GLAAD released its annual “Where We Are on TV” report on Tuesday, revealing strides in LGBT representation on television, though not in the diversity of those characters.
Tracking scripted series airing or expected to air in primetime between June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016, the report finds that LGBT representation stands at 4 percent (35 out of 881 series regular roles) on broadcast TV, a tenth of a percent up from the previous measuring period. An additional 35 LGBT characters recur on series.
On cable, the number of regular LGBT characters rose from 64 to 84, while recurring characters went from 41 to 58. ABC Family and Showtime were the most LGBT-inclusive networks on cable, as well as the homes of the only three recurring transgender characters on cable. There were no transgender characters on primetime broadcast programs. Streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon were counted for the first time this year) feature four transgender characters, two of whom are leads (on Transparent and Sense8).
On broadcast TV, 33 percent of LGBT characters are lesbians (up 5 percent from last year), while bisexual characters account for 20 percent. Bisexual representation was up for both broadcast and cable television this year; however, GLAAD found that many of those depictions still reinforce harmful stereotypes about bisexual people.
“Each of us lives at the intersection of many identities and it’s important that television characters reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO & president of GLAAD. “It is not enough to just include LGBT characters; those characters need to be portrayed with thought and care to accurately represent an often tokenized community.”
Across all three platforms, the report finds a need for greater racial diversity in LGBT representation. On streaming series, 73 percent of LGBT characters were white, while on cable, 71 percent were. Still, GLAAD notes an overall increase in racial diversity, with 33 percent (287) of 881 regular characters counted on broadcast programming being people of color. The number marks a six-point increase from last year.
The report notes that 16 percent of regular characters on broadcast programming this year are black — the highest since GLAAD began compiling racial data — but black women remain underrepresented. Of the 145 black characters on broadcast television, 59 are female. Overall, 43 percent of series regulars on broadcast TV are women, marking a three point increase from last year.
GLAAD also reports that TV’s representation of regular characters shown to be living with a disability declined, dropping from 1.4 percent to 0.9.
Says Ellis, “The critical and commercial success of series like Empire, Transparent, and Orange Is the New Black can serve as an example to network executives that audiences are looking for stories they haven’t seen before; indeed, there are still plenty of stories about our community yet to be told.”