Record high transgender representation but lesbian and bisexual female characters still fall victim to tropes.
GLAAD’s annual Where We Are on TV report, now in its 21st year, has uncovered record high representation of both black and transgender characters on television during the 2016-17 broadcast season. This includes any original series both on broadcast, cable, and premium cable; as well as streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.
The report found the highest percentage (4.8%) of LGBTQ regular characters on broadcast television since GLAAD began tracking all broadcast regular characters 12 years ago. Other encouraging findings include a record-high percentage of black series regular characters on broadcast television (20% of all series regulars) and a record-high percentage of regular characters with disabilities on broadcast television (1.7%). Additionally, the number of transgender regular and recurring characters has more than doubled since last year (from 7 on all platforms to 16 this year). Last year, there were no trans characters counted on broadcast.
“While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it’s important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO. “GLAAD will continue to work with Hollywood to tell nuanced LGBTQ stories that accelerate acceptance – and hold the networks, streaming services, and content creators accountable for the images and storylines they present.”
While much improvement has been made and TV remains far ahead of film in terms of LGBTQ representation, it must be noted that television – and broadcast series more specifically – failed queer women this year, as character after character died, continuing the harmful ‘bury your gays’ trope.
Over 25 lesbian and bisexual female-identifying characters have died on scripted television and streaming series since the beginning of 2016. GLAAD urged TV producers to do better on this front, stating that the dominance of the trope sends a harmful message to LGBTQ viewers that they are “secondary and disposable”.