The percentage of regularly appearing characters that identify as LGBT has dropped since last year

By Stephan Lee
Updated October 18, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

It was a big year for gay rights, but the celebration didn’t carry all the way over to the small screen. GLAAD’s annual ”Where We Are on TV” report shows that of 796 regularly appearing characters on this season’s prime-time programs, 3.3 percent identify as LGBT, versus a record-breaking 4.4 percent in 2012. GLAAD’s Matt Kane acknowledges that while the numbers are still an improvement from two seasons ago, the year-over-year dip suggests there’s a ”new hurdle we have to get past.” Still, beyond sheer quantity, there are heartening developments in terms of quality. Glee has upgraded Unique (Alex Newell), a transgender character — rarely seen on networks — to series regular, and the new ABC Family drama The Fosters, created by Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg, centers on the blended families of an interracial lesbian couple played by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum. ”We’re still living in an age where television doesn’t quite represent the world we live in,” says Paige. But when an underserved audience finally does get represented, it can resonate deeply. ”It becomes really important to them,” says Bredeweg. ”More important than we ever thought.”