TV, once again, proves to be a more welcoming space for LGBTQ visibility than film, and it’s only getting better.
On Thursday, GLAAD released its annual report card on this topic for television, and representation achieved another all time high. The percentage of series regular LGBTQ characters on broadcast cable networks reached 10.2 percent, which exceeded GLAAD’s call to networks to hit 10 percent from its past count at 8.8 percent.
That number marks 90 series regulars out of 879 across 111 primetime scripted shows. Last year, that number was 75. Standouts include Ruby Rose as Kate Kane in The CW’s Batwoman, Cobie Smulders as Dex on ABC’s Stumptown, Brian Michael Smith (TV’s first black transgender man in a series regular role for broadcast) as Paul Strickland on Fox’s 9-1-1. The CW, with Greg Berlanti’s Arrow-verse of shows, ranked the highest with 15.4 percent of all its shows with LGBTQ series regulars.
The caveat is that 29 of the counted series regular roles won’t be returning next year. GLAAD is also calling for less tokenism of queer characters, meaning less instances of a single LGBTQ individual in a sea of heteronormative characters.
For cable, Showtime delivered the highest number of regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on programming (38 in total), including Billions, The Chi, The Affair, Ray Donovan, and the upcoming The L Word: Generation Q. FX still ranks high, especially with transgender representation on Pose. Other standouts series including Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek, Starz’s Vida, and HBO’s Euphoria.
Generally speaking, cable stalled somewhat. The number of LGBTQ series regular characters increased by one in a year, from 120 to 121. Forty-eight characters counted for the study won’t be returning next season, while 44 percent of all LGBTQ representation on television comes from three networks: Showtime, FX, and Freeform.
Streaming again brings the highest count of LGBTQ regular and recurring roles in scripted origianl series, compared to broadcast and cable. There were 109 regular characters on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, with an additional 44 recurring characters.
For Netflix, which ranks the highest amongst the streamers for this representation, GLAAD made note of Tales of the City, BoJack Horseman, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Twelve Forever, The Politician, Sex Education, Orange is the New Black, Dear White People, and Designated Survivor.
The number of transgender characters, however, dropped significantly. Zero trans characters were featured on an Amazon or Hulu original program. In more broad strokes, streaming has the least racial diversity among its LGBTQ representation than broadcast and cable.
“Last year, GLAAD called on the television industry to increase the number of LGBTQ characters and more accurately reflect the world we live in, and they responded by exceeding this challenge,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement accompanying the report. “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. Shows like Pose, Schitt’s Creek, Batwoman, and Billions demonstrate that not only are LGBTQ stories and characters on TV becoming more diverse, but that viewers everywhere continue to respond with extreme positivity.”