GLAAD report shows record percentage of LGBTQ characters on TV

By Amber Kaul

A record 10.2% of all regular characters scheduled to appear on broadcast scripted primetime television this season are LGBTQ+, according to the 2019-2020 edition of GLAAD’s Where We Are On TV report, up from last year’s 8.8%.

The 2019-2020 TV season marks GLAAD’s 24th year of compiling data on LGBTQ+ representation on original scripted primetime programs across both broadcast and cable networks, and now original series on several streaming services.

Lesbian representation on TV has experienced significant strides in recent years, and this TV season is no exception—the number of regular and recurring lesbian characters has jumped by 8% from last year on broadcast and 4% on cable.

The number of bisexual women on cable TV has moved up to 48 characters, up 3% from the previous year’s findings and a welcome break in the two-year streak of percent decrease.

Cable television this year is also marked by a dramatic improvement in trans representation with last year’s 8 character count growing to 12 this year- a 5.4% increase.

Out of all the broadcast platforms, the CW continues to lead LGBTQ+ character inclusion with 15.4% of all series regulars being LGBTQ+, although ABC and NBC have also seen appreciable percentage increases from last year.

Noteworthy additions include the CW’s Batwoman, which will feature actress Ruby Rose (who came out as gender fluid in 2014) as Kate Kane/Batwoman, the first lesbian superhero title character, as well as ABC’s Stumptown, which centers around bisexual female veteran Dex.

Ruby Rose as Batwoman

Representation on kids and family programming has also expanded dramatically in recent years, with Steven Universe, known for its inclusion of lesbian, pansexual, and androgynous characters, returning for a sixth season. The report also mentions PBS’s beloved children’s show Arthur, which was famously banned from Alabama Public Television for featuring a gay wedding.

Arthur’s Mr. Ratburn marrying his partner, Patrick

Though the report did not quantify findings from unscripted programming, LGBTQ+ representation on reality TV was also recognized—the season finale of Bachelor in Paradise made history this year by featuring the first proposal between a same-sex couple on the show, Demi Burnett and Kristian Haggerty. The eighth season of MTV’s dating series Are You the One?, which broke barriers with an all sexually fluid cast, was also acknowledged.

The report also included an analysis of LGBTQ+ representation on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, which found an overall increase of 41 regular and recurring LGBTQ+ characters across all three platforms. When examined more closely, however, LGBTQ+ representation in streaming suffered in several smaller categories- BoJack Horseman, which contained the only asexual character in the entire report, Todd Chavez, will be discontinued in the beginning of 2020. In addition, there has been a 4% decrease in the number of trans characters and a 16% decrease in the number of bisexual women since the 2017-18 season. 

GLAAD’s findings paint a positive picture for the future of LGBTQ+ portrayal on television; there is ample room for improvement, but every day, as evidenced by the report, steps are being made in the right direction.

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