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For the First Time, LGBTQ People of Color Outnumber White LGBTQs on (Broadcast) TV

Viewers who tune in to the Big Five TV networks — NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and the CW — are seeing more LGBTQ characters than ever before. And, for the first time ever, there are more LGBTQ characters of color than white LGBTQ characters.

GLAAD just released its annual Where We Are on TV report, which gauges LGBTQ representation on TV, including broadcast networks, cable and streaming. In its latest report, the LGBTQ media organization reported that 8.8 percent of characters on broadcast TV are LGBTQ, a record number, and that, for the first time, 50% of LGBTQ characters on broadcast TV are queer people of color.

Overall, on the Big Five, the number of LGBTQ characters increased from 58 in the 2016-2017 season to 75 series regular characters in the 2017-2018 season. The number of recurring characters is also up year over year, from 28 to 38.

Unfortunately, gay men still make up the majority of these characters on broadcast TV — 42 percent — but their share has decreased a whole five percentage points from the previous season. Lesbian representation rose one percent from last year and is now at 25 percent, though that’s down from 33 percent in the 2015-16 season. Bi+ characters comprise 29 percent of LGBTQ characters, up three percent from last year. And 5.4% of LGBTQ characters on broadcast TV identify as transgender in some way — three trans women, two trans men and one non-binary character. Only one of these characters, Star’s Cotton, is a returning character.

When it comes to cable, representation has also risen: the number of LGBTQ characters increased from 103 in the 2016-2017 season to 120 in the 2017-18 season. With Ryan Murphy shows like American Horror Story and Pose, FX overtook Freeform as the cable channel with the most LGBTQ characters. Freeform, TNT and and Showtime each have 21 LGBTQ regular or recurring characters. Currently, 46% of LGBTQ characters on cable are people of color.

The new glut of shows on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon has brought 75 regular LGBTQ characters to streaming platforms, up 24 from last year. With recurring characters, that’s 112 total. On streaming, gay men only make up 35 percent of the characters, lesbians comprise 33 percent, bi+ people are 17 percent (a significant drop) and trans people are 11 percent of these characters. Forty-eight percent of these LGBTQ characters are people of color.

The full report breaks down a host of other variables, including gender representation, characters of color broken down by race and ethnicity, characters with disabilities, ace/asexual representation and more.


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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