report, now in its 17th edition.

"The growing state of LGBTQ representation on television is a signal that Hollywood is truly starting to recognize the power of telling LGBTQ stories that audiences around the world connect with," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a press release. "At a time when anti-LGBTQ legislation and violence continues to increase, it is cultural institutions like television that take on the crucial role of changing hearts and minds through diverse and inclusive storytelling. Networks and platforms must continue to prioritize telling LGBTQ stories that have been long overlooked, with a specific focus on the trans community, LGBTQ people of color, people living with HIV, and LGBTQ people with disabilities."

"After finding several decreases in the previous year's study, it is exciting to see quick progress made year-over-year with a new record high percentage of LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast, as well as increases in underrepresented parts of the community including queer women, transgender characters, and LGBTQ people of color," said Megan Townsend, GLAAD's director of entertainment research and analysis. "However, we continue to see that LGBTQ inclusion is often found in clusters from a concentrated number of creatives and networks who have prioritized telling our stories. Just three cable networks account for close to half of all LGBTQ inclusion on cable, and 8.5 percent of LGBTQ characters across all platforms tracked appear on shows tied to just four producers. As the LGBTQ community continues to quickly grow and drive buzz as heavy users of social platforms -- and as there is more competition for audience's attention and money than ever -- it is clear that investing in telling nuanced, diverse LGBTQ stories and proactively marketing those programs can only benefit the network's bottom line and positive perception."

Of the 775 series regular characters scheduled to appear on scripted broadcast prime-time programming for the 2021-2022 season, 92 are LGBTQ+, according to the report. There are an additional 49 LGBTQ+ recurring characters. The report covers programs that have premiered or are expected to premiere between June 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022.

For the first time in the report's history, lesbian characters represented the largest proportion of the LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast at 40 percent (56 characters), up six percentage points from the previous season. Gay men made up 35 percent (49) of characters, a decrease of five percentage points from last year. Bisexual+ representation increased very slightly this year, after two years of decreases. Bi+ characters represented 19 percent (27) of regular and recurring LGBTQ+ characters, an increase of one percentage point from last year.

GLAAD also tracked LGBTQ+ representation on cable and streaming services. It found 87 LGBTQ+ series regular characters on prime-time scripted cable shows, up from 81 the previous season. The number of recurring LGBTQ+ characters increased from 37 to 51. The total of 138 regular and recurring LGBTQ+ characters was up from 118 in the past year but down significantly from the total of 215 two years ago in the last report before the COVID-19 pandemic.

On streaming services, GLAAD found 245 LGBTQ+ series regular characters and 113 recurring ones across eight platforms. This year GLAAD added Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+ to the streaming services it monitors; it has been tracking Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix for six years.

Racial diversity of LGBTQ+ characters was up on broadcast and streaming but down on cable, according to the report. For a fourth year in a row, LGBTQ+ people of color (58 percent) outnumbered white LGBTQ+ people on broadcast, continuing to meet GLAAD's previous call for more than half of LGBTQ+ characters to be people of color. Representation of LGBTQ+ people of color on cable decreased seven percentage points to 45 percent, and representation of LGBTQ+ people of color on streaming increased two percentage points to 49 percent. GLAAD continues to call on all platforms to ensure at least half of LGBTQ+ characters are also people of color.

GLAAD tracked 42 regular and recurring transgender characters tracked across all three platforms (broadcast, cable, and streaming), up from 29 last year. Of those, 20 are trans women, 14 are trans men, and eight are nonbinary trans characters. These characters appear in 25 dramas and 11 comedies. There are a further 17 characters who are nonbinary and not trans.

GLAAD counted only two characters who are living with HIV. This marks a decrease from the previous year's three characters (all of whom appeared on FX's Pose), and a significant decrease from the nine characters tallied in the study prior to that. Both characters counted this year are recurring, Michael in Netflix's Dear White People and Sai in NBC's Ordinary Joe. In last year's study, GLAAD and Gilead Sciences urged the industry to increase representation of people living with HIV to help end stigma.

Find the full report here.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.