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LGBTQ Characters Hit Record High on Network TV, Study Says

by James HargroveNovember 9, 2020, ,
FX's dance musical Pose is one of primetime's new additions increasing LGBTQ character representation on television. (Photo: FX)

by Jack Xiong, Citizen Truth
November 9, 2019


The addition of shows like FX's Pose and the new Batwoman series brought the number of LGBTQ characters on primetime television to a new high but GLAAD is aiming even higher.

The percentage of regular LGBTQ characters on primetime broadcast TV peaked with an all-time high this season: 10.2%, or 90 out of a total of 879 characters, onscreen.

According to a study by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) that was released Thursday, this surpassed last year's record of 8.8% and achieved the 10% goal that the LGBTQ organization had set for the networks by 2020.

This year's findings are measured against GLAAD's 24-year records of tracking lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer characters on TV, which they began releasing in 2005 as an expanded survey entitled "Where We Are on TV."

"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, GLAAD president and CEO.

FX's "Pose", with the biggest LGBTQ cast ever for a scripted show, and the new "Batwoman", featuring the first gay superhero lead in a TV series, are just two shows contributing to this spike in LGBTQ representation.

Although they already reached their goal of 10% one year early, GLAAD is allegedly challenging networks to go even further: for 20% representation of LGBTQ regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast series, by 2025. Additionally, they're suggesting that half of these LGBTQ characters will be people of color within the next two years.

Undoubtedly, it's important for these historically underrepresented groups to be included onscreen—but does it accurately represent the general population?

An estimated 4.5% of the adult population in the United States identify as LGBTQ, which equates with 11.3 million people. This is according to a new analysis by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. As of last year, people of color make up about 39 percent of the population.

Other findings contained in the new report from GLAAD:

— African-Americans remained steady at 22% of regular TV characters despite being only 13% of the U.S. population, while Latinos reached a record high 9% of regular characters on broadcast network TV series—which is only half their estimated 17.8% representation in the U.S. population. Asian Pacific Islanders remained steady at 8% of regular TV characters, compared to being about 5% of the U.S. population.

— Women increased to a record 46% of regular characters on broadcast TV—up 3 percentage points from last year—but short of the 51% they represent in the U.S. population.

— Disabled characters represented on TV also reached a record high of 3.1%, or 27, but is still well below their actual number of 20% of the population, according to a U.S. Census estimate.

— Netflix counts the highest number of LGBTQ characters on all streaming services, and Showtime counts the highest number on cable networks. The CW boasts the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regular characters of the five broadcast networks.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This article first appeared on Citizen Truth and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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